How to take better selfies

How to take better selfies
Den färdiga bilden. Ett klassiskt självporträtt.

The finished image, a classic portrait. Lots of blur on the wrinkles and light, soft images are often preferred to dark and hard ones.

The image of YOU has never been more important than now. Today you get checked up on your favourite dating site, LinkedIn, Instagram and FaceBook before you actually meet new someone. Wouldn’t it be sad if people made wrong presumptions just because a lousy image? That is why the profile images on your Internet pages are extra important.

First of all – your looks is NOT something you were born with. IT’S A CHOICE! There is very much you can do to appear good on photo, some of which we will go through below. As illustration we’ll use a hopeless example, namely me, so you can see for yourself that I’m telling the truth.

Taking decent photos is a basic knowledge today, just like writing and simple calculations. Here is some advise for those of you that missed the selfie lesson in elementary school.

Here is what NOT to do

  • Never take the picture with your computer. The light is always bad and falling the wrong way. And you will look like a total idiot if you look on the image of yourself instead of into the small lens on top of the screen.
  • Never take the picture with the lens on the screen side of you mobile. The quality is just not good enough.
  • Never take the photo in the hallway on the way out, in the bathroom mirror or in any other environment were the light is bad, just because that’s were you are when you get the idea to take it.
  • Don’t take a passport photo unless that’s what you need. Straight from the front, with the light from the same direction, makes a flat and dull image.
Seriously! Do you want the world to see you like THIS???

Seriously! Do you want the world to see you like THIS???

What you can do to improve your selfies

Don’t be lazy. Make a little effort and choose some nice clothes. Nice makeup for women and a shave for men. Everybody (almost) can fix the hair. Or why not take the opportunity when you already are styled and ready for a party? In the example above I changed to a better shirt. That may be enough, as long as you are pleased with the result.

Smile. If all you’ll remember is one thing. Let it be this. It’s the golden rule because we tend to meet our fellow beings the same way we are met. Good humour is more catching than influenza.

Jokkmokk i februari och -35 grader. Tyckte det var käckt att visa mig i harmössan och med is i skägget. Färg blev inget vidare. Svartvitt och massor med skärpa.

Jokkmokk, Sweden in February and -35 degrees. I thought it would be cool with a selfie in my hare hat and icy beard. Colour where not good. This time a used black and white and lots of sharpness.

Choose the right environment and light for your selfie.

Choose the place. Even a self portrait consists of a foreground, a motive (your self) and a background. You can eliminate anything but the motive if you like, but these elements are the only thing you have to consider, beside yourself and the light. Remember, the environment can say a lot about you.

Choose the concept. For work related images, such as LinkedIn, you may like to look like you would do on a job interview or when meeting a customer. For FaceBook it may be more appropriate with an image that is more “you”, maybe that relate to one of your interests.

If you like sailing maybe the see should be your background, if you like to hunt maybe you should take the images while waiting for that deer that never shows. But remember that not everybody shares your interests. If you like martial arts some people may assume you are a thug, especially if they never tried it them self. Some people think golf is the ultimate pastime; others think it’s a ridiculous upper class sport. You choose what you want to reveal about yourself.

But I was still not satisfied. Crop a little more and maybe you’ll be pleased.

But I was still not satisfied. Crop a little more and maybe you’ll be pleased.

If the environment isn’t adding to your image you should dispose of it as much as possible. A 100 mm lens or higher with I larger aperture will produce a short focal length, blurring most of the background. Many photo apps and Instagram have filters for blurring the background. I recommend you use it when appropriate.

Should you be a blogger, narcissistic, or even an exhibitionist, taking selfies all the time, you should perhaps invest in a tripod and remote control for you camera. Why not rig the camera with a laptop turned your way, so you can se how you look before shooting, (remember to look into the camera when exposing).

The best would of course be to have someone taking the pictures for you, but then it would not be a selfie, by definition.

Choose what to highlight. What do you like most about yourself? Do you look good in profile? Do you have beautiful hair or eyes? Use it! Most people want to see your face. Maybe you should crop the image really hard, even show just a part of your face, to highlight the feature you like. If you have a nice figure or flat stomach, maybe you should show your entire upper body?

Choose the equipment. If you have a tripod, use it together with the timer trigger in your camera. A white paper or a reflecting screen can lighten hard shadows and make wonders. If you don’t have a piece of paper, maybe a white wall will do the trick? Soft light is often good for all kind of portraits. The divine softbox in the sky on a cloudy day is often better than the hard sunlight of a beautiful day. Wrinkles will show less.

Pose for yourself. Most people prefer images taken from a bit above. But don’t lean backwards if you do, or there will be no advantage of taking the image from a high angel. Instead of taking the image from above you can also compensate and create a similar view by leaning forward (see the image above). Experiment and try different poses and faces to see what works for you. Every face is unique and works different depending on the light and angle.

Eye contact is just as important through the image. Look into the lens or look in an entirely different direction. If you look under the lens you risk look like you don’t want to meet the viewers eyes, as if you are a bit ashamed or dishonest.

Look into the lens or in an entirely different direction. If you look under it you risk seeming like you don’t want to meet the viewers eyes.ut som om man ljuger eller skäms.

Look into the lens or in an entirely different direction. If you look under it you risk seeming like you don’t want to meet the viewers eyes.

Light and soft images is in general more flattering than dark and hard ones. Try to over expose just a little bit. Maybe the result will be a positive surprise.

Take many pictures. I myself prefer to be behind the camera. It will help to have many pictures to choose from, if you lack a natural aptitude for acting or posing. Learn what poses and angles that works for you and you’ll find you’ll look better and better.

Remember that black and white is often very good for portraits.

Finally it can be said that photography is a materials sport. It’s not cheating to use a better camera or different accessories such as a remote control, stands, tripods, flashes, reflectors or diffusers and whatever you can lay your hands on. Many accessories are rather inexpensive and new cameras con often be used with your smartphone as remote control.

And as always it’s important to take your time and to have fun. You should also give some extra effort afterwards, in your favourite photo editing software. Make images lighter and softer. Experiment with filters to find the effects that you like. But try not to overdo it.

Good luck with your selfie shooting. And don’t forget to share your thoughts, ideas and tips through the comments below.

Our recommendations for notorious selfie shooters:

1 remote control

1 reflector

1 carbon fibre tripod alternately ordinary or mini tripod.