The secret to taking a good #selfie; 4 ways to improve your #selfies

You think your selfies are bad? Ha!

I’ve never been photogenic. The camera hates me. I have to take at least 25 photos to get a good one. Even my husband gets disgusted because I ruin most photos we’re in together. My wedding photos, taken by a professional photographer, were bad. I had my eyes closed in all the key shots (first dance, cutting the cake, the toast, etc.; I’m not actually sure I saw our wedding).

How to improve your selfieAnd selfies? Worse. Way worse. I look like the photos were taken in front of a fun house mirror. My features are distorted. My smile is goofy.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that I have improved my selfies tremendously.

The secret? Practice.

I can’t show you “before” photos because I deleted them from my phone (and I wouldn’t show them even if I still had them), but I’m showing some of the after shots. They’re decent.

If I can improve my selfies, you can, too.

What you want to do is practice these tips one at a time. Master each step before you move on to the next one. Then put it all together.

How you look in a selfie and how you look when someone else takes the picture are two different things, and you need to adapt for selfies.

To take a good selfie you have to control four elements: lighting, how you hold the phone, how you position your head and body, and your smile. It will take trial and error to find what works for you. Take a bunch of photos, until you get each element “right” and then move on to the next. Then, put it all together.

  1. Lighting. Where you stand indoors and outdoors in relation to the light source makes a huge difference. Anyone that’s got a selfie ring light in Australia will be aware of this. Take some selfies and move around, noting the how the light changes your appearance on the screen. You will be in shadow, you will be “flat,” you will glow – it varies by the location and type of lighting.
  2. How you hold the phone. People have told me “you need to hold the camera up, slightly tilted and shoot down.” That did not work for me. It turned into another not-so-fun funhouse shot. Try different angles to find your sweet spot. Maybe it is holding the phone slightly up. Maybe it’s with the phone straight on, arm fully extended (that’s what worked for me). Or maybe you need to bend your elbow. Hold the phone slightly to the left or to the right. You won’t know what works for you until you try a bunch of photos.
  3. How you hold your head and body. Do you tilt your head? Right or left? Chin slightly up? Chin down? Eyes up? Body turned sideways. Hand on hip? Take a bunch of photos with different face and body poses to find your best angle. Practice. Practice. Practice.
  4. Smiling. My selfie smiles always looked goofy or forced or both. Finding the right head/body angle helps a lot. For a natural-looking smile, think of something funny. A joke. A funny scene in a book. Your own previous goofy photos.

You have more time than you think to get into position. In the beginning I found it hard to hold the camera, pose, and press the button. Try this: hold the camera, press the button, then pose. You have several seconds to get into position. Find your camera angle, click the button, and then adjust your head/body position based on what you see on the screen.

Here are some recent selfies of me. The “after” photos.

selfie with destiny's chance


selfie with glasses

Robin with earring on bday

Did you notice I’m standing in almost the same place and my head position is about the same in all three photos? What you can’t see is that I’m standing in front of a large window–good lighting. Also, this particular “pose” works for me.

Do you have a secret for taking good selfies?

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14 Responses to The secret to taking a good #selfie; 4 ways to improve your #selfies

  1. Livia Grant says:

    Always educational, Cara. The only thing you didn’t mention is how to miraculously shave off 25 lbs!. Lol. Your pictures are looking good.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Or 10 years! Lol.

      Thank you. I should have saved at least one “before” photo because they really were outstandingly horrible.

      One other thing I should mention is that whatever is closest to camera will look the largest. You’ll notice a lot of selfies (mine included) have the “big arm” syndrome. Because the hand/arm holding the phone is the closest to the camera. It takes some body shifting to get that arm out of the way.

  2. Great advice! Yes, I usually cringe at my selfies. I don’t like how the “up close and personal” shots distort my features. I’m eager to try your tips.

  3. The funny thing is I practiced as I read your blog. I think you’re onto something. Practice won’t make me perfect but it just might make me look better using your tips.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Practice is the key. People who have good selfies have been taking selfies for years. Using these tips, you might have to take 50-100 practice shots (over time), to find out what works. But once you determine that, you’ll have it down.

  4. Cathryn Cade says:


    thanks for the great tips. Lighting is so key for us ladies, right?

    And personally, I like to wear a turtleneck to hide the weird things my ‘under chin area’ can do, lol.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I know…you turn your head one way to maximize your best feature, and it does something weird to another part of your body. The right clothing can help!

  5. My selfies are awful unless my husband takes them of the two of us together. I have no idea why his look better, except for maybe the fact that his arm is longer than mine. Thanks for the tips. I’ll have to practice more. Love your “after” pics, by the way. You look mahvelous. 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you.

      Body/head positioning can change when you take your own selfie v. when someone else takes the picture. Although with me, it didn’t seem to make a difference.

      I call selfies that you take with another person, “Usies.”

  6. S.J. Maylee says:

    Thanks, Cara! I’m going to practice tomorrow before I leave for the book fair this weekend. 😀

  7. Anonymous says:

    I hate photos. Lol. This is why. I need to get to work on this again.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      It tends to go together: People who are photogenic like taking photos and take a lot. People who aren’t photogenic don’t. The camera just likes some people more than others. However, you can certainly make your photos better.

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