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8 Tips to Help You Take Your Best Selfies

Be photographer and subject of your own great shots


spinner image a woman hiking in mount zion national park in utah taking a selfie
A winter hike in Zion National Park in Utah provides a dramatic backdrop for a selfie, but be careful where you step.
Tetra Images / Getty Images

If you haven’t taken a selfie photo with your smartphone yet, maybe you should.

Initially a means of self-expression among teens, selfies exploded to capture every moment and reaction in real time. Today, selfies appeal to all ages.

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Not only are selfies a great way to show off noteworthy settings or commemorate milestone events, they can also be used to provide a visual check-in or health update, show family that you’ve arrived at your destination and even solicit opinions on your fashion choices.

It’s fun and sort of addictive — you can always take more selfies to find the perfect shot to share. And imagine your grandkids’ surprise when you start blowing up their phones with your face.

Anyone can take a selfie by opening a smartphone’s camera app and clicking the little circle with arrows or what looks like a wheel at the bottom of the screen. This flips the image you see on your phone screen from the back camera to the front camera. But getting a good selfie takes practice.

Video: 4 Ways to Take Your Best Selfie

1. Face the camera

This should be obvious. But if you don’t know where the lens of the front camera is located, your eyes might gravitate toward the shutter button or your face on the screen.

The lens on most iPhone and Android smartphones is at the top center when you hold the phone vertically. Run your finger along the edges of your phone to discover its exact location. When your fingertip obscures your face, you’ll know you’ve found it.

Focus your eyes on that front camera, like you do in a video conference. This is easiest when taking a vertical selfie but needs some practice for a horizontal selfie because you’ll need to look left instead of up.

2. Stretch out your arm

If you’re taking a selfie with someone whose arms are longer than yours, don’t be shy about passing the phone along to them.

The closer the phone is to your face, the more likely the camera will distort the image. The farther away you are, the better you’ll look. To hide an extended arm, shoot vertically instead of horizontally.

3. Use a timer

When set, most camera timers will count down as much as 10 seconds. That gives you time to compose your shot and frees you from having to reach awkwardly for the shutter button.

On an iPhone

1. Open the camera and tap the down arrow ᐯ at the top of the screen. If you see an arrow facing the opposite direction, tap it once to change its direction.

2. Tap the clock icon 🕙. If you don’t see the symbol, drag the slider at the bottom to the left until you find a similar icon.

3. Select a countdown time, from 3 to 10 seconds.

4. Tap the big white shutter button to start the timer.

On an Android

1. Open the camera and tap the gear icon ⚙️or menu button to open Settings.

2. Tap the timer option, then tap it again to select how long to delay the shot, 2, 5 or 10 seconds.

3. Tap the shutter or volume button, or, if you have a newer Android, the screen, to start the timer.

spinner image two women in a field of flowers taking a selfie
A selfie stick gives you extra reach to include your striking surroundings in the photo.
Erdark / Getty Images

4. Get yourself a selfie stick

This device was invented to make it easier and less awkward to take self-portraits. Be sure to buy a stick that connects to Bluetooth — prices range from $20 to $30. Simply connect it to your smartphone by going to Settings ⚙️and pair the stick.

Extend the selfie stick arm as far as it will go. Like your phone, a selfie stick comes with a shutter button, so you won’t have to use a timer unless you get a selfie stick without Bluetooth.

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5. Find good lighting

Soft, overcast light or shade is the best light for people-pleasing selfies. Shooting in bright, harsh sunlight can produce shadows on your face.

6. Bypass busyness

Tourist spots such as the Eiffel Tower, Grand Canyon and the Hollywood sign are among the most popular places to shoot selfies. But in other locations, be careful with your backdrop.

Keep the focus on your face and avoid distractions in the background. The biggest offenders: trees that appear to be growing out of your head. A simple solution is to keep moving until the trees disappear from your shot.

7. Check out portrait modes

Newer model smartphones offer selfie portrait modes that automatically blur backgrounds to put you front and center in your shot. Open your camera and tap Portrait. Tap the little circle with arrows or what looks like a wheel to flip the front camera to Selfie mode. Look at your options and take a few shots to see what you like best.

spinner image a man taking a selfie of himself and his cat
Carrot the cat knows that angling his face toward the camera shows his best side.
Jim Cook / Getty Images

8. Angle your face slightly

For a more flattering look, extend your arm and shoot down while lifting your face at a slight upward angle. It helps elongate your neck and downplays any hint of a double chin. Positioning the phone below your face distorts the view and creates an unflattering image.

Bonus tip: Be careful

Nearly 400 people died from 2008 to 2021 while taking selfies in dangerous places worldwide, according to a study in the Journal of Travel Medicine. The study found that most selfie accidents, whether fatal or not, occur when people take self-portraits near cliffs, waterways or wild animals.

You can get an amazing one-of-a-kind shot with a selfie, but taking a risk to do so isn’t wise. Obey all warning signs and keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. Why imperil your life for a shot if you’re not around to share it?

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