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A Photographer Shares: How to Take the Perfect Selfie

As a photographer, I am much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. I had to push myself out of my comfort area by taking more pictures of myself. It took time but now I can look at picture of myself and smile because I like who I see looking back at me.

To make it a little less painful here are my go-to tips for upping your selfie game. All the images here were taken with my phone camera to show you what you can do with yours.

I’m all about that light

Because you know I’m all about that bass light 
‘bout that light, no treble. I’m all ‘bout that light, ‘bout that light.

Light and shadows are the most important thing about an image. Not the background or what you’re wearing, but that light. Why? Because you could have the most amazing outfit with the most beautiful backdrop but if the light is bad…kiss that beautiful photo goodbye. So, when you are trying to take a selfie or picture in general, it’s important to look for the right light. So how can you master this sometimes-tricky skill?

First, some don’ts

Don’t shoot in a dark room with the light above. It leaves your eyes dark and your forehead and nose bright. The raccoon look is not a good one.

Don’t shoot during the middle of the day in full sun with no shade. It creates dark shadows and most likely you will be squinting.

Don’t shoot with the light to your back. I love a backlit image, but camera phones can’t handle them, and you just look like a dark shadow with a bright background. Keep the light in front of you.

Finding the light

Open your curtains and blinds to let light flood into your room. My favorite place to take an image is my sun room. I use the term loosely–it is really just a wide hall with three big windows. Late in the afternoon, the sun floods in and it is amazing for taking pictures. This picture was taken on an overcast day, but still looks better than the picture above with just the house lights.

If opening the blinds and curtains is not enough, try going to your front door. Open it and stand just inside. This will let in a lot of light. Don’t block the light by putting the phone in front of you. Angle yourself a little so the light is hitting your face and not blocked by your phone. Another great option is your front porch. 

My favorite time to go out for pictures is right before sunset. You can shoot in open areas since the sun is low and not as strong. If you have to take a picture when the sun is still bright, look for a shaded area that will provide cover from the bright sun. 

Remember that way-too-sunny picture in the don’t section? Well, after that photo we moved to the side of the house and found open shade. The house was blocking the sun and it made for a beautiful picture. 

The right light is always around, you just have to look for it.

Artificial Light

If just don’t get enough light in your house, you could add some extra light. A light ring is the perfect accessory to have on hand. It is an investment but depending on how much you will use it, it might be worth it. My ring light has a camera holder in the middle of the light. This allows me to step back and get more of myself in the frame, including full body shots. I use a shutter remote control to snap the photo.

A shutter remote control links up to your phone through Bluetooth, then you can hold it in your hand and take a picture. Even if you don’t have a stand, you can prop your phone up on a window ledge and stand back to take your shot. Seriously, it was the best $9 this short arm girl has ever spent. 

Before you start taking pictures…

Pick the right camera app.

Did you know there are camera apps you can download that give you more control of your camera than the one that comes with the phone? There are so many options now. I currently have ProCamera on my phone. If you know your way around camera settings, this is a great option.

If you want something a little more basic, Camera +2 is a great in-between app. It has more control than the camera app but is not as advanced as some others. 

Check out your app store and play around with different camera apps. The more you know about the camera, the better your results. 

**Bonus Tip** On an iPhone, you can take a picture by pushing the volume button on the side of the phone. So much easier than trying to hit the bullseye on the phone app with your thumb.

Get camera ready. 

The first part of liking yourself in a picture is to feel and look good about yourself. If I am going to take pictures, I put on make-up and some lip gloss. Is it necessary? Of course not–but I feel more confident when I am wearing it, which in turns makes me like how I look in pictures. So, taking a minute to put on my lipstick is totally worth it.

Along with that, wear something that you feel good in. When I take pictures in my frumpy clothes, I never like my pictures. My favorites are snug jeans and a slightly loose shirt with longer sleeves. Super baggie clothes can be unflattering in images. So, go form fitting but not too tight. You don’t want any rolls coming out either. Find outfits that make you feel your best. 

My favorite day to take pictures is when I have gotten my hair blown out. You know that “I just got a fresh cut and look amazing” feeling? Well, why not use that time to capture some images for your social media page. I will even change my shirt and get a few different looks. 

Strike a pose 

The pictures that people connect with feel authentic and natural. I always want my viewer to feel invited into the picture I am posting. 

Posing is one of the hardest parts. You feel awkward and don’t know what to do with your hands, and have no idea how to put all these tips together to look amazing and casual all at the same time. Well, you won’t feel natural or casual–in fact, you will feel awkward and self-conscious. But, if you know this coming in, it makes it a little easier. Practice in the mirror and gain confidence. Try taking pictures when you are alone and don’t have people commenting and making it harder.

Here are some tips that I like to incorporate during my photo sessions. These tips work whether someone is taking the picture for you or it is a selfie.

Lean on something 

It gives a relaxed feel and gives you something to do. Whether it is a wall, table or back of a chair, something about leaning just makes you feel more comfortable in a picture. 

Try different angles. Both for you and your phone. 

I prefer to shoot from above, but that doesn’t work for everyone. Find the angle that is flattering to you. Whether from above, eye level, or slightly below. My favorite thing to do is just move the camera around until I find the angle that works.

Find your best side. I like my pictures taken with my left side or straight on. I don’t know why. There is no rhyme or reason, but I do. So, I try to make sure that is what I use and avoid my dreaded right side. 

Take action

I like to give myself something to do in my images. Some favorites are letting out a fake laugh, sweeping your hair back, and taking a step forward. When you are doing something, it helps in two ways. It makes sure your body look less uncomfortable and it relaxes you at the same time. Try incorporating props to make the image more fun. 

Facial expressions

Try different facial expressions. This will give smiles a more natural look since you won’t be holding a smile for 5 minutes straight. And don’t always feel like you have to look at the camera. Experiment. It will give you a variety of looks and breaks up your Instagram feed. Have fun with it. 

**Bonus Tip** If you are looking at the camera, look at the camera…not the screen! This tip works in your videos too. It is hard because you want to see what you look like, but when you look at the screen you aren’t making eye contact with the viewer.

Feeling comfortable in front of the camera takes time. But most importantly, learn to love who you see in a photo. If you take a bad photo, look to see how you can make the next one better, delete, and move on. 

The best part about taking photos on your phone is that you can take an unlimited number of pictures! Pick your favorites and trash the rest.

Post Processing

Editing your images is a must. Again, there are so many applications out there to help you with this. Don’t just use the edit option in the camera app. 

My favorite editing application is Lightroom CC. You can save presets so that all your images have the same look. You can even find presets that photographers give out for free or sell, if you want something easy. 

Want something easier? Try PicTapGo. It is a user-friendly app that will make your images pop. 

Happy snapping!

Meet Sara Lopez

Sara lives in the suburbs of Austin with her high school sweetheart husband, three active boys, and her Goldendoodle, Penny Princessa. On a normal day, you will find Sara driving all around town chauffeuring her homeschooled boys from one activity to another. As a professional photographer, Sara loves to get to know people and capture them loving life.