Taking a selfie to be proud of is poised delicately somewhere between an art and a science. There are technical, spatial and lighting details that fall squarely in the scientific realm, but there are also many aspects that depend on personal artistic preference and mood.
Here are three simple tips to help you understand the basics of taking a great selfie. Before you start, make sure your phone is protected in a sturdy case, like an iPhone 14 Plus case.
Tip 1: Know Your Face
Start by using a mirror to get to know your face and its most common movement patterns. Connect the visual aspect you see with how that facial expression feels from the inside. Become familiar with the feeling of your jaw, neck and shoulders in different positions so you can imagine how they’ll look on camera just from how they feel.
Most of these adjustments will be tiny, almost imperceptible movements that may feel individually incidental but add up to a more flattering camera presence. Most will feel like either releasing muscular tension or stretching upward and outward to make you look longer and more elegant.
An intense facial pose might be to narrow your eyes a bit and stare deep into the camera. Relax the rest of your face completely and let your lips part just a little like you’re inhaling. If it’s hard to relax your face, try doing a few facial exercises.
If you want to stare at something off in the distance, make sure you either stare at a real thing or imagine an interesting thing to stare at in your mind. This will help you avoid having a vacant look in your eyes.
Most of the time, you’ll want your facial expression to look genuine and not posed, but don’t assume that your natural smile or laugh will automatically look flattering in a selfie. In front of the mirror, try laughing with different vowel sounds to see if you prefer one over the rest. For example, your “haha” face might be less photogenic than your “hehe” face. If you have trouble laughing on command, try starting off silly and exaggerated with a high-pitched cartoon or low-pitched villain laugh. This can often ignite a real laugh.
Tip 2: Light Your Face
Before you start snapping selfies, do a quick light check. Frame your face in your camera and spin in a 360-degree circle. Watch how the shadows and colors dance across the hills and valleys of your visage, and find the lighting that looks best.
Direct frontal lighting will erase many of the creases and imperfections on your face and make you look your most flawless. Putting a light source at a 45-degree angle on either side of your face will create a dramatic, powerful effect that may be almost too potent for many situations.
Backlight will wash out some colors but create a saintly glowing effect around your hair and silhouette if you angle it just right. You can even get some creative lens flares by using your head to partially cover any focused light source behind you. Of course, you can use lighting from below as a perfectly horrific way to scare things up a bit.
Pro Tip: If you’ll be using your phone all day, you might want to invest in a MagSafe case. This allows you to use a wireless charger while keeping your phone in its case.
Tip 3: Angle Your Face
Now that you’re familiar with your range of facial expressions and how they look in different lighting, let’s find your favorite angles. Like your facial expression and lighting, this is not a one-size-fits-all scheme. The right camera angle and distance will depend on your face and body type and the vibe and character you want to convey.
Unless you use a selfie stick, your distance from the camera will be limited to the length of your arm. Because this makes the lens relatively closer to your face, features in the center of your face will look wider than they should.
If you want your facial proportions to look more normal, you’ll need to take your selfie with your arm outstretched. A picture taken five feet away shows no perceived size difference in facial features, while a picture taken 12 inches away increases the width of your nose by around 30%.
The most recommended selfie position is to keep the bottom of your phone around the same height as your eyes with the camera angled downward. This will help slim down your chin or whole body if you take a full-body selfie. It will also make your eyes look larger and childlike.
You can try positioning your phone below your face and angling it upward to appear taller and more powerful. With this placement, you may need to avoid looking like you have a double chin by stretching your neck out while pressing your tongue lightly to the roof of your mouth.
If your face is perfectly symmetrical, staring dead-on into the camera might be the perfect angle for you. But almost everyone has some slight facial asymmetries. Maybe one eye is bigger or lower than the other. Because of this, you might prefer one side to the other.
If it’s hard to detect your own facial asymmetries, try taking a typical selfie and then using a photo-editing app to flip it horizontally and see what surprises you. If you’ve only ever seen your face in the mirror and your rear-facing camera, your brain may have gotten so used to your flipped features that it finds it hard to separate the parts from the whole.
Flipping a selfie horizontally shows you what the rest of the world actually sees when they look at you. It also gives your brain a novel viewpoint of your face that can help you find details you couldn’t quite otherwise pin down.
Pro Tip: While taking photos, use an iPhone camera protector to keep the lens from getting scratched or cracked in case of an accident.
Snap, Crackle, Pose
With these tips, you’ll soon be taking selfies like a pro. If you need some extra selfie confidence to get started, take a look through your old photos, and notice your expression, as well as the lighting and camera angles in your favorite shots. You can even scroll through your social media feeds and shamelessly steal the best ideas from the certified selfie professionals you follow. Your future selfie will thank you.