• @davidbaxterphotography

How to take better selfies

Updated: May 24

Almost everyone today has a camera phone and, unless this is my Dad reading this blog, some form of social media account. If that’s true then you have probably taken, or tried to take, a selfie or two or three or possibly hundreds trying to get that perfect shot. I have put together some useful tips below to help you avoid going through your gallery later to delete all those selfies because they make you cringe.

SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Firstly, and most importantly, be comfortable with how you look and don’t beat yourself up because you won’t be appearing in any magazines soon as the next top model. Self-care and self-image is a topic in itself, and one I don’t presume to be any sort of expert on. However, as a photographer, my goal is simply to capture my subject in the best possible way and it should be yours too. I honestly think you’ll get the better results if you’re aiming for a photo that you are comfortable with, nothing more, nothing less. Also, don’t forget that, more often than not, those Instagram models or actors took hours to perfect their make up, their hair and lighting to ensure the best shot. Unless you're going to spend the same amount of time and money doing the same, then there is no point in comparing your casual selfie to an orchestrated one.

STOP BEING A SNOB

In my previous blog, I mentioned how the front camera is never as powerful as the rear one, however taking a selfie without seeing the image on the screen is particularly challenging, however, there is a way round this. It may make you cringe as much as someone who claims to be a “belieber” but it’s cheap, portable and easy to get hold of, the solution: a selfie stick. Selfie sticks have gained a certain stigma because popular tourist landmarks are littered with them and they are seen as tacky, however they solve two main problems. Firstly, they allow you to get all of your friends in the picture without having to stretch your arms so much you start making a weird face that ruins the shot. Secondly, they can (assuming you get the right one) allow you to use the rear camera, which results in a higher quality photograph. Additionally, there is also less chance of cutting your head off because the stick allows you to hold your phone far enough away that the lens captures the whole picture.


My sister in law, like everyone else, never liked the idea of getting a selfie stick but once she did it really made an impact on her photography. So much so that in preparation for this blog she said that it “seriously changed my life”. If you think that seems a bit dramatic, then check out some of the stunning pictures she has captured on her travel Instagram account @adventurewithbaxter many of them using her selfie stick.

USE IT HORIZONTALLY

Another common thing I see people doing, is always holding their camera vertically to take selfies, which, when you’re in a group, results in everyone squeezing up closer together than you may be comfortable with. Whilst this can result in closer personal friendships, it also leads to awkward faces as you struggle to breath in your friends perfume at point blank range. The solution, hold your phone horizontally and you can not only fit people more comfortably into the shot but you can also capture more of that great scenery in the background. Phones and Instagram are more suited to portrait photos but you can capture some great landscape ones too. The picture below is one of myself and my fiancé and it is easily the best selfie of the two of us together we have ever taken. Yes, the fact that we’re both stunningly good looking and modest helps, but the point is that you can hold the phone horizontally and still capture great shots.

LIGHTING

Another point illustrated by the picture above is the lighting. Now, lighting is an extensive photography subject in itself and you will probably have heard of golden hour. During a sunny day you are more likely to feel the urge to capture the moment because of the beautiful weather. However, a good rule of thumb is to stay out of direct sunlight unless it’s golden hour. When you’re in direct sunlight, you scrunch up your eyes and the colour can be faded from your shot, which also highlights every little blemish on your face. Even if the sun is to the side of your face, and not shining right into your eyes, then this can result in a harsh shadow. The best thing to do is to find some shade, under a tree or next to a building for example, which will not only allow you to keep your eyes open naturally but also results in the light being softer across your face. The day we took the picture above was a sunny April day but we were under a tree, which resulted in better light. Cloudy days can also help because the cloud cover has the same effect of making the light softer on your face.


Look at another example below from the same day, which was taken moments before the previous picture. We were in more of an open space and standing right in the direct sunlight, however you can see shadows cast across our faces and the colours in the background are faded because of the harsh light.


Love them or hate them, selfies have become part of modern camera phone life, whether we’re out with friends, celebrating a birthday or on holiday, so it always helps to look back on those images without cringing. I hope you found these useful and don’t forget to let me know how you get on. If there is anything else you struggle to get right, then let me know in the comments below.

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