How to take the perfect selfie

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People talk about Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian’s selfie-taking prowess as if they deserve no credit for honing a skill. Sure, taking a selfie is kind of vapid and self-obsessive, but it’s also no easy task. If you haven’t practiced, or are out of touch with your angles, then you won’t capture a good photo. Lots of people are bad at selfies — you might even be one of them. My pal and co-worker Paul, for instance, doesn’t fully understand when or how to take a selfie. He’s only taken, like, five in his life, most of which were with me probably. The pointers that follow are for people like Paul. I’ll teach you when and how to take a selfie.

Why even take a selfie?

Selfies serve lots of purposes that change with your audience. Kim and Kylie are obviously selling their look and need to appear perfect. On the flip side, I send my best friends photos of myself in which I look frighteningly bad. But it’s funny! I love a good laugh at my face’s expense among friends. You might need a selfie for your Twitter profile pic or even a dating profile, so my tips below are for capturing your best self.

These pointers are things to keep in mind if you break up with someone and need a photo to post afterward to show you’re doing great, or if you go on vacation and feel like flexin’ on your Instagram. Don’t feel shame about this. It’s okay to flex and be feeling your life.

So with that all in mind, here are the basics of selfie-taking:

Angle

Arguably the most crucial part of the selfie is the angle of both your face and the camera. You remember those cringe-worthy MySpace selfies, right? The camera was always held high above a person’s head so it looked down on them. Yeah, don’t do that. Don’t do the opposite thing, either, by angling your phone so that it’s looking up at you. This is bad for your chin game. Trust me. You ideally want your phone held out in front of you but angling down slightly. Photos will look best if the phone is looking mildly down at you. Again, avoid extremes here. Subtle is key.

The below photo was taken with a selfie stick, so it’s more intense of an angle, but you can see how the camera looking down on you is more flattering.


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Lighting

Natural light is the way. If possible, position yourself near a window or at least within reach of sunlight. This brightens your face and minimizes shadows. Speaking of which, please don’t selfie under florescent lighting. Just don’t do it. I promise the photo won’t look good and you’ll be disappointed. What about when it’s dark outside or you’re in a dingy bar? These are tough situations for selfies, admittedly, but it’s best if you can find soft lighting. A candle on the table could work. Snapchat’s flash, which lights the screen up as opposed to activating the phone’s actual flash, is also a good option. Try to avoid your phone’s harsh light.

Your actual face

What should you do with your actual face? This is totally up to you, but you’re probably going to want to experiment with what position looks best. I know the right side of my face is my better side, for instance. I have no idea what makes it better, I just know that it is. Tilting my head to the side and down a little also always looks good. A straight-on face shot isn’t great for me and my profile is a no-go. Experiment with your “looks” to find what works best. Tilting your head down a bit works for most people.

Kylie’s perfected that:

Filters / editing

I’m of the belief that natural is better. I try not to edit my selfies much at all, and if you have the proper lighting, you really shouldn’t have to do much work. Still, if you can’t resist the temptation of a beauty filter, just try not to overdo it. Keep in mind that most people can usually tell when a lot of beautification has happened and also you’re good looking as you are! Selfies are about you and owning yourself.

See here for over filtering:


Now that I’m great at selfies, how many should I take?

It’s tough. I know I’ve been pretty prescriptive here, but I also don’t want to tell you how to live your life. You should post as many selfies as you feel is appropriate. Personally, I try not to go overboard. My Instagram feed is primarily photos of myself but not all of them are selfies. Those that are, aren’t glamorous in any way. Most feature me and other people. It’s rare that I post a photo of myself simply because I look good. As for dating profiles, I also think you should mix up your photo batch. I typically include one selfie, only because I think that’s the best way to show my face clearly, but you also want people to see you have a life outside your sunlit selfie room.

Now, go lay those thirst traps and get out there.

This could be you after you capture the perfect selfie:


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

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