Go to your camera roll right now. Scroll the short distance to the last time you were taking selfies. Now pause to observe. Chances are, you banked somewhere between five and 450,000 shots until you got the right one. We all do it. That’s because nailing the perfect selfie isn’t easy—it’s about the right combination of light, angle, setting, and photo filters.
We consulted with selfie experts (celebrity vloggers, bloggers and makeup artists) to find out how to take a good selfie. Read on for twelve tips that will help you take your selfie game to the next level.
1. Lighting is Everything
It sounds obvious, but the first rule of selfie-ing is to pay attention to your lighting. You need good lighting. Natural lighting. As vlogger Jordan Liberty puts it, “Light is undoubtedly the best beauty product you don’t have to pay for.” Instead of facing your computer screen or television, turn toward a window with natural light. Or better yet, go outside and bask in the sun’s glow (with sunscreen on). Good lighting can actually make under eye circles and shadows totally disappear.
If you’re shooting your selfie inside, beauty blogger (and frequent selfie-taker) Michelle Phan advises that you find a window. “Having nice, natural sunlight streaming in will make for a good selfie. Another thing I do is take a piece of white paper and hold it underneath my chin, which creates a natural bounce of light, illuminates the face, and also reduces the double-chin effect.”
2. Avoid Shadows
“There is nothing worse than having a huge shadow cast over your face,” says photographer and style blogger Candice Lake “When in doubt, face directly into or away from the sun. If it’s the middle of the day and the sun is high, the shadows can look like bags under your eyes. The golden hour to shoot a photo is during sunrise or sunset, when the light is low and the most beautiful.”
3. Know When to Use Flash
While finding natural light and avoiding shadows are key tips to how to take a good selfie, there are times when you want to take a selfie and it’s dark. Whether you’re in the club or just on your couch watching Netflix, how do you get a great selfie in little to no light? Turn to Snapchat. The app has a flash feature for the front-facing camera, while the regular photo app on iPhone does not. In Snapchat, hit the little lightning bolt on the top left corner and then take your selfie. The screen will burst bright white light on your face. It won’t look perfect by any means (it gives the photo a subtle blue cast), but at least you’ll be able to see your face. Once you save it to your camera roll, you can play with the tone to make it a little less blue.
4. Smile Like You Mean It
“Flash a real smile and no image will look bad,” says Lake. Don’t contort your face into a grin that’s too big or forced. Natural smiles are always better. On the other hand, if you’re going for slightly more serious selfie, pull a Tyra and “try smiling with your eyes.” Lake’s advice for perfecting the smize? Practice in front of the mirror until you get it right. You’ll get the hang of it!
5. Take a Lot of Selfies…and We Mean A LOT
Kylie Jenner’s best selfie tip is just to take selfies. A lot of selfies. She’s said that she takes “like, 500 selfies” before she finds one she likes enough to post. “Sometimes I regret putting one up if I find a better one later. I’m like damn, that’s a better photo, but that’s the only thing I regret,” she has said. Try tilting your head in different directions and changing the angles up slightly between each shot so there’s a wide variety to choose from. And don’t forget to make sure the camera’s focused before snapping away.
You can film your selfie session instead of taking standard pictures. Press record on the video option instead and pose away. After a minute or two of this, you can scroll through the video and freeze a frame with the best selfie. It sounds silly, but you can actually pull out the best selfie poses this way (and no one will ever know the difference!).
6. Play to Your Angles
If there’s one piece of advice you should take from Kim Kardashian, it’s this: When it comes to selfies, keep your chin down and the camera up. There are about five people in the world who look good when shot from under their chin, and we haven’t met any of them. When taking a selfie, hold the phone so that the bottom of it is level with your eyes. Or better yet, use a selfie stick. They’re ridiculous in every way except one: Because you hold them up high, they make everyone look svelte and supermodel-y in photos.
Furthermore, you probably shouldn’t stare directly into the camera. “Most people don’t look their best straight-on. Turn to the side a little bit — not to the point where it’s a full-on profile, but just slightly,” says makeup artist Nick Barose.
7. Use the Right Apps and Filters
“I have a soft spot for the Valencia [Instagram] filter. It’s the dreamiest of all filters and it makes everyone look gorgeous,” says Lake, who also recommends the Afterlight app for editing camera-phone photos. If you’re really serious about selfies, Phan recommends the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone, which has a selfie mode. “It makes everything easy. I take a picture and it automatically airbrushes my face and it brightens it,” she says. There’s no shame in editing a photo of yourself before posting it to the ‘Gram. We also love Facetune, which lets you subtly blur, shape, morph, and define certain areas of your face. Blogger Amanda Steele likes the filters on VSCO, but other great apps are Perfect365 and Adobe Photoshop Fix. Don’t like your under-eye bags? Blur them away! Want to whiten your teeth? Go for it. A subtle trick on Facetune is to “detail” your eyes, which makes them look bright and sparkly. What’s on the Internet lives forever, after all.
8. Don’t Over-Edit
While we’re all for editing and filtering, don’t adjust your selfie to the point that it looks unnatural. When editing, use a really light touch. It’s easy to get carried away. Only touch up the areas that are glaringly obvious to you — those little lines around your eyes make you look human. If you’re using a filter, you also have the option to not use it at max capacity. Instead of just selecting a photo filter on Instagram, click on the filter itself (Amaro, Valencia, etc.) until a sliding bar comes up. Then you can reduce the severity of the filter, making the photo appear a little less edited.
9. Be Mindful of Your Background
The best selfies have either interesting backgrounds (Oh, you’re just casually selfie-ing while skydiving? Great.) or really, really simple ones. The middle ground is what’s deadly. And beware of photo-bombers.
10. Don’t Overthink It
Just relax. A trying-too-hard selfie is never going to be a good one. “The thing about selfies is that you don’t want them to be too serious. If your makeup looks like it took you an hour to do and you look too posed, you’re not doing it right,” says Barose. The best selfie poses are the ones that come naturally to you.
11. Avoid Cliché Selfies
Rule of thumb: If it looks like something a teenager on MySpace circa 2004 would have done, you shouldn’t be doing it. “No one needs to do that Kim Kardashian duck-lips face,” says Barose. It might give you killer cheekbones — but it’s time to retire it.
Should you find yourself overwhelmed by the urge to throw up some sort of faux gang sign…put down your iPhone and do not let yourself near any other camera until the urge subsides. Most of the time, people rely on those poses because they feel uncomfortable. But Lake has a trick for loosening up: “If you feel a little stiff, walk away and then step into the frame again and snap quickly. You’ll have less time to be self-conscious.”
12. Embrace Natural Expressions
“Right before you snap a selfie, say ‘yes’ in your head, or ‘yasss’ if you’re feeling extra sassy. You can also inhale just as you hit the shutter for lightly parted lips and a relaxed expression,” Liberty says. He also recommends keeping your eyes shut until the moment before you take the shot. “Expressions look best when they’re fresh.”