Monday, October 1, 2018

How to Take the Perfect Selfie

DEBORAH CROMBIE: This post should have been subtitled "Should You Want To." These days it seems like being able to take a good selfie is as essential (or more essential, considering some of the things I read...) than knowing your ABCs.


We are all encouraged to post photos of ourselves doing anything remotely interesting, but for those of us with any sort of public persona, including writers, it's become expected. So I've tried. I've taken selfies in London. I was determined to post selfies from Bouchercon in St. Petersburg last month.

But, no!

They were all horrid! My face looks completely distorted. I know my features aren't regular, but my face doesn't look like a reflection in a fun house mirror when OTHER people take the photos. And in every single picture I snapped, my neck looked like something out of Elephant Man. Seriously. And I promise my neck is really not weird.

Is it my camera? I have a Samsung Galaxy8, which has a fabulous camera, apparently for everything except selfies. Or is the problem that I don't know how to take them?

I decided to do some research. Here are some of the tips I've gleaned from reading articles and bloggers (and from asking my daughter, who takes great selfies.)

--Use natural light. Go outside if you can. Stand by a window inside. You can even hold a piece of white paper under your chin to give more even lighting.

--Hold your chin down and the camera up. (My professional photographer friend recommends holding your chin OUT in any photo. It feels weird but doesn't look strange on camera.) No one wants to see the underside of your chin. Really.

--Always shoot from above. Hold the bottom of the camera level with your eyes.

--Don't look right into the camera.

--Turn your head at a slight angle, not full profile, but not full forward.

--Give a genuine smile. Or if you want a more serious look, try smiling with your eyes. No duck-lips high school poses!

--Use filters.  My daughter takes all her selfies in Snapchat, because the filters allow you to do things like highlight your eyes. Someone else suggested using the Valencia filter in Instagram.

--Don't over edit. You want to look like a real person.

--Take lots and lots of selfies! It might take fifty to get one good shot.

This is the hardest one, especially if you want to get a selfie in a public place, like walking down Portobello Road (been there, done that) or at Bouchercon. It makes you feel like a complete idiot!!

So, Reds, how's your selfie proficiency?  Any tips? Give us your best shot!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Nope nope nope. I cannot do it, I have tried, I truly have, but there's no way.  I look like a ghost, a specter, a skeleton,  goofball, a weirdo, shadowy or grotesque. Ninety-five million years old.  I have been known, truth be told, to grab selfie-taking phones from the hands of others, (politely) and hand them to strangers to take the photo. No selfies. Here's one via snapchat that worked, I supposed, with my grandson Josh.  That's as good as it's gonna get. 



LUCY BURDETTE: Oh Hank, I believe you have tried several times to snatch a phone out of my hand! It's true, some selfies are simply awful, but others not too bad. I love the tips you gave us, Debs. One thing you didn't mention is giving the phone to the person with the longest arm (that's never me!) Here's one I especially liked from the Women's March in Key West, with pals Barbara Ross and Pat Kennedy.



JENN McKINLAY: Selfies and I have a love/hate relationship. I like other people's selfies because I love seeing what they're doing and some people are absolute geniuses with lighting, angle, etc., while still being very genuine. I hate taking selfies because it's just too much of my face for me to deal with - extreme closeup is not a good look on most of us. Plus, I have a resistance to the whole narcissism of selfies and the obsessive image crafting that doesn't feel authentic if people over filter themselves or their lives. See? I'm conflicted! 



RHYS BOWEN: I am with Hank. Never take a selfie unless I am dragged into it and can't escape. I've never taken a good one yet. I can never seem to find the perfect angle and they seem to show more wrinkles than I thought I had. And I can't get over people who stand at the brink of the Grand Canyon, taking a selfie when one step would lead them to instant doom. I think my mantra from now on should be never be in a photo unless a guy is standing by with the air brush!



