You can’t swing a selfie stick without hitting a couple trying to take a great shot together.
Whether it’s during a Mount Washington hike or sandy Turks and Caicos sun-worshipping, you want to document your wedding experiences and look good doing it. Unfortunately, society has fallen prey to selfie bobbleheads, double chins, mustache shadows, and tree-branch antennas.
For help, we ask Boston-based photographer Melissa Ostrow how to avoid these selfie faux paus.
Where should the light be and why?
Light is directional and causes shadows, so it shouldn’t be behind them and directly over you. If you’re in a venue with recessed ceiling lights, stay away from taking a photo directly under them. They will cause weird shadows on your face, highlight a bald head, and cause a mustache shadow. If the light is behind you, the camera will calculate for that light and you will only be a silhouette. Ideally, the best light is at a 45-degree angle. You should also watch for shadows on your face. If the sun is directly in front of you, you could end up with a cell shadow on you.
Where should the phone be in terms of up-high, down-low?
The thing to remember is that whatever is closest to the camera is always the largest. I highly recommend holding the camera high and pointing down. It makes you look slimmer. But not too high, or you’ll have a bobblehead. But based on what you want in the background you may have to move the camera around a little to get the background you want.
What are a few mistakes people make?
Back light. They want that sunset, but cell phones are not smart enough to realize you want a photo of yourself in front of it. They just see a very bright light, so you end up silhouetted. Another thing to watch for is your surroundings. I’ve seen a lot of shots where people concentrate on themselves and not what’s behind them. They end up with trees or poles coming out of their head. You don’t want some palm trees giving you bunny ears or antennas.
What are some great photo apps for editing?
I use Aviary the most. It gives you lots of ways to edit your images like cropping, brightening, and sharpening. One of my favorite options is the “focus” button. This allows you to direct the eye to where you want the focus to be while making the focus on everything else much softer. I also just discovered Cymera, and it seems to do it all. You can do basic editing, add a filter, make a collage, add stickers or word bubbles, but more than that it has a smile button, a slim button, a big eyes button, and so on. Pixlr-o-matic is a lot of fun when trying to make your images a little more artsy, from different effects, to changing the color, to softening the image, as well as a funky overlay effect.
What are your favorite tips?
If you have two cell phones, you can make better night selfies. Often people want to take selfies at night, but there’s no flash on the front camera. Many smart phones comes with a flash light app and if your cell phone doesn’t, it’s easy enough to download for free. The flashlight can be used as an external light on one cell phone, while using the other to take the selfie. This also allows you to control the directionality of the light.
What are your thoughts on the selfie stick?
I wish I had Stretch Armstrong arms, but since I don’t, I think it’s useful. The farther away the camera can be from someone’s arms, head, or midsection, the more flattering the image. It also allows you to get more of your surroundings in the shot, like the view from the top of that volcano you just hiked.
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