Photographing Your Selfie, aka How To Take the Best Selfie

First a disclaimer: my proclamation of selfies for everyone is not meant to be a substitution for beautiful quality professional photographs of  YOU with your family, on display in your home.  I promote the display of photographs of family as art but it is also know that displaying photos of family at home is known to raise children’s self esteem and increase their feelings of belonging (based on a research poll I read a few years back).  The taking of family photos and individual photos WITH your kids by a professional is not only a memory making experience it is also a bonding experience.  The quality of the phone cameras is NOWHERE near the quality of a professional even in the hands of a skilled pro.  Having said that selfies are a fun tool for self expression and daily documentation of life.

Ok enough pontificating…on to getting your best selfie tips…

Generation Selfie

The word brings out the tween in all of us!  Generation selfie is the time we live in.  Teen and tween girls (and boys) use selfies on the daily.  And sure maybe my Instagram feed is laden with selfie, selfie, selfie, pretty sunset, Starbucks, selfie, selfie with the bestie, selfie, cute boy, selfie I do find it endearing and yes empowering.  Rather than believe that selfies are self serving and narcissistic (which they sort of are) I embrace them from a more artistic point of view.  I feel like the selfie CAN be a tool for self expression and a type of one’s exploration of self: “Who am I?”  “Who do I want to be today?”

So while tweens and teens have adapted technology and incorporated it into their persona, adults seem to be taking the lead albeit a few years behind.  You too can take the best selfie of yourself with just a few simple rules to follow.  I pinky swear!!

Know how to use your smart phone camera

First of all you should know how to properly take a good photo in general.  If you feel you have a good handle on taking decent camera phone images then follow down for a few tips that can help up your selfie game.

If you don’t I suggest looking over this article I wrote a few years ago about taking advantage of your phone’s camera to the best of its’ ability:

How to Take Better Camera Phone Photos


Upping your selfie game

What’s the secret to any great photo?  LIGHT.

Not too bright…

An animated GIF about lighting

Be careful not to over do the light – while bright light washes away skin imperfections it’s possible to blind your audience. Thanks to my fave, Marina (of Marina and the Diamonds) for this amusing moment.


Not too dark…

An animated GIF of too little light

Not too dark (you want to see more than just glowing eyes!)

You literally need to be in the Goldilocks of light…that’s right – you need “just right light”.

Just right light

Just right light is the avoidance of harsh shadows, squinting eyes and accentuation of skin imperfections.  The Goldilocks of light comes when the light is softly diffused.  No glaring, squint worthy light that casts harsh shadows or low lighting from above that highlights skin imperfections, shadows and undereye circles.  During just right light your face illuminates, your eyes light up and your imperfections are minimized.

Just right light can be found easily right inside a north facing window at almost any time of day, ESPECIALLY if it is diffuse light (like through a sheer window covering).  Ideally to stand at just inside the beginning of the shadow inside a south facing window works for south light.  Anytime outside (and even inside by any window) on a cloudy day. Just right light can be found outside right before dusk or in the early morning light.  If you have a skylight you can use that as well if there’s a neutral gray or white reflecting the light back onto you (examples below):

Perfect selfie light is a three part affair: north light, large window, diffusion panels (ie sheer window covering)

What I like to call “ideal” natural light selfie light is this: you have a large light source (window) with sheer curtains to diffuse the light (in a neutral color tone), the light is north light which tends to be softer than any other directional lighting, voila: nice light in the eyes, good skin tones, flattering light IS good light.  The angle of the shot is flattering: extended out by my husband at about a 25º angled down.

Photographers call this “flat light” and it’s not always ideal.  But for selfie purposes and for simple lighting flat light is flattering (see the “flat” in “flattering”?).  It tends to smooth out the skin, fill in undereye circles and wrinkles (which we have plenty of) and is easy to find and work with.


An example of a selfie on an overcast day.

This is a selfie taken on an overcast day facing south. You can see the Chicago skyline behind us. We angled the camera down to us at an about 20-25º angle to create a flattering angle. No touch up or filter present on this out of phone image.

The overcast day allowed us to photograph this without worry midday in the city so we could capture that amazing skyline without worry of harsh skin light & shadows.  I also like the way the light sort of kisses our hair and skin.


Example of a selfie by north facing door.

This selfie was captured outside of our front door (north facing). This teen had the phone at a slightly lower but still flattering angle to create a more whimsical selfie highlighting the partying holiday spirit. Filter by Snapchat.

In the above example she captured this fun photo at a playful angle (ever so slightly below directly extended arms) using beautiful north light provided by our front door. Best selfie candidate!


An example of how to take selfies with sky light light

This image was taken with this particular teen in the morning, no makeup. The power of good light (and fun filter) can be seen in the skin tones. We utilized a sky light – which CAN be tricky light if taken at the wrong angle (immediately UNDER the skylight is usually bad news for shadows and undereye circles).

In the above example the teen snapped the photo using the reflected light from the skylight using the light colored walls and large mirror.  The quality of light is great for improving skin imperfections, illuminating undereye issues, etc.


Angles *are* important.  I made mention on the above photos how the angles affect the mood and tone of the image taken.  A quick overview of rules on angles:

    • take the photo from above with the camera facing ever so slightly downward at about 15-25º downward
    • flattering playful angles include photographing from slightly below (see 3rd image)
    • lying down selfies draw the skin back and when the camera is facing downward works well if you have great light (see below)
South facing selfie light combined with a flattering angle makes for best selfie taking opportunities.

Filling the eyes with light, diffusing the skin naturally and smart use of posing and angles makes for a successful selfie every time. Filter by Snap Chat.


The basics of selfies are THAT SIMPLE!  Yes!  JUST RIGHT LIGHT and ANGLES.  In my opinion everything else is is icing on the cake.

If you master these two concepts posing becomes second nature the fourth part of the equation are post processing filters.  Filters are important tools for editing and as you already know there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of options out there.  My personal favorites are PicTapGo, VSCO and Snap Chat.  I use all three of these at least several times a week.  There are more in the blog post I mentioned at the beginning of this article if you like choices.


If you play with these tips I’d love to see your results.  Post your best selfie on my Facebook page under the link to this post (you may have to scroll down).  If you post your selfie by 7/30/16 I’ll add you to a drawing for an August 2016 free Simply Marmalade session, drawing for July 31, 2016.  It’s the 6th (secret) way to enter the contest. Facebook link to the Marmalade Photography page here:






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