Rhys with Jacqueline Winspear

INGRID THOFT: I have little selfie experience, but I’m trying to up my game.  But like you, Jenn, I'm conflicted!  I'm usually trying to focus on the moment of being someplace rather than documenting it.  Deb, I’ve also heard conflicting advice about one’s chin:  Lift it up or push it down.  I opt for lifting it up, otherwise, chins appear that shouldn’t be there!  When it comes to writers who have mastered the selfie, I look to Chevy Stevens.  Her selfie skills are top notch.  Life before social media is a distant memory!

HALLIE EPHRON: CHIN DOWN! CAMERA UP! It's the same deal with Skype. Put the computer up on a box or something so it's shooting down at you. This weekend we were in NY going to see FROZEN on Broadway with our fantastic granddaughter. And of course we took a selfie. As you can see, my grand girl likes sequined cat ears and glassless glasses. This is us waiting for the subway in Brooklyn to whisk us into Manhattan. 





JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm trying to get over my F.O.S: Fear of Selfies. I didn't know the tips about looking slightly to one side and making the bottom of the phone level with your eyes, but I've been able to tell it takes 50 snaps to get a good one. Or, like my two daughters, you can just take SO many selfies it beomes second nature. You know how Malcom Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something? Yeah, my girls are there.

Every morning on the drive to high school, Youngest would take a few selfies, filter them, and Snapchat them to her friends. Then she would look at each of the 30 - 40 Snapchat pictures her friends had sent her, and comment (or star, or thumbs up - I'm not Snapchat literate,) They ALL did this, every morning! I don't know if they said hello or good morning when meeting in person at school, or if they just sent more pictures.

Anyway, I'm working on my selfie game, and naturally, I'll share my best one so far. I had just gotten my hair cut and was thrilled with it and wanted to text a picture to my kids. Maybe the secret to taking a good selfie is to be very, very happy when you press the button? (No, that's not a filter. I just have a crappy phone camera.)

 

DEBS: So you won't think I'm finking out of the not-dare, here I am with my daughter last week (taken with her iPhone...) And, no, she's not really a foot taller than me, but she does have longer arms!


Hallie, yes, you learn that the first time you do a Skype library chat. Egads!!! I put my laptop on a head-high stack of books. Dangerous, but better than looking like the Chin from the Black Lagoon...

What I'm seeing here is that, while I worry about how I look, I think all of you look fabulous, and it makes me happy to see your faces. 

So maybe the thing is not to take yourself so seriously and just have fun with it. Just to prove it, here's one only slightly cross-eyed from my selfie trial yesterday. (The whole not-looking into the camera thing didn't quite work out...)




READERS, tell us, are you on the selfie bandwagon? We'd love to see your smiling faces--wish you could put them in the comments!

NEWS FLASH--Here are some of our regular commenters!!

Flora Church, trying out our selfie tips!





Karen Maslowski, circa 1967



Karen Maslowski, two years ago. (Karen, what are you standing under?)



Deb Romano (Hi, Deb!)
 

Edith Maxwell (Love the glasses--and the expression!)



Aren't these great??? It's so fun to see everyone!!!  

Here's another one! Mary Sutton/Liz Milliron, thank you. And good shot!


And here's our JRW friend, David Squires!


Thanks, everyone, for playing along today.

54 comments:

  1. Sorry, I am not a picture person in the first place [but thanks for the terrific tips] . . . only occasionally have I been happy to have my picture taken.
    And I just don’t get the whole self-absorbed selfie thing so selfies don’t happen unless one of the grandchildren wants to take one . . . .

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    1. Well, goodness, Blogger seems to have taken it upon himself to edit my post. :( Hhmmm, maybe that was because my computer did some strange hiccup-y thing when I was posting my comment. Anyway, this is what I actually wrote:

      Sorry, I am not a picture person in the first place [but thanks for the terrific tips] . . . only occasionally have I been happy to have my picture taken.
      And I just don’t get the whole self-absorbed selfie thing we see in the kids around here . . . you’d think a couple of pictures would be enough, but they all seem to post dozens and dozens, all day, every day. Whatever makes them happy, I guess. Anyway, I am not much of a picture-taker, so selfies don’t happen unless one of the grandchildren wants to take one . . . .

