Strike a pose.

I have a certain fondness for selfies — I find they’re a great way to snap quick facial expressions you don’t have an emoji for, or show off something awesome you found. (Or a haircut, I guess.) And because we’re on a selfie kick this week, I decided to write down some of my top tricks for getting photos of yourself that don’t stink up your camera roll.

Avoid the “in” face

Duck, pout, kissy, emo — whatever the trending “face” of the week is, it’s already stale. If you’re sending someone a photo of yourself, or putting it online, give it some personality. Like I mentioned above, generally I send selfies as reaction shots — silly expressions or faces that I can’t adequately use emojis or gifs to express. Even when I’m just sending a picture to send a picture, I try to make the expression a little more interesting than a straight smile. (And who knows? Your goofy expression might be the next “big” face, and you can say you’re ahead of the trend. Fancy that.)

There’s also something to be said for genuine emotion over completely posed pictures. I used to hate, hate, HATE photos of myself where I wasn’t blandly smiling, because I worried about looking too silly, or too unkempt, or about fitting in. Somewhere through the years of self-portrait taking and sharing photos with friends, I got over that fear, and started just taking weird pictures for the sake of it. It made me feel a lot better about myself as a whole, human person, not just a cardboard snapshot, and I suspect that might be true for others, too.

Shoot in square

Chances are quite good that your selfie is going to make it to Instagram, so why not have an appropriately-sized shot that you don’t have to crop?

Snap with the volume button (or a remote shutter)

The iPhone 6 is big enough that if you hold it properly, your thumb (left hand) or index finger (right hand) should be perfectly positioned against the up volume button when your arm is extended. Click the top volume button to shoot the photo instead of trying to gingerly grasp the bottom of the phone, hit the virtual button, and worrying about dropping the darn thing.

(Or even better: Use a Bluetooth remote shutter.)

Shoot at an angle — a minor one

Ah, the old Myspace trick. Here’s the thing: If you shoot a picture of yourself from below, all you’re going to get is a very up close and personal view of your nostrils, double-chin-that-doesn’t-exist-anywhere-but-this-angle, and droopy eyelids. Just don’t do it.

Likewise, if you aim too high, you end up looking like an early-2000s MySpace hipster — not only is the style out of date, but folks. Trust me. No one can do this pose without either looking like a murderer (eyebrows in normal position) or eternally surprised (eyebrows way up above normal) with their forehead full of wrinkles. It’s not a good look.

So here’s the trick for getting the magic selfie angle: Hold your arm with phone in it straight out in front of your chest, so that you’re making a 90 degree angle between your torso and arm. Move it about fifteen degrees to the side (so your arm lines up with your shoulder), and up about 5-10 degrees (so that the background shifts a little and you get an ever-so-slight glimpse of the top of your head). There you go. Hand choice is largely preference — I like using my left, others prefer shooting their right side. Whatever floats your boat.

Of course, this all goes out the window when there are multiple people involved, at which point a selfie stick might actually be warranted or useful. (Dammit, Ally.)

If you’re trying to include moving things in the photo, use Burst mode

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus offer Burst mode for your front-facing camera, which is eternally useful if you’re trying to snap a picture with a moving object in the background. Whether it’s a band, celebrity, small animal or child, or even an R2 unit, Burst mode can help you get a fun shot AND make sure that special something is clear in the background.


A photo posted by Ren (@settern) on Jan 8, 2015 at 10:24am PST

(After all, you can’t just run after an R2-D2 unit and not bring back evidence that you’ve chased it down.)

Filters are your friend

Front-facing cameras are still pathetically low-resolution — 1.2MP on the iPhone — and as a result, you’re going to see some grain in low light situations. Filters and iOS 8’s photo extensions can dramatically improve such a photograph, or at least make it more interesting. It’s doubtful many (if any) of your selfies are going to be printed, so there’s no real worry of damaging the photo’s integrity — and besides, non-destructive edits!

I particularly like using Afterlight’s excellent photo extension for pulling out highlights, and I’ll often finish it off with a few touches from Instagram.

A photo posted by Ren (@settern) on Nov 25, 2014 at 5:25pm PST

(Bonus hint: using Instagram’s Tilt Shift feature under the Settings icon is a great way to crisp up an otherwise blurry selfie — by further blurring the background around your face.)

Need a better-looking photo? Use a mirror

I often use this trick when I’m experimenting with braided hairstyles and want opinions, so I can have more control over what the camera’s seeing. By shooting the mirror, you can use the back camera, and thus can look at the screen to see how your photo’s framed. You also get the benefit of having a much higher-resolution shot than your front-facing camera could concoct.

Of course, I cheated here and used Diptic to combine a mirror shot with a front-facing selfie of Leia’s Bespin updo from Empire.

A photo posted by Ren Caldwell (@settern) on Nov 7, 2014 at 7:57pm PST

On an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus? Take a Live Flash selfie

Want to brighten up your front-facing camera game and have the latest iPhone? You can use your screen’s Retina flash to take an expert shot. Rene Ritchie goes into more detail in this how-to article.

Your favorite tips and tricks?

Those were mine; anyone out there in Internet-land have their own favorite tips on getting good self-portraits? Jot ’em down below. And if you want more information on selfies, there’s always our best selfie stick roundup.

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