If You Really Must Take a Selfie: 11 Ways to Make It Look Decent

For years, photographers work to perfect their craft. And any photographer who has spent any time shooting human subject understands that it is not easy to get a great shot of a person who is trying to pose for you. Even experienced models can look awkward, uncomfortable, goofy, unhappy and any other characteristic you might imagine. In front of the lens, virtually everyone feels a little weird.

So, it is no wonder that with the proliferation of self portraits or "selfies" (God help us all) thanks to the magic of the cell phone camera, there are so many dud photos on Facebook and Instagram.

In addition to all the typical issues that face a person trying to make themselves look good in a snapshot, there are the technical problems that plague everyone who has ever held a camera. Fortunately, you've got me. I've been shooting pictures since my dad let me hold my first Kodak Instamatic and I've seen all the mistakes you make with your selfies. I'm here to help. Next time you fluff your hair and put on your best pouty face, keep these tips in mind and maybe you'll luck out and not just get a good picture of yourself but take a quality photograph in the process.


11. Try it with a real camera.

This might surprise you, but the better the camera, the more likely the quality of your image will improve. I'm not suggesting you drop a couple grand on a professional camera body and lenses, but if you have access to a decent digital SLR, maybe give that a try the next time.

10. Shadows are rarely your friend.

Beware of shadows. In an episode of Seinfeld they turned Jerry's girlfriend into a two-face. One moment, you're all bright, shining porcelain skin and the next you are an 80-year-old recently turned into a zombie. If you see shadows on your face, move to a place where they are minimized or just change the angle so they are gone completely. The hardest thing to master in photography is the proper use of light. Keep that in mind.

9. Be creative.

You don't have to only take a shot of your face on a perfectly balanced line centered in the frame. Try shooting with the camera turned on its side -- yes, I know all images on Instagram are square, but not on Facebook or, you know, in real life -- or shoot yourself on an angle. Put yourself to one side of the frame or the other, off center for a change. Next to figuring out what to do with light, composition is key to great photos. Anyone can take a headshot suitable for an accountant. You're better than that.

8. Don't go overboard with filters.

So, while you are busy getting creative, consider doing it before and during the shot rather than after. Post processing -- as it is commonly referred -- can be a wonderful additive, but it can go dreadfully wrong. Just because you can make your picture look like it was shot with a Polaroid in the '70s doesn't mean you should.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke