The best selfies are not just pictures – they are pieces of art, and all art has to send a message. It can be a superficial one, like showcasing your new haircut, or perhaps an expression of a new insight. You’ll have to adjust the components for each type of shot accordingly, for example, you’d want to feature your hair very prominently for the former, and you’ll probably go for a subtle, erudite aura for the latter.
Only when your selfies tell a coherent tale will others connect with their story and give you that coveted “Like”! Conversely, a selfie that cannot express itself will get nary a second glance from today’s generation of 3-second attention spans.
So before you embark on any of the below tips, think about what you are trying to say with your selfie!
1. Find Your Better Side
This one is universal: regardless of what type of selfie you want to take, you’ll always want to look good (except in the rare instance of a gag shot). Almost every human being in this world has an asymmetrical face – that is to say, the left side of the face differs ever so slightly from the right because of different muscle structure etc. A killer selfie starts with finding your better side.
You’ll just have to experiment yourself to decide between the two sides. Find it and whip it out with confidence for every picture!
2. Camera-to-face Angle
This short comical video should illustrate the importance of camera angles to you! When taken from below, multiple chins were visible, the eyed looked small and dull, while the face looked swollen and unattractive. By shifting the camera to just above her head, the model suddenly seemed much lively, open, and attractive.
There is a science to the angles of your shots. Farhod P. Karimov at the University of Brussels found that camera angles greatly affect your impression of the person.
When someone is viewed from above they are seen as weaker and in need of protection. This makes sense from an evolutionary stand point. Adults see children from above–and they typically need to be taken care of.
If you are trying to garner likes for a cute-sy selfie, you’d want to invoke a demure feel by holding the camera slightly above eye-level or tilting your head down toward the camera. This will also force you to look up at the camera, raising your eyebrows and making your eyes look larger!
The opposite happens when you see someone from below. They tend to look more self-confident, more sociable and more attractive. Why? As children we admired adults. They took care of us and had everything figured out.
A survey found that most men took selfies to celebrate achievements and milestones in their lives. If this is you, you’ll be gunning for the erudite, self-assured aura by taking the selfie slightly below your face and from farther away. Take care, however, not to accidentally tilt your face down toward the camera and form those nasty double chins!
Note that the above are not hard and fast rules for each gender. Ultimately, think about what message you are trying to send with the picture!
3. Use A Selfie Stick
Composition of your picture tells others what it is all about.
Imagine you are trying to tell the world that you have just completed a bungee jump at the Grand Canyon with your three best friends. However, your picture is consists of:
- 15% arm that is holding the camera
- 75% faces
- 10% background
In today’s age of 2-second attention spans, nobody is going to scutinise and realise that you were indeed at the Grand Canyon and would assume that it was just a arbitrary group selfie – nothing noteworthy.
A Selfie Stick holds the camera away from you so that you may include more of the background you intended to capture!
Selfie Sticks also prevent bloated features from having the lens too close, among a whole host of other advantages.
4. Body Positioning
Facing the camera
Facing your body towards somebody is nonverbal sign of respect. When you can view someone straight on in a picture, Prof. Karimov found you see them as more trustworthy, open-minded and sympathetic. This is because your brain can take in their entire body and get a full mental snapshot. If you are taking a corporate selfie for your clients, you’ll want to face your body towards the camera!
In contrast, facing your body away from somebody indicates that you aren’t revealing everything. Don’t believe so? Take note of where your toes and chest are facing the next time you are harassed by one of those MRT salespeople seeking to exploit your personal information. If you are going for something mysterious and artistic, or just have no need to be Pinocchio’s existential opposite, pointing your body at an angle is not a problem, and may even flatter your figure!
Angles can make a big difference in enhancing your figure.
For women, you’ll want to turn your body 2/3 away from the camera, then turn your head to face your camera.
This will give you a slimmer profile and shave 5kg off your weight instantly! To maximise your curves, try popping your knee or crossing your legs to slim down your leg profile!
For men trying to take a gym selfie, do a 2/3 turn, then twist your entire upper torso from waist-up to face the camera. This will trim your waist, while maximizing the width of your shoulders, bringing out that coveted V-taper in full glory.
Here are two pictures of the same model. On the left, he angles the whole body toward the camera and looks blocky. On the right, he does a 2/3 turn away and rotates his shoulder to face the camera, bringing out all the defined angles in his physique.
Harvard Business School researcher Amy Cuddy discovered that there are universal power body language moves:
- The more physical space someone takes up with their body, the more confident they appear and feel.
- Strong body language is when the forehead and chest are pointed up and shoulders are rolled back.
