Even the most fervent social media haters out there are guilty of a sneaky selfie now and again. With a camera constantly living in our pockets, it’s hard to resist snapping that selfie. Whether it be a drunken bathroom shot or holiday snap, I guarantee it exists in the ‘selfie’ section of your photo gallery. It was five years ago that its existence materialized within the Oxford English Dictionary, and it seems to be staying well put.
However, like the original self-portraits before, taking selfies can also be seen as an art form as it takes skill and patience to create a good one. As the writer Rich Benjamin said: ‘
Selfies are just the contemporary version of the art masters’ self-portraits’.
Let’s take selfies seriously then; and think of them not just as pouting vanity shots. Let’s explore how we can improve our selfie photos and the way we approach them, while...ok, fine making ourselves look fabulous in the process.
Light it up
If you have been reading previous blog posts from here, you may have gathered that lighting is bloomin’ important when taking photos. I’m afraid this is relevant here too. Without decent lighting, skin tones are unflattering and detail is lost or warped.
Natural lighting is ideal. If you’re inside, find a window to look out of and if you’re outdoors make sure you don’t have your back to the sun. With the right level and type of lighting, those eye bags will disappear and your skin will glow.
For a more dramatic selfie, play with artificial lighting and the shadows it forms to create something a little different. Shadows often create interesting shapes and a theatrical feel if you like that sort of thing. This works well with the contours of the body or face.
Not just the face
Remember a selfie does not necessarily have to be a closeup of your face. Nor does it have to be conventionally ‘beautiful’. The photographer John Coplans is known for his poignant self-portraits, but instead of the generic headshot, Coplans takes photos of his aging body. You may think these are not proper selfies, but according to the dictionary definition, he is still taking a photo of himself, right?
Using the timer on your camera isn’t cheating so use it! If you find yourself in an interesting or beautiful environment, set that timer and take a selfie that acknowledges the world around you as much as yourself.
Take advantage of the app life
There are countless apps that can help you look that bit prettier if that’s what you’re into. They can bleach your teeth, get rid of blemishes and wrinkles. Some apps such as YouCam Perfect even let you alter the shape of your facial features.
Something that might appeal to your silly side is the incredible variety of stickers, doodles and animations that you can place over your selfies to liven them up. Snapchat is the obvious app to mention. Have a go and see which suits you.
These are all great features that you can experiment with, but whatever you do don’t get too carried away during post-production. Often less is more and besides, you don’t want to end up looking like an alien with dog ears. Unless of course you’re being ironic.
Try different angles
Finding a different angle can really make your selfie stand out and reveal another perspective for the eye to take in. Try placing your camera at a different level to create a more unusual arty shot, such as bird’s eye view. Be aware of what is in the background and maybe you can change the angle to take advantage of that.
For those searching for that flattering photo, raise the camera above eyeline a little but don’t raise your chin. Whatever you do, don’t angle your camera below your chin. This seems to be a common trend amongst men on Tinder and for what reason is beyond all of us. It is incredibly unflattering and should be avoided at all costs.
Think about the features you like most about yourself and find an angle that emphasizes them. Of course, if you’re going for a more artistic ‘self-portrait’ approach, all this goes out the window. Instead, you need to experiment with different angles to see which conveys the idea or feeling that you want.
Smile but not too much
Natural facial expressions really are the most beautiful and pleasing. You want to show off those good times whilst you’re HAVING FUN, right? But don’t overdo it. A forced smile makes you look constipated and is pretty cringy to look at. Finding that middle way is certainly problematic. The idea of a ‘candid’ selfie is of course an oxymoron in itself. Unless you have a meandering limb, you most likely are conscious of yourself taking your own photo. Close your eyes just before you hit the shutter, or look down then up to create something a bit more ‘authentic’.
Don’t forget that composition
You may be focusing on yourself, but remember that how the photo is actually composed does really make a difference. If you haven’t already, refer back to previous blogs in order to learn about the rule of thirds. Place yourself slightly off to one side within the frame to create a more aesthetically pleasing photo. Equally, if what is behind you is incredibly boring then bring the camera in to avoid unnecessary information filling the photo.
Flash is the last resort
Flash just isn’t a good idea. Ever. But if it’s too dark and you can’t find any artificial lighting then I guess you can be forgiven. If you often find yourself in this position, you could by an external flash that you carry with you which will give you a much better result than the built-in camera flash.
Use a filter
As well as editing and stickers, apps also allow you access to many different filters. These can greatly alter your selfies, making you look ‘better’ or adding an artistic element. Reddish filters give your skin a lovely glow while and enhance facial features. But again, don’t overdo it or you’ll look like you have really bad sunburn or stumbled into a brothel.
There are also filters out there that change your selfies into paintings in the style of painters such as Picasso, Dali or Munch. This is a nice touch if you want to pay homage to the original selfie; the self-portrait painting.