Take a Selfie Like a Bad*ss Broad

Alexandra Kahn | Guest Contributor | @alex_simone88

Let’s face it, selfies are social currency. In a time when a great social media presence and shameless self-promotion might be the only one-up you have on your competition—for a job, a creative gig, a shot at a new relationship—it's more important than ever to have the tools and skills needed for a variety of selfie images. As a long-time career photographer, I am here to help, broads. Peruse the info and tips below to cash in on the new selfie norm.

Some Fancy, Technical Info

There are two types of selfies. The first type of selfie is the mainstream type you see all over Facebook and Instagram, i.e., those photos you used to take of you and your friends in high school at every possible occasion, but minus the friends (check out my two examples below). This first type of selfie often features different angles and often causes the subject to be disproportionate, depending on the lens. They also require the use of a selfie stick, phone, go pro, or lightweight camera. Or that really awkward, arm-fully extended, press the button with your thumb pic posture we see . . .  everywhere. The average DSLR—a digital single-lens reflex camera—is too heavy and typically requires a second hand to hold it steady. Luckily with a phone, we have the option of looking at ourselves while taking a self-portrait image and with digital technology, have the option to redo dozens of times.

 The "second type" of selfie, taken with a DSLR and timer. A rock makes a great tripod! 

The "second type" of selfie, taken with a DSLR and timer. A rock makes a great tripod! 

The other type of selfie is taken with the use of a self-timer or self-timing device. These are great because you don’t have to hold the camera or click the button, so it allows for more interesting “selfies” such as jumping, hand stands, your gorgeous mug nestled into a beautiful background, etc.

For our purposes, I am going to focus on the first type of selfie—the mainstream selfie.

Steps to Selfie-hood

1. Figure out your lighting. You might have the perfect background picked out but if the background is in the sun and you are in the shade, the camera will compensate to expose for your face and the background will be blown out (bright and lacking in color). Natural light is always best and is the most flattering for all complexion types; whatever your light source, face into the light. And for those of you who want to get super serious about your selfie game, check out the little gadget selfie stars swear by: a light-up cell phone case.

2. Figure out your angle. Every face is a different shape and looks good from different angles. Figuring your best angle merely requires moving your head slightly up, down, side to side and at slight tilts. A camera so close to your face also tends to distort the face so take note of the size of your nose and forehead in proportion to the rest of your face while looking for your angle. Experiment a bit and once you’ve found your ideal angle—remember it!

3. Think about your appearance and what you want to communicate. Considering a selfie is literally just a picture of your face, you want to look as good as possible: moist lips, clean face, brushed hair, clean teeth. Think about what you’d like to relay in your photo. Do you want to smile? Smile with teeth or without? What other sort of expression do you want to evoke if not a smile? 

4. Hold the camera the correct way if you are not equipped with a selfie stick. If your shoulders are stiff, it will be noticeable, an arm too extended can sometimes affect muscles in the neck, there is a perfect medium when it comes to extending the arm away from the face but with a slight bend in the elbow and a relaxed trapezius. I know, super technical, but also comfortable!

 The author using a DSLR camera (safely propped on a shirt in the sand) and timer. 

The author using a DSLR camera (safely propped on a shirt in the sand) and timer. 

5. Editing your image. As a full time photographer, I've never used filters, instead I use the Photoshop app and edit my phone images from within the app. My second option is to edit within Instagram itself, but rather than use filters, I edit the warmth, contrast, shadows, highlights and sometimes will add a vignette. Unless you are going for an artistic style of imagery, the filters tend to be distracting and take away from the image, so for a selfie, I would stay away from the filters and explore the other editing features instead.

As a professional photographer, my official advice it to use a mini tripod and a self-timer, or use a DSLR on a tripod or high surface and self-timer to take a more interesting and higher quality selfie. BUT if you are going for that quick facial image at a Rockies game or from the top of a 14er, I hope you learned some tips!


Alexandra Kahn is a full time photographer and videographer based in Louisville, Colorado. She works predominately in the portrait/wedding and outdoor lifestyle industries. Check out her website or follow her on Instagram.