All artists need inspiration and find it from several sources. You don’t want to be a copycat, but by taking elements from other mediums can create an original work. All artists do this to some degree, because nothing is really new.
To find ideas, I recommend going to Instagram and searching the hashtags:
You’ll find plenty of inspiration and ideas.
Pay close attention to how they frame their selfies, the background that shows, the setting and the lighting. Look at the way they pose.
These inspiration images will give you ideas before you start to tackle:
The Technical Side Of Taking A Better Selfie
When I started taking photos, I sucked. There is a definite learning curve to taking better photographs. Once I knew what to look for and how to do it, practice allowed me to improve.
You create a photograph using light. Without light, there is no image. But just having light doesn’t make a photo look good. It needs to be the right kind of light.
Lighting for better selfies
In my studio, I shoot a combination of natural light images and flash. This is because the kind of light you work with affects the photograph in different ways.
Good lighting will flatter the subject. Bad lighting will bring out every blemish and mark. No matter what you do, you will never look your best in the wrong light.
So what is the best light for a selfie?
1. Soft light.
Soft light smooths over small blemishes and pimples on your skin. Hard light draws attention to them and makes your features, good or bad, look harsh.
In my studio, I create soft natural light by using sheer drapes covering the windows. This defuses the sunlight so it isn’t glaring on my client. Window light is great for taking a selfie, especially when you have sheer drapes.
Face the window, which is your light source, this way the light is wrapping around your face and features.
Facing the window provides plenty of natural light.
Shooting toward a window darkens your subject.
If you try to take a selfie with your back to the window, your camera may expose for the bright light and you will be dark. I use that technique to shoot silhouettes. (Which could be an interesting selfie to draw attention.)
When I want to photograph against the window, I use a soft box. A soft box is basically a flash unit with a white covering to defuse the light before it hits my subject.
Lighting the subject with a soft light flash.
You don’t need to buy a flash and a soft box to take better selfies though. There are other ways to create soft light.
If you are outside on a sunny day, stand in the shade of a tree or building, or under a tent or bridge. Face the light, and place your camera between it and you. The shade will act as a defuser for the light coming in, and your lighting will be softer since you aren’t in direct sunlight.
Overcast days are also a form of soft light. This makes it easier to choose a location since you aren’t worried about direct sunlight. You’ll want to avoid midday though. The light direction at that time is pretty unflattering.
Another good time of day to take a soft light selfie is called golden hour. It is the time just before the sun appears on the horizon in the morning, and just after it sets at night. It is still light out, but the light is beautiful for taking photographs.
Lighting you should avoid is:
- Direct sunlight.
- Overhead indoor lighting
- Dark areas like bars or clubs.
You won’t always have perfect light when you take a selfie, but you should attempt to use the best light possible.
2. Avoid Shadows
Lighting can sometimes create shadows that appear unflattering. That is why you should avoid a light source directly above your head. It may create shadows under your eyes making you look tired.
Shadows can also be caused when something is between you and your light source. It is important to look at how the light is playing across you. Getting the shot as close to perfect as you can when you take it, makes editing or posting it much easier.
So how can you avoid shadows?
3. Bouncing Light
My studio has a huge reflector. The reflector is white on one side and gold on the other. I sometimes set it directly opposite of my light source. The reflector will bounce light back and help reduce shadows on the opposite side of them.
You don’t need a reflector to do this. A piece of white paper, a sheet of white cardboard or a piece of white foam core will have a similar effect.
For portraits, the reflector may be placed below the chin, out of camera frame. This bounces the light back up, removing neck and chin shadows and helping with lighting under the brow to avoid eye bags.
I mentioned my reflector is gold on one side. That bounces a softer color light back in the direction of my client. In some cases it looks great, other times, not so much. The white reflector is my go to choice.
4. Tips On Using Flash
The flash on a camera or your iphone or android is something to avoid when possible. Direct flash will wash out your skin and can give you red eye. It definitely is not the best selfie lighting!
If you are in a dark area, you may need a flash, so here are some tips to help you.
It is best only to use flash when you are inside in a dark area with no window light.
Since most phones only have a flash on the back of the camera, it can be difficult to take a good selfie without seeing how it is framed.
Luckily, there is an app for that. Snapchat! It has a flash option that will light up the screen as you take your picture. It isn’t an ideal light, but it will work, while allowing you to see what you are shooting.
If you do get washed out skin or red eye, photo editing can help, but it doesn’t always work. Here is another idea to help you avoid those things which ruin selfies.
Prop your camera up against something, set the timer and step back. The puts a bit more distance between you and the flash, so it won’t be as glaring.
Even with these tips, my biggest tip would be, avoid the flash and find some natural light!
5. Other Types of Lighting
If you can’y use natural light and a flash washes you out, consider using a ring light. There are many types of ring lights in different sizes. The smaller ones tend to throw a color cast onto the subject.
