Our Guide to Taking the Perfect Selfie

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on November 13, 2016, How To Guides

Selfies are ubiquitous these days, and with all the social media that we use, everybody has at least one self portrait posted on the web. But whilst you might think of selfies as a teen thing, the truth is there might be times when you need a decent self shot. Maybe you need a pic for your CV, maybe your Facebook page, maybe you just want a nice picture of yourself and there’s no one else around to take it. So we’re here to tell you how to take the perfect selfie, whatever the reason you need one…

The Big Decision

Before we get into any kind of detail here, you’ve got a big decision to make, and that’s front or back. Nearly every smart phone has both a rear and a front facing camera, so which are you going to use to take your shot? Both have their good and bad points.

A front facing camera shot is great because you get a good pic of yourself, you can see exactly what you’re taking a picture of even as you’re taking it, and you don’t need to include the phone itself in the shot. However, most front facing mobile cameras are fairly low resolution, so chances are that your rear cam will take a better picture overall.

The rear camera might be higher res and capable of getting a better shot, but the down side is that you can’t see what you’re taking a picture of (since you’ll be “behind” the phone as it shoots). The way that most people deal with this is by taking a picture in a mirror, that way you can see the phone screen and the resulting shot whilst still being able to use that better rear cam. The downside? The phone itself will almost certainly be in the picture too, and you’ll need a good mirror as well. If you’re opting for this choice (and most people do) then make sure you clean your mirror first! Seriously, every streak, spot and speck of dirt on the mirror will show up on your pic, so take a minute to scrub it…

The Tech Stuff

We’re going to assume that you’re not a pro photographer (if you are, you probably don’t need to be reading this), and the good news here is that mobile cameras are smart enough that you shouldn’t need to mess with any settings. Simply let the phone cam take the picture, you don’t need to play with frame rates, flash or anything else.

That being said, you do need good lighting. Outdoor pictures will nearly always come out better because of natural light, though standing by a window will do more or less the same. If this isn’t an option then grab a few lamps from around the house and experiment with them until you get the lighting that you’re looking for.

Pro Tip:

Whilst we’ve told you not to mess with the camera settings, there is one useful exception to this. If your phone cam has a “burst mode” you might want to switch it on. This mode takes 10, 20 or more shots in quick succession, increasing your chances of getting a great pic that’s exactly what you need (you can always delete the others).

Pose and Position

You’re probably going for a head shot, so let’s focus on that. Don’t look directly at the camera, you want to angle your face slightly away. Most of us have a good side (a side of your face that’s more symmetrical or has less scars, or where your great tattoo is, or whatever), so angle that side towards the camera. Lift your chin slightly as well (which stops shadows that give the illusion of a double chin). If you’re going for a neutral shot (for a CV maybe) then relax your face, don’t press your lips together, just relax. If you’re going for a smile then make it a real one, try and think of something that makes you happy or makes you laugh and you’ll get a more natural looking smile.

Should you want a full body shot, the same rules more or less apply. Stand with your body angled towards the camera, rather than straight on, stand up straight, lift your chin a little and then smile!

If you want a more artistic looking shot, or something that’s more aesthetically pleasing (as opposed to a professional looking head shot, for example), then try moving the camera! No, really, rather than having your head be the centre of the pic, having your mug in one of the corners will make a more interesting composition.

Pro Tip:

We have to mention the selfie stick, sorry, but it needs to be done. Yes, they look ridiculous, but there’s a reason that they’re everywhere, and that because they make pictures look better. You won’t need your outstretched arms in the pic, and you can take a shot from further away, resulting in a better overall picture. Don’t worry, you can always just take your pics in the privacy of your own home, no one has to see the stick…

The Big Question

Of course, none of the above really matters if you don’t have a decent camera phone with which to take your picture. So what should you be looking for? If you want a pic that’s not going to be grainy or pixellated, then you need a camera with at least 8 MP. Fortunately, that’s fairly standard these days, though you’ll find front facing cams that are lower resolution than that.

Most top end phones take great pics, so if you’ve got a new iPhone, or the Samsung Galaxy S7, the Xperia Z5 or new HTC model then you’ve got no worries. However, you’ll find that picture quality can vary a lot, since not everything is about MP. If you’re more into mid range phones, then the Nexus 5X has a great rear camera, as does the Motorola Moto X Pure. For super shots then the best camera optics around will be found on Lumia models, with their Carl Zeiss optics, though these are Windows phones, which most people prefer to avoid…

And there you go, you should have the perfect selfie already. Don’t be afraid to experiment either, the bonus of mobile photography is that you can take as many pics as you like!