It shouldn’t be that hard to take a good selfie. But we all know that feeling too well: you feel all hot and confident and snap a selfie, eager to send it off to last night’s sexy Tinder date, and surprise — your camera has suddenly become cold and vengeful and refuses to capture you the way you actually look.
You have two options. Keep snapping away aimlessly, with each selfie worse than the next, until you get frustrated and lose your confidence, or read the rest of this guide and learn how to take a good selfie, every single time.
a guy just caught me taking a selfie n expected me to be ashamed so i took forty more— beth mccoll (@imteddybless) January 19, 2015
1. Tilt Something
Angle your phone slightly up, down or to the side or keep your totally phone still and tilt your head slightly. You can also try tilting both your phone and your head, in which case you’ll look rather silly for a few seconds until you nail down your own winning combo of phone + head + tilt. Whatever you do, taking a selfie straight on is probably not going to result in your best shot and it has nothing to do with your beautiful face. Trust me on this.
Think about it. Way back in the day before camera phones were born, when Ben and Jen were Hollywood’s power couple, we took portraits with ‘real’ cameras from lengths away. Not exactly the ideal process for taking a good selfie.
Today, when you take a selfie, you’re just an arm’s length (literally, your arm’s actual length) away from the camera. When you’re super close to any object (in this case, your face), you see the object much differently than when you’re further away.
Like, if you see someone running off in the distance they look, well, tiny. Now if you were basing your observations strictly on what you see, you might be sure there’s a cat-sized man some distance away from you. But since your brain has built up experience you know that the runner is in fact a full size human and in fact, not a cat.
Not convinced? There’s also the fact that the cylindrical shape of a camera lens can make whatever’s in the middle—usually our nose—appear flatter or wider. Yep, I just said your nose might look bigger. Andddd, that should be enough evidence to make sure you tilt something when setting up for a selfie. Let’s move on.
2. Selfie Eyes Matter
We’re drawn to the eyes of any photo we see. That’s half the charm of the Mona Lisa, right? Even though a lot of communication happens via email and iMessage today, we’re not robots. We’re still searching for that human connection in someone’s eyes.
So, the point is: to take a compelling selfie, focus your eyes on the camera. Directly at the camera, not the phone area in general. If you followed my advice above and wiggled your head and your phone around to find the perfect selfie angle, now you need to freeze, concentrate, and gaze deep into the lens of your smartphone.
If you’re like my mom and have yet to understand exactly where the camera is buried in that sleek, mysterious iPhone attached to your hand, do a few tests to learn where your eyes actually meet the camera.
When taking a selfie, I have friends who pretend they are about to seduce the lens with their eyes. Others try to imagine the moment right before they are about to laugh. In both cases, these friends of mine are trying to soften their eyes and put some human emotion in their expression. A good selfie connects whoever is looking at you, to you, and it’s critical for taking a great selfie.
3. Yep, Lighting Matters Too
Whether you’re selfie-ing indoors or outside, stay away from harsh lighting, like bright white kitchen lights or direct sunlight. That said, make sure there’s enough light – otherwise your photos can come out blurry and no amount of photo editing later is going to be able fix that.
Now, the best time of day to take photos outside is when the sun is lower in the sky, before sunrise and right after sunset. That’s just some essential photography basics for you to chew on right there: I know that no matter how hung up you are on taking a good selfie, you’re not going to wake up before the sun does for it.
5. Hide From The Shadows
You’re looking for the right lighting, but you’ll want to avoid shadows, too. Even if you’ve found the perfect golden hour to snap a selfie: if the shadow of a pole or window blinds cuts across your face, it ain’t cute.
Avoid off-putting shadows by snapping pics in the shade. If you’re taking a post-run selfie and the sun is causing shadow problems, hide out under a shady tree to capture your dewy post-workout glow.
If that’s not doable, angle yourself so the sun is at your back. That prevents shadows and also means you aren’t squinting at the camera from the blinding sun. Oh, and for those of you who are super-extra: you can try a sun diffuser or reflector to manage the shadows.
6. Smile Normal
Remember elementary school picture day? There was always one kid who just couldn’t face the camera with a natural smile. Cue a yearbook photo that haunts everyone’s dreams.
It’s by no means easy mastering a natural smile for the camera. Unnatural smiles are robotic, stiff, not authentic, and sometimes well, creepy.
Since this isn’t intuitive for everybody, you may have to practice. Take a crapload of selfies and practice until you find your most natural, photogenic smile: purse your lips in different ways, open your mouth halfway, turn up the corners of your lips slightly, smile wide with all your teeth, try a close-lipped smile. Which smile feels the most “you?” Which smile can you nail without looking?
7. Pump Up The Background
Car selfie. Your blank, white bedroom wall. The mirror of your apartment building lobby. Been there, done that, so. many. times. You don’t need to have a full-on fashion runway in the background, but your background should be interesting.
Whether you’re selfie-ing at the park, your home, or even the grocery store, try to do it against an interesting background. A display of apples at the store can look awesome with the right angle. If you’re not feeling creative in the moment, there are other options. Facetune2’s Backdrop tool allows you to change the background of any photo. Replace your boring background with any of the patterned, sparkly or solid-colored options within the app, or choose your own photo.