In my boudoir studio, I have an 18″ ring light that I sometimes use. A small dial lets me change the color temperature of the light from daylight, to a warmer tone. While the warm tone has a place, I prefer the daylight setting. Of course, that is up to you and what look you are trying to achieve.
One thing I dislike about ring lights is when you shoot straight through them. Yes, the light is even, but ring lights will reflect in the eyes. While a “catch light” in the eyes helps bring them to life, the circular light can make you look possessed.
If you shoot through a ring light, make sure you are back far enough the light doesn’t take over your eyes.
Notice the lights reflecting from her eyes. Catchlights help accent them.
The ring light washes out the pupils making you look possessed.
In my boudoir studio, I use a shallow depth of field for most of my images. What does that mean? The area of the picture in focus is relatively small, and as things get further away from the focus, they blend into a soft blur.
That makes it important that the focus is sharp on the area I want the eye drawn to. Otherwise, the whole photo looks out of focus. A fine line between art and trash.
For your selfies, you want to make sure your camera focuses on your eye. If your nose is in focus and your eyes are blurry, attention will go there and your selfie won’t look or feel right.
For most portraits – and that is basically what a selfie is, the viewer connects with the eyes. They are the window to the soul … or is it the crazy? Either way, the eyes are the center of attention, so make certain they are in focus!
Shallow depth of field – eyes are in focus and the rest of the picture transitions to a soft blur.
7. Proper Distance
Most camera lens have a curve which, when held too close, will distort the image like a funhouse mirror. With phones, the curve is small, but it is there. Holding the phone at arms length is usually enough to prevent distortion. I don’t recommend holding it closer than your arm bent to 45 degrees, unless you want to shoot a distorted picture.
8. Know Where The Lens Is
A lot of cell phone selfies are ruined because the subject isn’t looking at the camera lens. Remember that your screen is NOT the lens! It should only be used to see the framing of the shot.
Generally, an iphone or android has the lens above the screen if shooting from the front of your phone. When you go to snap a selfie, look into the lens and make eye contact.
People prefer images where they can connect with your eyes. (I talked about that in Focus above.)
If you turn your phone horizontal, make sure you know which end to look at. If taking a selfie with friends, make sure they know too!
With these technical aspects in mind and some practice, you should be able to take better pictures. Congratulations, you are now on your way to a better selfie!
How To Take Full Body Selfies
If you did your research above, you may have noticed most people take full body selfies one of two ways.
1. The Mirror
Some take their full body selfie while looking in a mirror. It allows them to stand at a distance where the camera can capture their entire body, head to toe.
2. The Selfie Stick
Others take full body selfies using a selfie stick. The selfie stick allows them to hold their iphone, android or camera at a greater distance to take the selfie.
The first time I used a selfie stick, it seemed pretty awkward. I didn’t like the idea of carrying it around. Plus it felt weird, so there is definitely a learning curve to using one.
There are two types of selfie sticks I am familiar with. A wired selfie stick requires you to plug a cable into your phone or camera. This will trigger the camera when you press the button on the handle at your end of the stick.
There are also bluetooth selfie sticks which are simple to connect to your phone. It saves you from constantly plugging in your phone, is fast and easy to use. The bluetooth selfie stick is my preference.
3. The Video Full Body Selfie
If your phone has a camera, chances are, it has video too. Most people forget this option because they are trying to take a picture.
You can set up your shot, figure out where you want to stand in it and decide on your pose. Then, simply press record and start recording video.
With the video rolling, take your spot, make your pose and hold it for a count of three. Then strike a different pose and hold it. Change your position in the frame and try another. Then, stop the recording.
Now, when you go back to watch the video, each time you come to a place you froze, you can take a screenshot!
This technique can make your selfies look like you had a photographer with you!
Good Selfie Poses
What makes a good selfie pose, and what makes one bad? In this section, I’ll share some posing tips that will help, and offer a couple of things you should avoid!
1. Avoid Selfie Clichés
I’ve seen everything from the Kardashian duck-face lips to people holding up a peace sign with their fingers. Gang signs and thumbs up are a thing of the past too. Even the “kissy” and “pouty sad face” are cliché.
They look posed like a photo teens would make back on MySpace. Tom the Myspace guy may have liked them, but now they look dated and unattractive.
2. Avoid Straight On Shots
This tip will definitely help you create a more flattering selfie. Straight on shots lack interest. You look wider in the frame.
Changing the angle of the camera or turning your body creates a much more pleasurable photo.
Instead of holding the camera in front of you, looking at it straight on, try holding it up and pointing down towards your face. Don”t hold your phone too high though. Objects nearer the lens look larger. You don’t want to have a huge head and small body!
