Picture it: You’re chilling at the park and the sun’s rays are shining down on your glam outfit (and did we mention your makeup is poppin', too?). You whip out your phone, angle it for a selfie, and then … you take an awful photo.
We get it. Sometimes you want to take a great picture when you’re #solo, but it just never seems to work out. Unless you’re always selfieing at home, where you can take 75 pics and leisurely choose from the best, you need to get good at snapping your own pics without help.
Don’t worry — it’s easy to take better pictures of yourself with a little pro guidance. Follow these 10 tips to take better pics, whether you’re going for a sexy new Instagram selfie or an artsy self-portrait.
1 - Hold the camera as far away as you can
This is tough if you have a big phone, but the best selfies get as much in the frame as possible. If you hold your phone too close, you’re going to end up with a fisheye effect. And that’s probably not the look you’re going for, right?
Try not to push your head away from the camera when you hold your arm out. It might feel weird to not do that, but this pose makes you look super awkward in your selfie. #JustSaying
Oh, and if you have a selfie stick, don’t be afraid to use it! Yeah, people poke fun at selfie sticks, but they take better photos. Sometimes you need more than an arm’s reach to take a nice pic, and a selfie stick gets the job done.
2 - Hold the camera above your eye line
Nobody wants a distorted chin or a blurred face, right? If you’re struggling to make your face look sharper, lean back! Take a selfie from above your eye line. That’s a super flattering angle for most people, and it doesn’t give everyone a front-row seat to your nose hairs, which we all appreciate.
3 - Check your lighting
Lighting is your best friend. Aside from your makeup or outfit, it’s the most important factor in taking a better picture of yourself.
Softer lighting is better. But if you’re outside, you can’t do much to control the sun. If that’s the case, try to find a shady spot underneath a tree to snap your selfie. You can also try snapping pics in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is low on the horizon.
For indoor portraits, you still want to use natural light whenever possible. You don’t want a dim room or bright, fluorescent lights. Too much darkness will hide your pretty face and fluorescent lights will highlight every little pore of your skin. Try opening a window and snapping a pic with real sunshine instead.
Whether you're inside or outside, make sure you’re facing the light source. Don’t use flash on your phone! It seems like a good idea, but trust us: Flash will make you look washed out and give you red demon eyes.
4 - Use the rule of thirds (for real, though)
Ever wonder how celebrities take better selfies? Well, it’s usually because they follow the rule of thirds.
Use the grid overlay on your phone and line up your face to be on one of the intersecting “tic-tac-toe” lines. This will draw people’s eyes to your face and make for a better self portrait.
You should also figure out what you want in the background. Do you want a cool cityscape? A coffee shop? Art posters? Choose an interesting (but not distracting) background for your selfie.
Keep your face as the main subject. Use the gridlines to position your face at the bottom right or bottom left of the grid to show off your cool background.
5 - Look into the lens
This is a must if you’re using the front-facing camera on your phone. Yeah, it’s hard not to look at yourself when you’re snapping a selfie, but it looks weird to everyone else. Staring at your photo will make it so you’re looking slightly off to the side instead of at the camera, which looks less personal.
You have our permission to check yourself out as much as you want before you snap a pic. But when you’re ready for action, look at the lens right before taking a selfie.
6 - Smile!
Maybe you’re thinking, “Duh! I know how to smile!”
Sure, maybe you have a great smile naturally, but capturing it in a photo is actually kind of hard. That’s why so many people prefer serious or sexy selfies; you don’t have to smile!
In serious selfies, you don't risk snapping a pic with a fake, plastered-on smile that will make people think, “Is she okay???”
Practice your "natural" smile before you selfie. Try to have fun with it so your smile actually carries over into your eyes. If that’s not working, try squinting your eyes so they don’t look too open (it’s creepy). Or you can always edit your smile after the fact.
Alternatively, you can try the fun and artsy half-smile selfie pose.