- Powerful, confident people aren’t afraid to open up their body especially their torso and chest so that they are free of barriers—uncrossed arms and legs.
This makes sense because we instinctively try to guard our most vulnerable areas – our front torso – when we feel threatened. We also hunch our shoulders to look smaller and not attract attention.
On the other hand, we do not feel a need to expand energy being on guard when we perceive no danger, are comfortable, and relaxed. We expand our chest to invite more social interaction.
As seen from the above pictures, the more space you take up, the more powerful and confident you are perceived to be. Open arms, chest, and toes are all perceived as relaxed and comfortable.
However, this does not mean that you have to display open body language in all of your selfies. Once again, think about the message you are trying to convey: did you just graduate with top honours, did you get a new car, do you want others to revere you? Or are you getting over a breakup, and are you in need of empathy and consolation?
5. An Authentic, 1000-Megawatt Smile
Humans are reciprocal creatures. We subconsciously mimic the actions of others. A Duke University study found that test subjects in the same room yawned at significantly higher rates once a single person starts yawning.
How is this related to selfie-taking? Humans across all cultures are naturally able to read another person’s mood even when it isn’t expressed, and able to tell genuine emotions from fake ones. This is much like how you can sense if someone is upset, or angry, without him having to say or show it. The secret lies in what we call “microexpressions” – subtle mood-induced muscle contractions in our faces that we cannot consciously control.
Coupled with our inclination to mimicry, we are more likely to be placed in a good mood (and express that with a “like”) when encountering a genuine smile, and more likely to have our guard up when experiencing a fake one (“how pretentious!”).
Take a look at the side-by-side comparison above: I don’t even have to point out to you which smiles are authentic and which aren’t. (Just in case you are a psychopath, the right ones are authentic).
Consequently, we feel a stronger sense of goodwill when looking at the pictures in the right column and are more likely to express it with a “like”!
Behavioral scientists have broken the difference between authentic and pretentious smiles to the presence of “crow’s feet”, a set of muscles at the outer corners of your eyes. When we experience real happiness, the muscle is activated. Unfortunately, there is no way of activating the muscles consciously.
So when you are taking your next selfie, think of something that you are truly happy about, stop worrying about how you look, and flash your brightest, most authentic smile at the camera – you’ll be surprised how big a difference it makes! One tip to get an authentic smile is to take the shot quickly. Oftentimes, a genuinely bright smile will melt away into a cramped, forced one if we hold it too long. Capture the shot as soon as you smile, and when you use a selfie stick, make sure you get one with a shutter release button so you do not have to use a timer.
6. Use Soft Lighting
Harsh lighting is very directional i.e it comes almost entirely from one direction. Harsh lighting highlights all the folds, wrinkles, and pits in your face – not exactly a flattering look. Soft lighting, its opposite, comes from many directions. This helps highlight all areas of your face evenly, minimizing shadows and making those flaws much less obvious.
Instead of using harsh lighting from your incandescent bulb or LED, use natural light coming in from your window. Natural light, when not directly from the sun, is moderately diffused (soft) and flatters your features. However, do make sure the you are facing the window directly or the uneven lighting across your face could still form shadows. If the sun is directly outside the window, you could wait for cloud cover, or use translucent blinds to soften the light.
When outdoors, light coming from the direction of the sun will be very harsh – and bright too! If you take photos with the sun in front of to the side of your face, not only will the strong light imbalance highlight all your facial flaws, you’ll end up looking like you’re taking the dump of your life squinting into the camera.
The right way to make use of natural light outdoors is to place the sun behind your head, and let the soft light reflected off your surroundings illuminate your picture.
When placing the bright sun behind you, you may find that your face is too dark to be visible. Simply point the focal point of your camera at a dark part of your body and let the camera adjust its exposure automatically. This has the added benefit of giving your head an angelic glow!
7. Hold Your Food, Not Bite It!
If you have an Instagram account, chances are that it will feature food – lots of it. The chances are also that you have been taking food selfies the wrong way.
This is Lindsay. She has been taking food selfies with the food in her mouth her whole life. It is the first thing we think of when trying to make our food look tasty.
In Lindsay’s own words however, ” I look like I’m legitimately scared of food, which I can assure you is not the case based on my weekly Chipotle consumption.”
After seeking help from a professional model, she managed to make drastic improvements!
You don’t actually have to put the food in your mouth, holding it is enough for everyone to know you are eating it. The advantage of not biting it is that it leaves your mouth free to flash a 1000-megawatt smile, and the little wrist flick frames the food nicely and draws attention to it too.
If you are trying to take hipster, top-down food pictures, check out how you have been taking food pictures wrongly!