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  2. I think all of your photos look perfectly fine, but like many of you I too hate selfies. Then again, I don't really take many pictures in general except of my cats. Out of the approximately 2,000 pictures on my phone, about 1,990 of them are of the cats (the other ten are mostly snapshots of something on my computer screen for on-the-go reference). No matter the lighting, camera angle, or chin position, the cats always look lovely in photos.

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    1. Marla, busted! The cats are always doing something funny/adorable. Same when I 'babysit' my brother's mini-dachs.

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    2. See, and I have a problem with good cat pics. My cat Neko is black, so most shots of her are just a wash of darkness. She needs to be lit like a movie star to actually show up in a photo.

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    3. Exactly, Flora! The cats always look so cute I can't help myself. And I save way too many blurry pictures of them because heaven forbid I should happen to delete a shot where their tail/ear/paw is in a slightly different position and I never get to see them posed like that ever again.

      Julia, bad photos are the curse of the black cat. I've heard that's why black cats linger in shelters longer than the average cat. But I bet Neko is beautiful in person!

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  3. I am a terrible selfie taker. I usually hand the phone to my nine-year-old granddaughter when we're together and we want a selfie. I do try to remember the rule of holding the camera up and shooting from above, which has enabled me to get just a few half-way decent selfies. But, my usual practice is, like Hank, to hand the phone to a stranger, or when at Bouchercon, hand it to John Bychowski.

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    1. Exactly! He is fabulous, and takes amazing photos…

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    2. Or Robin Templeton, at Malice!

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  4. Short arms here, but I make a valiant effort when it’s the only way to get the shot want. The result is usually odd but if it captures the moment, I ditch my pride and post my double chin!

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    1. It's kind of silly - 99% of us have them by a certain age, and 100% of us are in denial!

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  5. My husband was a crazy photo-documenter of life long before the selfie craze came along, so social things that I'm doing with him usually get documented. But rarely by a selfie. Snapping photos has become a routine part of restaurant/bar wait staff's day, so we often have them take one of us. I guess now that I think about it, I use the "kindness of strangers" approach with photos a lot. Maybe it's the white hair that generates the positive responses I usually encounter!

    I have taken just a few successful selfies. Now that I think about it, mostly just a shot of myself in the car, wearing my "I Voted" sticker. (I'm always proud to have done my civic duty and hope to encourage others.) The biggest thing I've noticed, as you have all remarked on already, is that the camera absolutely must be held high, looking down on me.

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  6. Debs, I love that selfie! Love the glasses. Want them... And you look terrific.
    Selfie sticks are an abomination. When we first saw them (traveling) they were everywhere. Appalling. Your face is in your camera but your selfie is in everyone else's face. Fortunately nowadays they're less frequent. Too bad we can't post selfies in comments.

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    1. Hallie, I bought a selfie stick a couple of years ago, thinking I would use it to get photos in London--which I have never done. But I did find a great use for it--the Skype library chats! I have Skype on my phone, and the selfie stick is much easier than the pile of books or the box for the laptop. Looks much better, too.

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    2. It's also a good back scratcher.

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  7. Nope. No selfies. Last time I tried it was to take a picture with an old HS friend I hadn’t seen in years. I looked like I was being tortured.

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    1. Yes, when the lighting is bad it is really… Unfortunate :-)

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  8. Oh my...selfies *sigh*. I have not mastered the art. I have a gazillion pics on my phone of the ocean, my son's dog (the cutest rescue in the world) and a few of the damage to my car in a recent fender bender. Only two selfies. One because the Airbnb host required it and one because a fellow blogger issued a dare. I definitely fall into the "kindness of strangers" camp and they have never disappointed me. By the way while you all look amazing, Jenn, you win the day.

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  9. Love seeing all of your selfies--like most of you, I'm terrible at them--am I REALLY that old lady looking back at me??! I only try to take them so that I don't remain faceless in my profiles for certain social media--but as you can see, no photo posted here. But with Deborah's fabulous tips, maybe I'll try again. Sometimes out with my sisters, we might try for a group shot--and since we are usually laughing, it's okay.