Holding the camera up slightly above eye level will force you to look upwards. That is a more flattering look for many people. It helps light to hit the face and helps hides double chins.
3. Avoid Upshots
Very few people look good when photographed from below. If your camera is positioned below your chin, chances are you won’t like the photo. It just isn’t a flattering angle, so avoid that if you want better selfies.
4. Know Your Good Side.
Everyone has a side of their face they prefer. Although there are some people who are ambi-facial – having two good sides, but that is rare.
You may prefer one side over the other because of a blemish, bump, mole or scar. No matter the reason, you should definitely know which side of your face you like best.
If you aren’t sure, stand in front of a mirror with your head turned to the left. Now slowly rotate it to the right, watching your reflection the entire time. At some point, you will come to an angle that stands out – and that is your angle and good side!
You won’t want every selfie to be that exact angle and side, but knowing this will go a long way in understanding how to take a better selfie.
Where To Look When Taking A Selfie.
I’m often asked, where do I look when I take a selfie?
I’ve already mentioned that when people view a portrait, they connect with the eyes. So looking into the camera lens is always a good choice.
But there are other options.
When I shoot boudoir photography in my studio, I explain to my clients that eyes are very important. What you look at in the photo, people’s eyes will move toward.
If you are standing there staring off into the distance, people will wonder what you are looking at. Instead of a selfie, they will wish you had turned the camera to what had your attention.
The only time that rule changes is when you take a selfie looking out a window. That gives the viewer an idea of what you are doing. Of course, rules are meant to be broken and it depends on the feeling you want the photo to provide.
What is she looking at?
Looking out the window.
If you are posing with someone or something in the selfie, you can look at it. Again, this will direct the viewers attention to what you want them to see.
So always ask yourself, what is the most important thing in this shot? If it is you, look into the lens!
1. Looks To Give The Camera When Taking A Selfie
You don’t want to over pose a selfie. If you do, you may end up looking ridiculous. But there are tips for creating a look on your face when you snap the shutter.
A great selfie connects the viewer to you, so putting some emotion into your eyes can help. You may use your eyes to seduce the camera, or imagine the moment right before you are about to laugh out loud.
I tell my clients to think about their favorite food, delicious chocolate melting in their mouths or someone kissing their neck.
Whatever works for you, thinking about it will help create a look that will have people looking at your selfie twice.
2. Other Tips For “Selfie Eyes”
The squinch is easy to do, although it may take some people more practice than others.
To squinch, your top eyelids come down slightly, and you raise your lower eyelids. You don’t want to look like you are squinting and need glasses. Your eyes are definitely more open than a squint. But this narrowing of the eyes by raising the lower eyelids gives you an intense look.
B.) If you have problems with blinking, keep your eyes closed and open them right before you snap the shutter. They tend to spread wide when you open your eyes, but quickly settle into a natural position, and that is what you want to capture.
Smiling In Your Selfie
Never force a smile for a photograph. A fake smile or grin looks cheesy or even creepy. Remember those elementary school photos everyone laughed about? Avoid that look!
Instead, flash your real smile and the picture will pop. Natural smiles are always better than anything you can fake.
It isn’t always easy to master a natural smile in front of the lens, so practice in a mirror. Try closed lips, lips slightly open and halfway open with the corners of your mouth turned up, show your teeth … which looks best to you? Keep practicing your most natural look until you can nail it every time, even without looking.
A natural smile does wonders in selfies.
Portray Confidence in Your Selfies
Confidence is key to taking a good selfie. That can be tough if you aren’t always comfortable with yourself or looks. As a boudoir photographer, I can tell you that even models have body issues that give them doubts. Everyone has them, but the good news is that you are your own worst critic.
Most people see the whole package, not a blemish or your weight. So use your body and mind to create an aura of inner strength.
If you need help, get yourself pumped up before snapping the selfie. Stand in a super hero power pose, or recite a positive quote or affirmation.
Confidence takes work, so if you need some, cultivate it by growing it every day.
Selfie Angles And Selfie Poses To Try
Now that you know what to avoid and how to look and smile in a selfie, here are some pose ideas to help you get started.
- Stand at a 45% angle to your camera, turn your head toward the camera, stretch your neck forward like a turtle and bring your chin down slightly. This will accent your jaw line.
- Practice showing your best side to the camera, again with body slightly angled to the left or right so it isn’t a “front shot.”
- Camera slightly above eye level and looking up toward it.
- Lay down and hold the camera above you.
- Face cradled in or resting on your hand.
- Put your hand in your hair and brush through it as you take the selfie.
- Lean against a wall or window.
- Looking out of the window.
- Lying down side shot with head on a pillow.
Body angled, head turned, chin down, hand to face.
Hand in hair
Camera above eye level, looking up.
More Selfie Ideas
If you run out of ideas for selfies to shoot, dig through your closet and look at your wardrobe.
