Art of the Smartphone Photo: How to Master the Selfie

Art of the Smartphone Photo: How to Master the Selfie

The smartphone selfie is likely going to be one of the most iconic photographic images of the early 21st century. With the evolution of polaroid cameras to digital formats and now full-screen phones, the selfie is arguably the most well-known photo style – so much so that the word “selfie” was even added to the dictionary in 2013! Whether you’re addicted to shooting selfies or you only occasionally hold your camera at arm’s length to record yourself with people you care about, here are a few things to consider when getting the best possible image. By following these tips, you can take selfies that will become valuable keepsakes where everyone looks their best.

First, just about everyone looks better in photos that are taken from slightly above. In fact, people usually look about five pounds lighter when photographed from a higher angle (which most people prefer). I recommend that when you extend your arm to take the selfie, you hold the camera up higher than your nose. This causes you and everyone in the photo to lift their chins, which helps capture a better profile shot and bring out the photogenic side of everyone. In addition, when shooting from a higher angle, you can eliminate the distracting background elements that may be shown in photos taken from a lower angle.

Take a look at these photos of my neighbors. Here, you can see the benefit of taking photos from a high angle compared to a low angle. The telephone pole and wires in the lower angle version of my neighbors’ photo are highly distracting. The former is also much more flattering for both subjects. Even in selfies you want to look your best!

Selfie High angle.jpg

The second tip I have to offer is one that has come about in the digital age. I find that a problem with selfies is that it’s difficult to get people to look directly into the camera. Oftentimes, they are looking just a little bit off-camera, which can feel disconnected. The problem is that most people don’t realize that the actual lens of the camera is not on the screen where they see themselves; it’s actually just next to the screen. I always point that out to people and tell them to look at the little black dot which is the lens and not at the screen.

Selfie Timer.jpg

Finally, have you ever struggled to prepare for the selfie? Trying to balance the phone, tap the screen or button, and get the perfect shot can be very difficult. Well, iPhones and many other Android phones have a built-in self-timer that most people don’t even know about. The self-timer can solve all the preparation issues listed above. On my iPhone, I can set the timer for three seconds or ten seconds (I always choose ten). When I tap the shutter button, there’s a countdown number that appears on the screen and gives me plenty of time to be sure I'm following the first two tips. So I set the timer then I can position the camera properly at a high angle and point out the lens so that everyone at least knows where to look. (They may not always look there, but such is the struggle of photography). Setting the timer allows you to get ready and prepare for the perfect shot when the shutter finally trips.

Selfies are great way to quickly capture a moment of yourself and others, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be great photographs as well. Just remember: high angle, look at the lens and not the screen, and use the timer to your advantage. Soon enough you’ll be taking selfie works of art!

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