That’s right! You can be in your bathroom, but look like you’re at the beach you visited last weekend.
7. Be Confident
You don’t need to have the crazy confidence of a grown man in a fedora, but a good selfie projects an air of confidence. Use body language and a tone that exudes your inner strength.
Get pumped before your selfie sesh. Maybe that means:
- Doing 10 jumping jacks before your selfie. As long as it won’t ruin your hair, of course.
- Saying affirmations in the mirror. Is it a little weird? Yeah, but it kinda works. Try saying, “I’m powerful and fearless – and I still can make mistakes,” or something like that. Say it enough that you start to believe it.
- Standing in a power pose. Stand in front of the mirror with your hands on your hips or folded in front of you. Puff out your chest a little and lift your chin. Stand there for a few minutes to feel like a total superhero badass.
Confidence is something you cultivate and work on, so if you aren’t feeling confident right now, make yourself confident.
8. A Flash Decision
Got flash on? Sometimes it’s a blessing for your selfies, and other times, it’s a freakin’ nightmare.
Flash is infamous for turning people’s eyes red and washing out your skin. Basically, it makes you look like a demon spawn from hell. Unless it’s Halloween, that’s not a cute look.
Flash adds a burst of light to subjects that desperately need it. It’s best to use it when you’re inside, in a dark area, or if there are a lot of shadows.
If you’re still looking possessed when you use flash, try a different angle. You can also try using two flashes: the first dilates your eyes (and prevents red-eye) and the second one is for reals.
9. Know Your Good Side
You’ve already tried tilting your camera every-which-way, but what about your actual pose?
People often have a ‘good side’ – a side of their face they prefer. Which one is yours? Maybe the right side of your face has more freckles that hint at your bubbly personality. Or maybe you hate your right side because the bump on your nose from falling off a skateboard in high school is more apparent.
Choose your good side and try to selfie from that angle. It’ll save you time and retakes – if you’re usually happier with a certain side of your face in the mirror, you’ll also be more happy with it in photos. Do what makes you feel good.
10. Get Inspired
Selfies are hard! Your followers expect to see something exciting and different—how do you keep upping the ante?
You need to feel inspired. If you’re feeling creatively stunted, a dose of celeb selfies is just what the doctor ordered. If you don’t follow some of the Kardashians on Instagram just yet, now’s the time. Take inspiration from the feeds of more local influencers you admire as well.
What are they wearing? What does the caption say? Where is the celeb? How’s their makeup? What angles or lighting are they using? A little recon (and mimicking) will help you learn how to take good selfies in no time.
11. Try Portrait Mode
How do you take a good selfie with nothing but an iPhone? Fortunately for you, the iPhone comes complete with a fancy portrait-specific feature that make glamorous selfies a breeze.
Portrait mode focuses on the person in the photo, and defocuses the background – creating a professional look with minimal effort. You can choose from various options, like Natural, Studio, or Contour which add different kinds of light or drama, some even compliment with a touch of skin smoothing. Switch things up and see how your selfie comes out in Portrait mode.
12. Facetune Is Your Selfie’s BFF
Oh, you knew this one was coming. There’s a reason Facetune and Facetune2 have been at the top of the charts on the App Store since the brand emerged in 2013, and now there’s even a Facetune Video app, for selfie videos. It doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t make you ugly. It makes you a master selfie taker. Taking a good selfie becomes easier than ever. Let’s talk about why.
With a selfie editor app, you simply get better selfies. You can swipe away a pimple because your skin has waged war on you this week. You can conceal your dark circles because you binged on Netflix until 4am. With Facetune2, you can use the Reshape tool to adjust your features, if you ignored my advice about tilting and came out with a jawline or a nose wider than space. Let’s face it, photos live on IG way longer than blemishes live on your face, so I choose to just swipe them away.
If you’re feeling particularly creative, or self expressive, you can get, well, creative or self-expressive with your selfies. Facetune2 has a tool called Neon which adds a colorful glow around to your photo, similar to the gel filters that are used in high-fashion photoshoots these days.
There’s also a Defocus tool, where you tap once and the background is blurred around your face, taking your selfie one step closer to a professional headshot and one step further from the messy room selfie it really is.
13. Practice Makes A Perfect Selfie
Knowledge is power, and now that you know how to take the perfect selfie, you can take on any bad skin day, defocus any trashy background (bar bathroom selfie, I’m talking to you), and empower yourself with an awesome selfie that’ll make you feel like a rockstar. The more you do it, the better you’ll get, and soon you’ll be able to nail your best angle effortlessly.
So there you have it: a few basic rules to follow and tips to live by every time you snap a selfie – and you’ll be rocking your social media feed for everyone who’s watching. And you know, they are.
Now it’s time share that rockstar pic with the world, with relevant hashtags (find out why selfie hashtags don’t necessarily work in 2020) and a fabulous selfie captions guide guaranteed to stop your followers mid-scroll.