Selfies – tips on how to take better selfies

For me self portraits or “selfies” are a great way to try out angles, lights and props for an upcoming shoot. It also allows me to develop as a photographer. Selfies are a great possibility to portray yourself as anyone or any character you want. You can exclusively control and try out any ”direction” you want to go, which pose, light, costume and environment that will suit you. What the outcome will be is determined you. It gives you full control and teaches you how to use your face and body in a new way. This will in the end make you me more comfortable in front of the camera.

Whether you are shooting selfies or posing for someone else, there are a few things that you may want to consider.

For example:
What do you want to achieve with your picture, what message are you trying to send out?
What do you want your ”audience” to feel?
What kind of background do you want?
Do you have enough light and where is it coming from?
What are you wearing?
Is your makeup, if any, in accordance with your goal for the picture?
What can you do with your hair to achieve the right look?
How can your eyes effect the outcome?
Which facial expression should you choose?

Selfies doesn´t need not be perfect pictures. The most important thing is that they are ”sufficiently” interesting (your friends require less quality than if you are trying to attract new people) and ”speak” to the viewer. The first thing you should ask yourself before you take your picture is what you want to say with your image. What is it you want to convey? What are you selling?

That you are:
Beautiful and muscular
Round, beautiful
Having fun
ad / thoughtful / upset
Feeling playful
Experiencing something you want to share
In general need of confirmation and appreciation (likes)

The list goes on and I am sure you have a lot to add. The important thing is that the answer determines what you fill the image with. Environment, light, etc. The second question is about what emotions you want to evoke. The answer to this question determines how you dress, if at all, and what expression you choose.

When you take selfies, you have to keep track of the light. This can be a challenge for beginners. Experiment until you find your style. Play with it. 

Mirror selfies
Try to keep your camera as still as possible when taking your selfie, unless you are going for some special effect. If you’re using your smartphone to take the picture, you need to find the right angle and distance to avoid that some parts of your face becomes enlarged, such as your nose. Again, unless that is the effect you´re going for. I have seen a lot of selfies taken via a mirror. That is fine unless you are looking straight into that mirror at the same time. While looking fantastic in the mirror, the eyes on the actual picture more often than not, seem to look down or in a completely different direction. Very few people manage to keep their mobile camera still at the right angle towards the mirror resulting in a picture that is more or less distorted. If you want or need the support of a mirror, think about how the mirror relates to your lens opening and position yourself accordingly. When you are happy with your facial expression, gently, and without being stiff, turn with the same pose and expression towards the lens opening.

Kim Paulin

The eyes
If you really want your selfie to ”speak” to your viewer your eyes are of great importance. That is true whether you’re looking into the camera, to the side, or choose to keep your eyes closed. (You can of course tell an amazing story by just photographing your muscular arms or elegant rear end…) If your eyes are tense it will effect your whole face. Tension in your eyes will pull your mouth back and create extra unwanted wrinkles around your eyes and in your forhead. It is easy to believe that you can achieve craving eyes by pulling your chin out. This is not the case.  To achieve this look (craving eyes) you have to keep your neck straight and fixate your eyes towards the upper eyelid, however not more than one or two mm. At the same time you have to relax your face and eyes, not an easy task for someone without training. If you just pull your chin out, you lose your neck which makes you look stiff. Instead, relax and fix your gaze without starring, keep your head straight , even if you lean to the side. E.g.  pull your head forward or backward relative to the neck. The neck is of great importance if you want to avoid the impression of a ”bull’s neck ”.

The mouth
Opened or closed, it`s all about preference and what you want to achieve. However, if you want to take a sensual or sexy selfie, my hot tip to you is that this is a lot easier to achieve with your mouth closed or just slightly open. It´s important that you relax your mouth regardless if you´re smiling or not. The easiest way to do this is if you lower your shoulders and relax your eyes. If you feel that it´s necessary to pout with your lips, I see a lot of this going on in selfies from both men and women today, be sure to ” smile ” with your eyes if you don`t want to look cruel or intimidating.

This is, believe it or not, a very important body part to consider when taking selfies. How you hold your chin largely affects how much of your neck that will show in the picture. Try to let your neck follow if you tilt your head to the side.

Lower, lower, lower the shoulders!
Remember to pull back your shoulders tightly if you want to pose with a hand in your hair. The same applies if you want to keep one hand on your hip or to the side of your body.

Men, male chests and mirrors
Today you can see plenty of men showing off their beautiful chests on e.g. instagram. These selfies are more often than not photographed at or via a mirror by a man with pouting lips, hard eyes = constricted eye brows and with a mobile camera angled upward. Nothing wrong with that, but this image can easily be improved. If you are a man and have the support of a mirror, keep it right in front of you, choose a pose in the mirror and then turn your face towards the camera instead of the mirror. An intense gaze is very manly, just remember to relax the area surrounding your eyes, that way you will avoid a constricted forehead. Practice in the mirror. If you feel that you have to pout, who am I to judge… Pretend it´s directed towards a special someone. Kisses are always nice. Naked or dressed, pull your shoulders down and to the back. Experiment and find what works for you.

Women and female breasts
Nude, low-cut or in your underwear. Try to lower your shoulders and pull them back. Keep your arms away from your body in different poses until you find your own style and what suits you. Remember to use your eyes if you want to create a sensual image. Avoid looking down and to compress your breasts to make them look bigger than your head.

Sensual selfies
Sensual selfies are for everyone and has nothing to do with body shape or beauty. Selfies are a great way to find your inner sensuality. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and people will see different things in the same picture. The  beauty of selfies is that you can do whatever YOU think is sensual or sexy. Personally I think lightly dressed is sexier than nudes. What makes a person sensual and sexy differs from person to person so you have to try things out. Play and have fun. If you don´t like to see your self this way, don´t judge, just do another kind of selfie and show the world how you think it should be done.

In fantasy pictures you put yourself in a staged fantasy world through clothing, the environment and by your own imagination. Use your dreams and challenge your fears. These selfies often requires more preparation. You can buy a background on a photo site or build one yourself to achieve the style you´re looking for. You can also shoot various objects separately and cut them into your image.

The impression of your selfie changes a lot when you crop the image. If you want a more intense selfie, crop the picture and invite the viewer to come closer. Have fun with it!

A filter can change focus, colors, softness, etc. Today there are lots of different apps and photo companies who offer all kinds of fun filters. Try them out and use what works best for you.

Creativity and inspiration

Creativity is a process. Take control over yours. Watch other selfies and save the ones you like for inspiration. Ask yourself how colors, lights, environment and make up where used in the pictures you like. Make your own ” mood boards ” where you collect your favourite colors and images.

Keep in mind that it´s easier to remember an original and interesting selfie, than a perfect one. It doesn´t need to be technically correct or beautiful, play around until you find a result you feel happy with.