How to Actually Take a Decent Selfie
A few point, pose and shoot pointers for the selfie-averse
Chalk it up to my tendency to fall asleep when my hands are left unoccupied for too long or perhaps on the Instagram culture that older generations seem all too eager to either roll their eyes at or get in on, but as soon as I settle into the back seat of my daily Grab ride, my three-step routine kicks into action:
- Whip out phone.
- Open front cam.
- Snap selfies.
This habit only really solidified itself in the past few years when I made the transition from focusing on fashion to beauty. Or perhaps even earlier, when I slowly started growing into the physically confident shoes I always hoped to fill (an ongoing process––stay tuned for updates). Honestly speaking, I spent most of teenhood steering clear of ultra-pixelated cameras, feeling comfortable only when I had someone in a photo with me. My Instagram was a compilation of pretty views, food snaps and work photoshoots––and occasionally, a travel photo with a very tiny me in the distance.
These days…it’s a lot of face.
Which isn’t to say that my selfies are good, even. There’s a copious amount of face-cropping, unlikely angles and a noticeable lack of contouring and highlighting that my round face could honestly benefit from, but I’ll go as far as saying the photos I take are decent. Not quite an Insta-baddie, no––but perhaps a little charming or something like that.
Ahead, full disclosure. Scroll through to get acquainted with the technical (lighting, camera features, double-phoning) and preferential (poses and angles) elements you need to know to finally nail a decent selfie.
Let the light in, but not too much
I went through a good handful of selfie tutorials on YouTube to get a little validation on the things I was going to say in this piece and, after getting the opinions of everyone from your favorite influencer to especially photogenic non-vloggers who make videos for the hell of it, I therefore conclude that everyone stresses the importance of good lighting. It’s a no-brainer every tutorial introduces as its first point, the very foundation that a college class called Selfie 101 would be built on if that were actually a real thing.
Yes, hardly anything can top the golden kiss of sunsets or sunrises. Natural light over artificial any day. However, there remains another point to consider: how much of that light you’re letting in. It’s generally easier to brighten up an underexposed photo than undo the washed-out damage inflicted by too much light. Even with the help of filters and brightness tweaks, pixels and details get lost, leaving everything looking blurry or painted over with a faded cast.
Befriend the AE/AF Lock feature
And just like that, an easy solution to the overexposure issue.
Apple and Android have certainly been listening in on what the public wants (read: higher quality cameras, stabilization features and multiple lenses that can be fitted on a phone without making it look like a baby transformer), but one of the best selfie-saving features has been well within our reach for a good few years now. The AE/AF lock feature, activated by holding the shutter button on Android and long-pressing the focal point on Apple, keeps the focus and exposure of a photo consistent, making shooting in conditions with stark differences between light and shadows a whole lot easier.
As someone with about as much grace and finesse as a twig, playing model for back cam photos isn’t my strong suit. In fact, that’s precisely why I like taking selfies: because I can see everything, play up my angles, make sure I don’t look unnatural or borderline constipated. I won’t deny, though, that back cam photos bring unclockable quality to a photo.
Thankfully, South Korean YouTuber Daye shared a rather groundbreaking method to get the best of both worlds. The method requires a little help from friends, so it might not exactly pass strict selfie standards, but it gets the job done regardless. By pressing two smartphones back to back, you can see yourself posing to nail the perfect shot. An alternative method: investing in a smartphone case with a decently sized mirror.
Use your hands
The biggest and possibly only similarity that makeup artist PONY and I share is our shared love for using our hands in selfies.
Remember: your hands are your best tool. They can conceal the unpleasant sight of a raging zit. When wielded in an I-have-a-headache pose with the right pressure and angle, they can give the eye area an instant lift. When you’ve got the same round-cheeked insecurities as I do, they can serve as either an auto-chisel tool or a conveniently placed prop to hide behind.
Know your angle––and then try everything else
We’ve all got a good side, a better angle, a spot in a group photo we would willingly wrestle anyone for. Kim Kardashian, an indisputable pro at playing her features up for the camera, swears by her chin down/camera up philosophy. Everyone knows it’s a bad idea to take a photo from below the face, lest the chubby cheeks and second and third chins decide to make a guest appearance.
But at the risk of every single selfie you upload looking like a carbon copy of the one before it, consider thinking beyond your preferred angle or these rules. Some of my favorite photos––again, perhaps not good but decent at the very least––were taken from what others would consider to be questionable angles. At the end of the day, all you really need to do with a bad photo is hit delete, so why the hell not?
A Recommended Bonus: The Mirror Selfie
Easily my favorite kind of selfie, self-taken mirror photos allow ample pose examination and experimentation. There’s a specific kind of fun in trying to figure out which angle works best depending on your distance from the glass, whether it slims, widens or makes your reflection look like you’re two inches tall. Lots of room for leg lifting and body contorting fun.
Time to whip out that phone, open the front cam and experiment.
Art Alexandra Lara