7 - Practice makes perfect
It takes practice to nail a natural smile for the camera. The same goes for your angles and poses!
Everybody has a go-to pose. Whether you’re a duck-face diva or a sidearm savant, you’ll want to change things up so you don’t take the same picture over and over.
Stand in front of a mirror, put on some good music, and take a lot of pictures. Switch up your pose and add props if it feels right. From there, choose three to five poses that you like best and fine-tune them. Before long, you’ll be armed with a few go-to camera-ready poses.
8 - Get a tripod
Tripods might seem a little extra for a traditional selfie, but if you’re taking a more polished self-portrait (or you just want to show off your killer outfit), you need a tripod.
Most tripods come with a handy Bluetooth remote, which we highly recommend. Here’s how it works:
- Attach your phone to the tripod. For the love of all that is good, make sure it’s secure! You don’t want your $1,500 phone falling on the sidewalk.
- Adjust your phone settings for exposure, focus, etc.
- Mark where you’ll want to stand in the shot.
- Use your remote to snap pics as you change up your poses.
9 - Use a timer for self-portraits
We know that remotes aren’t always the best. The big downside is that you’ll probably see the remote in the picture, which doesn’t always look professional.
For self-portraits, you can set your phone up on a tripod (or even a stack of books if you’re on a budget). You can use the timer that comes natively in your phone’s camera app. Just make sure you give yourself enough time! You need time to get into position and master your pose before the camera snaps.
If that’s too stressful, there are intervalometer apps that will automatically take a pic every few seconds. It’s meant for time-lapse photos, but it works great for self-portraits, too.
10 - Edit like a pro
Unless you’re some kind of photography genius, there’s probably something in your photo that needs adjusting. You can change the contrast, brightness, and saturation to improve the image quality, for starters.
5 things to avoid when snapping pictures of yourself
Even after following our 10 tips for taking better pictures of yourself, you might not like your pics. If that’s the case, stop doing these 5 things and you'll likely start to take better pictures.
1 - Don’t selfie in the wrong place
We really hope this is common sense, but we have to say it: Don’t take a selfie at a tragic location. From Holocaust Memorials to locations of a death, there are places where it’s Just Not Cool to take a selfie. Don’t be that person, 'kay?
2 - Don't risk your safety (it's not worth it)
From 2011 to 2017, 259 people died in the pursuit of a selfie. Guys, that’s 5 times more than the number of people killed in shark attacks during the same period of time.
No selfie is worth sacrificing your safety. Don’t break the law, don’t dangle off skyscrapers, and don’t selfie while you parkour. You never want the thrill of outdoing your last death-defying photo to be the reason you aren’t here. If you want to switch things up, try different outfits, locations, or filters first.
3 - Don’t fill up the entire frame
Nobody wants to look at a selfie where your face takes up the whooooole frame. This is rarely flattering and it’s actually pretty uninteresting to your followers. You want something in the background! Try to keep your face to 30% of the shot, with the other 70% going to your background.
4 - Don’t be too creative
There’s a fine line between genius and … not-so-genius when it comes to selfies. Yeah, sometimes an unusual angle can add flair to an otherwise boring selfie. But that doesn’t mean you have to be super creative all the time. An unusual angle will often make your image awkward to look at, so try the weird poses sparingly.
Okay, just in case you do insist on being creative, here are three quick creative selfie guides to check out:
5 - Don’t use a tablet or iPad
Most people have a smartphone these days, but if you’re using a huge device (like an iPad) to snap pics, they’re probably not going to come out so well. The size and angle of a tablet just don’t look flattering. When you need a nice selfie or self-portrait, stick with your phone.
The bottom line on how to take a good picture of yourself
Unless your bestie is following you around 24/7 on selfie duty, you’re going to need to know how to take good pictures of yourself. These 10 tips (plus 5 things to avoid) will help you score better self-portraits and selfies that get you more likes without sitting in front of a camera for hours.