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  10. I hate selfies, although I do like seeing my friends' faces from time to time. My selfies make Jenn's picture, above, look like a Miss America glamor shot. (Jenn is lovely, whatever she's doing.) I might post one for Halloween, though, as I look like a bloated green zombie. With a nose. We must never forget the prodigious nose. I thought it was bad when I was a kid, but I've got to tell you, it does not pair well with double chins.

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    1. Gigi, your nose is just fine, and the thing is--as I said above--I love to see photos of you whenever you post them. And if you want to see a real nose, check out Jordi Rocasan, genuis Michelin-starred Spanish chef. I follow him on Instagram and his selfies are adorable. https://www.facebook.com/search/str/jordirocasan/keywords_search or @jordirocasan

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  11. I have one reason and one only for taking a selfie: New glasses. I love glasses, and I buy all of mine online, progressive prescription lenses, and any frame in any color that takes my fancy. In order to try the frame, I need a selfie.

    Other than the above, forget it. Although if I were taking a grandchild to see Frozen, I'd make an exception.

    PS: Talk to both me and Deb about buying glasses online. I am hard pressed to spend much more than a hundred bucks and they are guaranteed money back.

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    1. Deb, look at my answer to your Kindle question of yesterday. I think I had a fix for you

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    2. Thank you, Ann! I had no idea there were that many more pages of choices!

      DebRo

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    3. Ann, I buy glasses online and I do those "try-on" selfies as well. However, I would NEVER show them to anyone, since I usually pull my hair back and am staring dead-on into the camera lens. I look like Mrs. Danvers' mug shot, but it's a good way to judge what suits my face shape.

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    4. My trick with the online frames is to measure a frame that fits me and stick to those measurements. Otherwise I end up with glasses that are enormous on my little face. I get lots of comments on my red polka dot frames, and they are from Zenni online optical. That frame is back in stock, I think, and it also comes in black and blue.

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    5. Of course we don’t show them. It’s bad enough when we have to look at them ourselves

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  12. I took a few of them at Bouchercon as a "here I am read for day X" type shot. I'm not really a fan of pictures of myself, although I have to admit lately they've been coming out better (better haircut? better smile? who knows). But I'm more likely to bother someone to take it because I know it'll take less time for a better picture.

    My kids, however, take great selfies. They take them of the two of us sometimes.

    Mary/Liz

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  13. I enjoyed looking at all of these. I’ve only ever taken one selfie. My best friend and I live in different parts of the country and haven’t seen each other in a few years. She has sent me pictures of her with family members but she had no current pictures of me. I just took another look at the selfie I sent. The lighting is bad, and the neck wrinkles (my head was tilted up) are abundant. Ugh. And it’s probably one of the best pictures I have of myself from the last couple of years. My niece took a couple of selfies of the two of us and another family member a couple of years ago, and they’re really nice. Both of us look good. (I should maybe keep her around as my personal photographer. Unfortunately, she lives a couple of states away.)

    DebRo

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  14. I missed adding to this conversation earlier since I was traveling, but I've put my two cents (and a selfie) on the front page now. My only comments are : 1. Te more you do it, the better you become (viz, my offspring) 2. Hank looks very cute with a kitten filter! 3. A big hell yes to putting your laptop on a pile of books when you Skype. Otherwise, you're all jaw and nostrils.

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  15. Julia, thank you for clarifying that! I was thoroughly puzzled as to how I might have missed your contribution to today’s blog post. Had I experienced a new kind of senior moment? I asked myself.

    DebRo

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    1. No, it's more like I had the senior moment and forgot to add on yesterday night!

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  16. If anyone wants to email me a selfie at deb at deborahcrombie dot com, I'll add to the blog during the day. We'd love to see you!!!

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  17. Debs, your last one was pretty good. Like Ann, I love your cute glasses!

    You're all adorable. Jenn, you crack me up!

    I've sent Debs my first selfie, circa 1967, and you are welcome to put it up. And one from when we visited the Pacific West Coast two years ago. That's my attempt to show just how tall the giant redwoods are. They are even harder to photograph than oneself!

