How To Take Better Selfies

By Tracey Dowdy

Maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe it’s my own insecurities, maybe it’s my ineptitude with technology, but I’ve never been big on selfies. I can’t keep a straight face and generally end up looking like I’m confused, smelling something I don’t like, or, like a grumpy old woman, complaining about millennials.

I am most certainly in the minority. Selfies are everywhere – even the First Lady takes them – so I guess it’s time for me to get on board.  Whether you’re a newbie like me or already a seasoned veteran, use these tips to up your selfie game.

  • Compose yourself. Well, your photo at least. Think of the screen as being divided into thirds and place your face along the gridlines – unless of course you’re aiming for that “passport photo-center-of-the-screen” look. You may be surprised at how much more visually appealing the shot is.
  • Lose your double chin in one easy step! Hold the camera up and over your head – just like the First Lady – to get the most flattering angle.
  • Timing is everything. No matter how strong your game, it’s pretty much inevitable to experience camera-shake when you hit that button so take advantage of your camera’s self-timer. Not only will your picture be less blurry, you’ll have time to look at the lens instead of the screen and and remind everyone in the photo to do the same. I’m looking at you Roy.
  • Flash! WOAH-OH-OH! Am I the only one singing the Flash Gordon theme? Probably. Anyway, good lighting is imperative. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule and you can always edit the brightness, highlights and lowlights later, but it’s a whole lot easier if you start with a good photo. If your smartphone doesn’t have a front-facing flash, don’t despair. iOS users can download an app like Lit Mirror – Selfie Flash and Android users can use Selfie Light. You also have the option of buying a rechargeable, self-powered LED fill light that you simply plug into your headphone jack.
  • Get a grip! “Ninja-Loop” “Lazy-Hands”, “Sling Strap”, and “Love Handle”, aren’t just the potential names for my yet-to-be-formed-middle-aged-women-girl-group. They’re all finger grips that adhere to the back of your phone allowing you a better grasp on your phone. It’s easier to position the angle of your device and lessens the chance you’ll drop it.
  • Hang Loose. (Or it hang tight? Hang out?) My point is, instead of trying to twist your arm in ways nature never intended or extend your reach like Stretch Armstrong, prop your phone on your desk, a shelf, the counter…you know what I mean. Better yet, get a NanoHold, a self-adhesive pad for your phone or tablet that sticks to everything from glass and whiteboards to metal, tile and finished wood.
  • “I’m ready for my close up!” Here’s a pro-tip: holding the phone close to your face means your nose will look bigger and your eyes will look smaller? Not the look you were going for? Didn’t think so. Instead, zoom in a little – not too much or the image will reduce detail – while you hold the camera away from your face. Your features will remain in proportion and you’ll eliminate visual clutter from the background.
  • Vogue! I mean vogue like Madonna back in the 90’s, not that weird Vogue cover where she was photoshopped into a shiny, blurry alien version of herself. If you’ve ever had professional photos taken, you know sometimes the photographer asks you to pose in what feels awkward or uncomfortable but looks great in the finished shot. So, angle your shoulders, lift your chin, and extend your neck forward. If you’re taking a full body shot, angle your body toward the camera, and bend one leg a little. Think “red carpet” pose.

The last and most important tip is to have fun. Your best photos are often candid shots when you’re totally relaxed and enjoying yourself. No amount of posing, good lighting or editing can replace genuine happiness.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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