Having a good or bad side was once left to A-list celebrities on the covers of magazines, but these days every Instagram influencer and peripheral reality star has a strategy for the moment a camera appears.
Images of ourselves are no longer relegated to dusty family albums; now, we can gaze back at our unnatural expressions across Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Flickr, Twitter and more. The opportunities for impromptu photo shoots are everywhere. (When is the last time you went to a party for 50 or more people that didn’t have a photo booth?)
Despite all the practice being forced on us, taking a good photo is still hard, as is picking a favorite between your left and right side. Below, experts offer guidance.
Find the light
“Go into natural light and practice moving your face around with the sun facing you,” said Alizé Andrews, 32, an athlete trainer with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Toronto and a model. “Then try when the sun is setting. When the sun is setting, you can see all the shadows and which ones are the most severe.”
Avoid unflattering lighting. “Bathrooms, anywhere with fluorescent bulbs, public transit, inside spaces,” said Eric Randall Morris, 29, a designer, artist and architect in San Francisco. “Artificial canned lighting makes it really hard for it to look good. It comes off really abrasive. and you’re like, ‘Where are you, in a classroom?’”
If you don’t live somewhere that is regularly bathed with sunshine, there are technology-based solutions. “Get an phone case that has a ring light, and then no place is a bad place,” Mr. Morris said.
Emelina Spinelli, 31, an Instagram consultant who lives in Los Angeles, seconded his suggestion. “I held back from getting one for so long,” Ms. Spinelli said, of the ring light. Then I compared the before-and-afters. Somehow I just turned into a pro YouTuber.”
If you can’t — or don’t want to — pay a professional photographer to do your test shots, Ms. Spinelli suggested asking a friend to dedicate an hour or two to taking photos of you in an aesthetically pleasing location.
“Pretend you’re a model, focus on micro-movements and turn your face in 12 different angles,” Ms. Spinelli said. “Go through that set of 250, 300 photos and find the ones you feel confident about and look good to you. I favorite them and constantly recreate those. Those are going to be your poses.”
Selfie experts say angles can make all the difference. “Even if the lighting isn’t good, holding the camera up a little and down toward you, that’s usually people’s best selfies,” Ms. Andrews said. “It’s very complimentary. It takes height and weight out of the equation. It defines the jaw more because you have to look up more so you’re using your neck muscles.”
Figure out which features you want to highlight
“Your hair can help you translate what side is best,” said Olayinka Oni-Orisan, 29, a lifestyle blogger and jewelry designer in the Hartford area. “If you normally wear a side part and your hair covers your eye, you might find that’s your best side.”
“I have a dimple on one side of my face,” Ms. Wells said. “Think about what features you really enjoy about your face. Maybe it’s your cheekbones, then maybe you want to be straight on.”
Learn from the professionals
“Look at model accounts, especially models who are more casual and not celebrities,” Ms. Spinelli said. “Celebrities and high-fashion models do a lot more awkward posing. It’s really hard to do that as a normal person.”
Save the poses you like to a collection on your Instagram page. “When I’m out one day, I’ll recreate a pose that I like from the many models I follow and some of my friends, too,” Ms. Spinelli said.
Don’t stress over it
“There are always so many emotional health issues that can come up with Instagram,” Ms. Spinelli said. “I would caution people to not compare themselves to others. There needs to be a lot of body acceptance. Be O.K. with your angles. At the end of the day you’re gorgeous.”
Valeriya Safronova is a reporter for the Style section. She is based in New York. @vsaffron
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