Tips and Tricks for Taking Good Selfies

Table of Contents

Tips and Tricks for Taking Good Selfies

1. Hold the camera as far away as possible
If you are going down the road of holding the camera yourself, you want to hold it as far away from yourself as possible. This is where a selfie-stick on a smartphone comes in so handy.

The reason for this is that most camera lenses on smartphones, and the lenses you would use on a normal camera to take a hand held selfie, are going to be wide angle. This means that they can get a lot of the shot in, but they also distort the image slightly.

This distortion is usually not noticeable, but when you hold these lenses too close to your face, it can result in a weird caricature like effect, where parts of your face suddenly seem larger than other parts. This is a pretty standard effect, and we notice it a lot more on faces simply because our brains are very good at facial recognition, and any change from the normal patterns jumps out at us.

So if you are going down the route of hand holding your camera, extend your arm as far away from you as possible to minimise this fisheye effect.

When you do this though, don’t make the mistake of pushing your head unnaturally back behind your shoulders – this can be a natural reaction to pushing our arm out and trying to get further away from the camera, but this will make your head look weird. So after you’ve held the camera out, make sure your head is in a natural position.

2. Position the camera slightly above you
Ok, lets move beyond the hardware and start to talk about how to make sure that the pictures you are taking of yourself look as good as possible.

My first tip, regardless of which method you are using, is to have the camera slightly above you. Photos naturally look better when taken from slightly above (no-one wants a chin first image), so if you can get the camera slightly above you, this will give you better results.

The exception to this guidance is if you are shooting into a mirror – holding the camera below yourself might make it easier to edit the camera out. Just remember to tilt your chin and ensure your posture isn’t unflattering.

3. Ensure the light is right
Light is critically important when it comes to photography, and this is no less true when it comes to taking pictures of yourself. First, you need to make sure there is enough light available to illuminate your features, so you don’t end up with a blurry, noisy image that won’t impress anyone.

This is definitely going to be easier if you are outside in the daytime as there will generally be more light available (even if it’s overcast).

Next, you need to consider the angle and direction of the light. A lower light source, such as when the sun is lower on the horizon, will more evenly illuminate your features. A high light source, such as when the sun is directly overhead, will cause harsher shadows that will create dark contrast areas and less flattering results.

You also want to try to be looking towards the light source if possible, although not to the point it’s making you squint of course! Having the light so it is behind the camera as you look into the camera will more evenly illuminate your face.

Finally, the quality of the light is really important. The best light comes from a nice low sun, near sunrise or sunset, when it has that yellow glow. This warm glow will give you softer skin tones, and the lower angle of the sun will properly illuminate your face.

Be wary of point light sources like flashes, which can wash out your features, give you terrifying red-eyes, and generally ruin an otherwise good shot. Natural light will nearly always result in better results unless you invest in a serious flash kit and the knowledge to use it.

If you are shooting indoors, try to stay as still as possible to minimise any motion blur, and take advantage of any light you can find – perhaps stand near a window so the light from outside illuminates you. Otherwise, just try to use the brightest light source you can!

4. Think about the composition
Whatever you’re taking a photo of, be it a selfie or a landscape shot, you need to think about the composition. What do I mean by that? Well, a number of things. You need to think about the whole image, and what you want in it.

Take better photos of yourself

You need to think about placement of the main subject (that’s likely you!), as well as the other subjects in the shot – maybe the landscape in the background, the museum exhibit,  the bagel you are holding, or the attraction you are visiting. Make sure everything will be clear to the viewer.

Don’t forget that the image doesn’t even have to include every part of you – you can just include a part of you like your hand or feet. It’s still a picture of you!

You’ll also want to consider various composition techniques like the rule of thirds, framing and color, which can all be used to help you create image that stand out from the crowd. For more on composition tips, check out my guide to composing better photos here.

5. Smile!
So you’ve considered all the above, and the time has finally come to actually take a picture of yourself. It’s time to shine!

The reality is that many of us don’t like having our picture taken, even if we’re the ones taking our picture. So it’s key to try to relax, to enjoy yourself, and to have a bit of fun with it. If you smile, you will definitely find that your pictures will look more pleasing, both to you, and to anyone who looks at them. A happy, smiling photo is always nice, and when you smile you will likely find yourself naturally relaxing too.

Take a few photos, and the more you practice, the more natural and relaxed you will look, and the better the results. Don’t worry if it takes time – learning how to look good in pictures is definitely something that can take time.

6. Use a timer or intervalometer
If you are able to set your camera up on a tripod, or somewhere else where you don’t have to physically hold it, you are going to get better results if the camera is set to take a few photos over a period of time. This will let you experiment with different poses, be sure your eyes are open, and basically get into it a bit more.

If you’re having to run back and forward to your camera between shots, the results definitely won’t be as good. The majority of mirrorless and DSLR camera support either wireless remotes, which let you trigger the camera yourself, or more advanced intervalometers, which you can set up to take a sequence of photos over time.

Some cameras these days even come with WiFi, so you can control them remotely, and thus use your smartphone as the remote. If you do this, we still recommend using the timer function, so you have time between pressing the button and the photo being taken – time in which you can hide your smartphone and pose properly!

7. Use a special shooting mode
One of our cameras, the Panasonic Lumix GX8, has a special shooting mode called 4K Photo mode. This lets you record a video of a scene, and then you can pull high resolution images from the video. This is like a really advanced intervalometer – instead of getting a shot every few seconds, you actually get 30 shots every second.

This means you get a huge amount of choice, and you don’t need any complicated equipment either – you just set the camera up and press the record button. This feature is available in most of Panasonic’s newer Lumix models like this. Other camera brands might have other special shooting modes like this, so do check your own camera to see what you can do!

8. Learn how to edit your photos
Like a few of the tips in this post, this one definitely doesn’t only apply to taking photos of yourself. Learning how to edit your photos is a key photography skill, and will help you get the best out of your photos, whatever they are of.

Even simple tweaks to contrast, brightness and saturation can often improve an image, whilst cropping a shot can help if the composition wasn’t quite right at the moment you pressed the shutter button.

You can also go further of course – removing skin blemishes, whitening teeth and so on. It’s really up to you.

There are a number of options when it comes to photography editing. On mobiles, I love and use Snapseed, which has some nice modes for portraits in particular. On a computer, I use and recommend Adobe Lightroom if you want to get more serious. See my full guide to the best photo editing software for more recommendations, including free and paid products.

9. Learn all the Features on your Camera
Whatever camera you have, be it a smartphone or professional DSLR, it’s likely to have a lot of features and options. It’s important to understand what these features and options are and what they do, so you can always be sure to have the camera correctly set up for whatever shot you want to take.

When taking pictures of yourself, some cameras for example may have a selfie or portrait mode, which will help ensure the camera knows it’s supposed to look for a person to focus on.

For more information, I have written guides to a number of common camera types. You can read my guide to using a compact camera, guide to using a mirrorless camera and guide to using a DSLR camera for more hints and tips on getting the most out of your camera.

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