Accessorize. Have a new haircut, outfit, pair of glasses or jewelry? Feature it in your selfie.
Do something! Bike riding, skiing, at the ocean? Take a pic of you doing something – just not ACTUALLY doing it so you don’t fall or get injured!
Take a selfie with friends.
Take a selfie with a pet.
Take a selfie with your art or baking or something you made.
Remember all the shots you liked when you did your selfies research earlier? Keep those poses in mind too. Use them as inspiration to create your own pose and look.
Backgrounds for better selfies.
Some of the best selfies have interesting backgrounds. Instead of standing against a wall, try to incorporate something interesting behind you.
You don’t want a cluttered background. You also want to make sure there is nothing embarrassing in the photo. The story of the woman who left a sex toy on her shelf and posted the selfie comes to mind there.
Also avoid the bathroom. I know there is a mirror there, and I know a lot of people shoot selfies in the bathroom. But if you ask most people, they find it odd and don’t want to see a toilet or shower in the background.
The color of your background also plays a part. If you are near a colored background, stand apart so it doesn’t cast the color onto your skin.
Remember, you are the star of your selfie, think of the background as a supporting player in the shot.
Creativity for taking better selfies
Having great lighting, a natural smile, eyes seducing the lens, good body position and an interesting background are great. But here are some creative photography suggestions for composition of your selfies to make them even better.
Use Portrait Mode On Your Phone
iPhones have a feature called Portrait mode. I’m not certain if androids do or not. (Sorry, I’m an Apple user.)
Portrait mode simulates a shallow depth of field. Remember that term from when I was discussing focus? It places the focus on you, and artfully blurs the background to help you stand out.
Portrait mode really makes the subject pop from the background and directs the eye to you. Professional photographers often use this technique by using expensive lenses. While the iPhone can’t match the quality of a $2,000 lens, it does very well for social media sized posts.
Portrait Mode – notice background over shoulder is out of focus, helping separate her from surroundings.
Composition Makes The Shot
Photographers use something called the rule of thirds. You divide your framing into 3 vertical and horizontal sections, kind of like a tic tac toe game grid.
The intersections and lines are areas of interest. For example, when taking the selfie, place yourself with your eyes on the first horizontal line from the top. You can then center yourself between the vertical lines. This helps to make the image appealing to the viewer.
For an eye catching difference, center yourself on one of the vertical lines. (See the drawings below.) This will help you improve the composition of your selfie to help capture attention in the social media scroll.
Rule of thirds grid.
Rule of thirds, eye line and centered
Rule of thirds, offset.
Use A Tight Crop Of Your Face.
While you don’t want to hold the camera too close to your face, since that would cause distortion, you can crop the photo.
Take the selfie as you usually would, then use the edit option to crop in on just your face. It will give your selfie a very different look!
Selfie Of A Selfie
In the feature image at the top of this article, you see a model taking a selfie in the studio mirror. I snapped a picture of her doing this and it was very popular on my Instagram feed.
If you have a friend with you, they can snap a shot of you taking a selfie. It is a great share using a clever idea.
Filters And Over-Editing
There is a tendency for some to use filters and over edit their images. While I am all for removing a blemish or whitening your teeth a bit, I am against over-editing.
Sure filters can make your images look “cool”, but they can also remove the realism of the selfie.
When my boudoir clients ask if I can remove wrinkles or scars or make them look thinner, I have to ask …
Do you want to feel like you have to be photoshopped to look beautiful? Or do you want honest reactions that will raise your self-esteem and confidence in the way you look.
I’ve already mentioned people tend to look at the whole person, not the details. Things you stare at in the mirror and have issues with, most people don’t even see.
So don’t over edit or filter yourself to the point you aren’t real. You’ll be surprised at the positive reactions and feel better about yourself.
How To Get Really Good At Taking Better Selfies
The only way to get really good at taking better selfies is practice. Lots and lots and lots of practice! Luckily, digital cameras make it easy to delete photos, so there is no problem with memory and there is no expense in practicing!
As a professional photographer, I take a couple thousand photographs during a boudoir session. Yes, you read that right – couple thousand. After the client leaves, I go through them one by one and only pick out the best. If I get 60 to 100 images I like, I am doing good.
When I started, that was harder. Now that I’ve shot hundreds of clients, I’ve gotten much better and sometimes it can be hard to narrow down to that number.
But the only way to get better is to keep practicing. You will see improvement if you follow the tips in this article and constantly look for new inspiration.
Finally – Don’t Overthink This!
I gave you a lot of information here. But don’t let that stop you from taking action!
You don’t have to incorporate it all at once. Bookmark the page. Add one or two tips to your selfie game and see the results. Once they become habit, come back and find a couple more to play with.
Selfies should be fun. Be the natural you in your selfies and you will find they quickly improve.
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