In the age of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, taking flattering selfies seems like an important life (or even career) skill. Each day, when scrolling through my social feeds, I see well-composed photos of people at the springs, in front of famous monuments, or snuggling with their super adorable pets. I have to admit that this annoys me slightly because I am HORRIBLE at taking selfies. In fact, I sometimes feel like I am the only Millenial who cannot manage to hold my phone out at the right angle and compose my face so I look gently happy and in possession of the right number of chins. Granted, I am kind of an old Millenial, but I refuse to believe that I am as old as I look in my selfies.
When discussing this with my coworkers, who are depicted in the lovely images below, I was told that awesome selfie-taking is not some sort of crazy voodoo magic, but rather is a skill that can be learned through practice and the application of a few simple principles, as explained below.
- Know your Angles It turns out that "your good side" isn't really a myth! Take some time to look at yourself in the mirror (or on your camera's screen) to determine how to hold your face in a way that you think is most flattering. Generally, people who take good selfies are making the same face, at the same angle, in all of their photos. They are not necessarily naturally photogenic, they have just figured out how to work what they have. You have "it", too, you just need to find "it".
- Camera Placement This is somewhat of a controversial issue. Many people believe that holding the camera out and slightly up can keep you from exhibiting the dreaded five chins. It can also produce odd shadows on your face, though, and it can look a bit forced. Alternatively, holding the camera on the same level as your face, and within two feet of it, can produce a nice look. To keep your face sharp while snapping an image, poke your chin out and down while shoving your shoulders down into your back and away from your ears (remember, beauty is pain).
- Lighting is Everything Proper lighting can change the look of the planes of your face, the texture of your hair, and the quality of your skin. Natural lighting is best for photography, and especially flattering is the "Golden Hour" around sunrise and sunset. If taking a photo in the middle of the day, try to keep the harsh sun behind you, but use your head as a natural block of the actual sun to avoid overexposure. Avoid fluorescent or harsh lighting at all costs--if taking photos inside, try to find a window or skylight with slightly filtered natural lighting.
- Background Choice Your background should reflect the purpose of the shot and should be thoughtfully chosen. If you want to document your visit to a fabulous location, focus on making that the focal point of the photo by holding the camera further away from you and experimenting with different viewpoints until you find something that looks interesting. If you just want to show off your outfit or a new haircut, keep background distractions to a minimum.
- Take a Million Shots Great photos don't happen by accident. Usually, that perfect image seen on your friend's Instagram is just one of twenty slightly different takes on the same subject. The burst feature on your phone's camera can really come in handy here, as it will allow your phone to take a series of photos while you focus on voguing. Try moving the camera up and down, or rotating the phone and your body on an axis. Be experimental! This is supposed to be fun (at least, that's what I hear).
- When All Else Fails, Filter! Postproduction is always important! Instagram and Snapchat come with tons of built in filters to change the coloring of an image, or to blur it to mask tiny imperfections. I am also a big fan of the Adobe Photoshop Fix mobile app, which allows you to adjust color, fix blemishes, cut out backgrounds, and even use a clone stamp tool to remove tiny distractions.
Good luck, happy selfie-ing, and don't forget to smize!