How to put your best face forward
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
“Are you taking a selfie?” Those are five words that I hear pretty frequently. I’m known among my friends (and probably strangers) as that person who’s always snapping self-portraits. At hockey games, in my hallway, in front of my computer, heck, anytime the light is right or my hair is looking particularly fierce. Front-facing cameras were invented for my kind.
Selfie pros and dabblers alike can be happy this week: their hobby has recently been awarded some much-appreciated official clout, in the form of the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year. Defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website,” the behaviour has become so popular that the selection committee unanimously agreed on its Word of the Year status for 2013.
Taking pictures solo is definitely not a new thing for humankind. Painters Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo selfied with the best of them, and early adopters of photographic technology started out by photographing whatever they had on hand—usually themselves. The recent proliferation of high-powered personal cameras that are literally in your pocket 100 per cent of the time has only served to push selfies into the mainstream.
And I think that’s great! Some have described selfies as a narcissistic cry for help, others have claimed that selfies are harmful, and still more maintain that they’re just annoying. But I think that at their worst, they’re harmless, and at their best, they are a dynamic way to share yourself with your social network. They allow you to control your image—no more relying on someone to snap a nice shot of you. You can control your light and get your best angle for that perfect Facebook profile picture. They also show the world just what you look like at a specific moment in time: this is me at 3 a.m., this is me in line for a taco, this is me by the ocean. It’s an intensely personal way to share a moment, and like any picture, it says more than words.
Since I’m known as the Selfie Queen, I thought it only fair that I impart upon my readership some of the wisdom I’ve picked up in my 10-year career of self-styled snaps. Not only will these tips help you step up your Instagram game, they will also help you look better in pictures that other people take. In that way, selfies are great training for any other type of snapshot.
The two key factors involved in great selfies are light and angle. The absolute best light for a selfie is that particular glow that comes when you’re in an airplane at maximum altitude and the sun is bouncing off the tops of the clouds below you. This soft, diffuse light is gorgeous, but for obvious reasons cannot be attained on the regular. So, failing an airborne voyage, it’s best to take your selfie on a sunny day or in a well-lit room. Take test shots from different directions until you find what works.
Angle is important because everyone has their best side, and it might take some trial and error to find yours. Just remember that pictures shot from below are never nice unless you’re the director of Citizen Kane. Conversely, selfies taken from too high an angle can cause the viewer to feel a slight vertigo, so those are best avoided too. The perfect angle is a little above head-on, and slightly to one side. Tilt your head, smile with your eyes (smize!), and project the raw, angelic beauty of your soul.