Shooting yourself: How to improve your selfies – Stockton Record

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Self-portraits have been around since the invention of the camera. Due to the ease of use of cellphone cameras, selfies are now a staple of modern photography. So much so that they, and their takers, are sometimes the subject of ridicule and derision. Some of that comes because many, if not most, of the photos are just plain bad. Here are a few things you can do to improve your selfies.

Background check

The biggest improvement you can make in your selfies is to watch the background. All too often there are random people walking by or the backdrop is cluttered. Wait for the scene to clear or move to a less crowded place. Make sure there isn’t a telephone pole, tree or anything else sticking out of your head or anyone sharing your selfie. There are times where you want to include something, such as a landmark in the background of your shot. But to eliminate any extraneous elements wait for things to clear, move to another location or change the angle you hold your phone.

See the light

Try to avoid direct sunlight, which can be harsh and cause deep shadows. If you are outside, look for some open shade, such as under a tree or on the shadow side of a building or tall wall. Overcast skies can give you a similar kind of light. Diffused window light is the most favorable when you’re indoors.

Portrait or landscape

Cellphones are designed to be held vertically and that’s not how most selfies are taken. And sometimes, like when there’s something tall in the background that you want to include,  that’s appropriate. But by holding it horizontally you can encompass a lot of the surrounding scene that would otherwise be cropped out in a vertical orientation. This is particularly effective when shooting a group selfie. 

Eyes on the camera

In a portrait, selfie or another photo, you connect with the person when they are looking right into the camera. Looking directly at the lens may seem like a simple thing but many people don’t do it. They’re looking at themselves on the screen but the actual lens is a tiny dot usually at the top of the camera (vertically) or side (horizontally). The slight shift of the eyes to the lens when you take the picture can make a significant change for the better in your selfies.

Pretty pose

When models are photographed they don’t just stand there. They perform a variety of poses and expressions. The photographer and editor then pick out the ones that work the best. So don’t just go with one pose. Take several shots each with a different pose. You may think you look good one way but if you try something different you may find that you look better in a different pose. Also look for the most flattering angle for yourself.

If you’re prone to a double chin like me, then you may not want to shoot from a low angle. Try holding your phone higher than your head. Finally, I tend to concentrate a bit too much when I take a selfie and it shows on my face with a concerned look and furrowed brow. Relax and try to have a natural smile and expression on your face.   

Done well and thoughtfully, a selfie can effectively capture fond memories of ourselves in a place and time with our family and friends. But, like with all photography, you need to make sure to think about your technique so that the quality of the image matches the quality of your experience.

Record photographer Clifford Oto has photographed Stockton and San Joaquin County for more than 37 years. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram @Recordnet. Follow his blog at Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at

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