How to take a selfie (without being a jerk)

The difference between a good and bad selfie is knowing the right time to take them. #authorselfie

The difference between a good and bad selfie is knowing the right time to take them. #authorselfie

Your profile picture is woefully out of date. Your roommate is asleep. It’s just you and your smart phone and it’s 2 a.m., and this has to be done right now (because some things become ridiculously important at two in the morning). You need a selfie. But there’s a fine art of taking a selfie – and there are some tips and tricks that can keep you from looking like a jerk. Given the rise of Instagram selfies taken while driving (distracted driving much?) – or the Tumblr that collects selfies taken at funerals – it’s easy to get so caught up in that photo op that, rather than looking good online, you give yourself a bad reputation. Here are some tips on how to – and how not to – take a good selfie.

Pro-tip: Get the technology

Some phones are smarter than others, so if you’re still working with a low-end device, you may need to upgrade for a truly quality selfie. Sarah Tuttle-Singer, writing in her August 14, 2013, post “6 tips on how to rock a selfie” for Huffington Post, says a phone with a front and back camera is a must. As she wrote:  “This is crucial, people not just for taking pictures, but for discrete glances at your teeth after eating something with spinach, cilantro or parsley.”

Other tech advice? Get a good app to edit your photo before you post it. Instagram is great, but the editing is limited. Consider Camera+, which runs 99 cents and has editing features that allow you to touch up your skin.

For some low tech but important atmosphere details, make sure you have good lighting. Try for natural lighting (flash can wash you out and give you nasty red-eye), and if you can, snag some “catch lights” – or light that shines off the white space in your eyes – to give you that twinkle-eyed look. Avoid backlighting, as it doesn’t look good on anyone.

Other tips?

  • Keep your background simple. The focus is you, right? Don’t clutter it up with dirty laundry or yesterday’s Chinese take-out.
  • Find your best angle. Try holding the camera above you and looking up – a flattering angle for most people. If you have a timer feature on your phone, set it up so you can be at a 3/4 angle and highlight your best features.
  • Look like you’re having a good time, and smile! (Unless you’re going for the emo look, but really, that selfie style went out with Myspace.)
  • Go slow. Constant hits of the capture button will result in blurry photos. Take your time.

Oh, and remember to take off your cell phone cover. Elizabeth Mitchell of Fashion Spot got some advice on “10 tips for taking a perfect selfie” from Julia Jacobson of NMRKT fashion market place. “You’d be surprised at the difference in clarity with and without a cover,” Jacobson advised.

Avoid looking bad (even when you look good)

So what should you not do? Duckface photos are apparently over – and really, who looks attractive with a face like an aquatic bird?

  • Don’t undercut yourself. If you’re posting a photo without wearing makeup, don’t go with a pity hashtag like #betterwithmakeup.
  • Don’t pretend it’s not a selfie – as in, don’t take a photo of yourself “sleeping.”
  • Don’t take your selfie in places where people don’t want to see you – like your bathroom (even the bathroom mirror), a funeral, or the nail parlor, particularly if your toenails are grungy in that “before” photo. Really. No one wants to see it.
  • Don’t take a selfie at work or in class. Nothing screams “I need more to do” to your boss or prof like evidence of slacking via the Internet.
  • Don’t take a selfie at the movies either. This shows you don’t care about other audience members even more than texting during a film.

While the car may be a good atmosphere for a selfie, do not take a selfie while driving. The trend of the driving selfie is frightening: according to Huffington Post contributor Alexis Kleinman in “People who take selfies on Instagram while driving are the worst people,” posted on October 31, 2013, “There are over 3 million posts on Instagram tagged with ‘#driving.’” Distracted driving due to cell phone use is high already in the U.S. Driving selfies don’t show you looking good, they show you looking like you don’t care if you cause an accident.

Where have you taken the best selfie? Share your tips in the comments!

1 reply
  1. Jc says:

    Don’t pretend it’s not a selfie – as in, don’t take a photo of yourself “sleeping.” THAT’S IT! Totally right! Lol. I just hate how others do that and their captions are like “#stolen”. Seriously. :p


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *