Do it yourself
    01 December 2016


    A how to guide to taking great selfies

    Learn how to snap pics of yourself like a pro using your smartphone.

    To make sure you inspire envy and awe in the hearts of everyone who follows you on social media as you Play Every Day this summer, we focus in on each of the four elements to any great selfie.

    Selfies are a staple of our virtual identities these days. Instagram has over 250 million #selfie posts, and that number is growing all the time. (For more interesting selfie stats, go to Science of People.)

    But, before we start: While most smartphones today offer decent selfie-cams, or front-facing cameras, you’re usually better off using your camera’s rear-facing or main camera. You won’t be able to see your face on the screen, but it will be worth it for the better quality, higher resolution photo you’ll end up with.


    1.  Rule of thirds: There are nine imaginary blocks that divide up any photo. Most photo-editing apps will overlay the rule-of-thirds grid onto your phone screen in camera mode. Knowing where to position which feature will help to instantly improve the composition of your photo. Try to place your eyes a third of the way down the frame, and, if possible, put your face off to one side to make your selfie more visually interesting than the usual straight-on shot.

    2.  Get the depth of field right: Make sure it’s your face that’s in focus, not the background. No matter how interesting it may be, your selfie will be more compelling if the background is slightly out of focus.

    3.  Use your arms as a frame: Try taking your next selfie with both hands, with your arms extended. Your arms will act as a frame in your shot, and you’ll also be able to hold your phone more steadily than with one hand.

    4.  Crop in tight: Backgrounds of selfies are often busy, messy and distracting. But if you don’t want to hold your phone in too close to your face, how can you make sure you don’t get too much background noise? Simple – crop your selfie after you’ve taken it to hone in on your face and eliminate the clutter in the background.


    1.  Keep it natural: You probably know that natural lighting is by far the most flattering, for any kind of photo, so use that to your advantage when taking selfies by posing either next to a window, or in an open doorway.

    2.  Soften artificial light: If you do have to take a selfie in low-light conditions, and need to use a single light source such as a lamp, you could throw a light scarf or a net curtain over it so that the light is more diffused, softer and more flattering. (Don't leave it there - it's a fire hazard!)

    3.  Watch the sun: When taking photos outside, you always need to put the sun behind the photographer, right? Nope, not for a selfie. If you try to take a selfie with the sun behind your camera, you’re going to end up looking directly into the sun, and squinting, with really harsh light on your face. Rather put the sun behind you, making sure your head blocks out the sun, and you’ll end up with a gorgeous halo of light around your face and hair. With no bright light directly in your eyes, you won’t be squinting either. Alternatively, you can wait for a cloudy day with softer light, or move into the shade.

    4.  Flash tips: Don’t use it. You risk the red-eye effect, and the yellow light from the flash will make anyone look jaundiced. (Or, if you absolutely have to, hold a white serviette or piece of white kitchen towel in the shot where you can crop it out, to neutralise the lighting – it’s a quick hack to getting the right white balance. Bustle found that it works!)


    1.  Mirror selfies: To add curves, place one hand high up on your ribcage rather than your on hip. Also try to pop one knee or cross your legs to instantly look curvier and less ‘block-y’.

    2.  Positioning the camera: Some might say that holding the camera higher than your head will make your eyes look bigger, and make your nose and chin look smaller. But there’s no denying that it also looks unnatural. A better idea is to hold the camera directly in front of your face, and closer than you would think, so you don’t get too much shoulder in the pic.

    3.  Facial expression: Kim Kardashian might swear by duck face because it accentuates her cheekbones, but in many of our opinions, it’s become too passé. A gentle purse of your lips can have the same effect without making your followers hate you.

    4.  Use a timer: For a different kind of pose, snap yourself looking natural and enjoying yourself by propping your smartphone up, setting a timer, and then just carrying on with what you were doing – chatting to a friend, laughing, daydreaming, sipping a mocktail, or whatever. The camera will catch you at a moment when you’re genuinely having fun, instead of blatantly posing.

    Have fun

    1.  Don’t dismiss the selfie stick: When taking a selfie with a group of mates, especially if you want to get the background in the shot, the selfie stick could be your new BFF. You might feel ridiculous, but it will be totally worth it when you see not only the group selfies you’ve posed for, but all the accidental ones in between while your squad was prepping for the shot. (Note, though, that selfie sticks are now banned in many of the world’s bigger theme parks and tourist attractions.)

    2.  Filters FTW: While Instagram adds new filters pretty regularly, consider trying out some new, different effects by downloading an app such as Snapseed, which comes with loads of fun filters to play with.

    3.  Use props: Selfies with a context are always more interesting than the straight-forward ‘here’s a shot of me looking at the camera for no good reason’ variety. Accessorise with a hat or new sunglasses, or your friend’s cat, or your drink with an umbrella in it, and you’ll likely see way more Likes.

    4.  Be silly: Often, the best selfies are the most random ones. Don’t be afraid to look ridiculous. It’s a selfie, after all – nobody really takes them seriously!

    Now that you know how to take your selfies to the next level, all you need is a smartphone with a top-class camera. There are loads of them on Vodacom’s special Summer Deals! Buy or upgrade on Vodacom Online today »