    In Venice I saw so many tourists using selfie sticks. I asked a gondolier how many thousands of cell phones end up in the bottom of the Grand Canal every year, and he chuckled and said, "Many, many."

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  18. I’ve taken very few selfies. I’m just not a picture taker period.

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  19. I forgot to say I love the dog!

    DebRo

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  20. I have the short arm problem, too! Will try to take one from the car and send it to Debs ( driving home from my son's beautiful wedding, sniff...). I knew about the take from above tip, but thanks for the others.

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    1. I have to remember - DON'T LOOK AT THE CAMERA! Sheesh!

      Mary/Liz (and someday I'll figure out why I can't post from my Mac)

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  21. Julia, I hope you saw my review of IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER today, and the positive comments of others. Do you have a new one coming out soon???

    Selfies? Nope.

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    1. Rick, not until you mentioned it here. (I don't get Google alerts on my name.) Thank you so much! Nothing comeing out soon, but I'm TRYING to finish the 9th by November so it can be on my publisher's Fall '19 list.

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    2. That's great news. I’m moving on in the series, but suspect I’ll have a wait until a year from now. I’m happy I found your books!

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  22. Thanks for the selfies, everyone who sent them! Up on the blog now!

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    1. Love these! Thanks for sharing, everyone!

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  23. I love the reader selfies. Edith Maxwell looks like she's going to run over the next person who cuts her off in traffic.

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    1. Ha! I was passenger, but sometimes my smile is hard to muster, so I just went with the semi-glare. ;^)

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  24. I don't do selfies, because I don't have the equipment. (But I do have real camera).

    If I'm in a tourist area (at home, or as a tourist) and I see a group of people trying to huddle into a selfie, or one person capturing another in front of Venetian canal/St. Lawrence Market/BC Legislature, I make a habit of offering to take their picture. Offer is ALWAYS gratefully accepted. English isn't a requirement, since pantomime works just fine.

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  25. I love seeing the selfies from readers! It's so great to put names with faces!

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  26. Well whatta ya know?! I immensely enjoyed reading and identified with all the Jungle Reds' emphatic #NoSelfies reactions! I'm of the same mind. Including (or perhaps especially) regarding the neck! Altho, I must admit, I also identify with the my-selfies-are-all-dismal-but-it-makes-me-happy-to-see-all-your-faces, so I suppose it's a matter of perspective. (Oh, and my hubby had already come on board for our couple-selfies to hold the camera and hit the shutter button because his arms are longer.) . . . However, intrigued, I tried to apply some of those tips----and by golly, they did help. This isn't entirely atrocious, as my selfie attempts tend to be! (Now realizing I mis-read. The whole reason I experimented with selfies just now was that I thought I read an invitation to include in Comments. I now see Deb was wishing we could include in Comments. Ah well.)

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  27. Shalom Reds, I concur. Selfies are an art which I don't have the aptitude for. My best pictures of myself are taken by friends or family whom I give the camera to. I haven't worked up the courage to give my phone to a stranger. The first problem is taking pictures outside in the sun. I can't see my screen when taking pictures in full sun. The second is that I can't see close up with my glasses on. So I am always putting my glasses on my forehead and pushing my baseball cap back. I do however love my phone camera (Galaxy S7). If you take hundreds of pictures, you're bound to find some that work.

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  28. I clicked the selfie button on my phone and scared myself. No way am I taking one! Actually the person in the mirror doesn't match the person in my mind anymore so I don't like pictures of me much. I'd rather take pictures of my flowers.

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  29. I love seeing all these photos of reds and readers. Every one of you looks amazing--I see no wrinkles, just wise, dear friends...

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  30. In an attempt to show my daughter my new short haircut, I took several very unsatisfactory selfies. I never realized one of my eyes is bigger than the other. Not good news. I didn’t know the rules about angles and shot from below so every neck wrinkle and chin sag stood up and saluted. I attempted a jaunty, “Hey, check this out” smile. I look like I just spotted the dessert tray. I don’t know how to share the photo here. Thank goodness.

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