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January 22, 2014

How to Take Better Selfies – Angle and Distance

Now that you know about lighting your selfies, it’s time to talk about finding your best angle and camera distance. Generally speaking, raising the camera above eye-level so that it’s pointing down at your face is more attractive than positioning it lower than eye-level.

This is especially true with the front facing camera on your iPhone because it’s a small lens with lots of distortion. Whatever is closest to the lens is going to look bigger. When you shoot from above, your eyes look bigger, which is generally attractive–especially for women. Shooting from below makes your chin look bigger, and can also make you appear to be double chinned sometimes.

In the three photos above, you can see three camera positions: 1. above the eyes, 2. slightly below the eyes, and 3. below the chin. The first photo makes my eyes and forehead look bigger and diminishes my chin. The middle photo presents a pretty balanced view of my face with just a slight widening of my nose. The final photo makes my chin and jaw look large and also calls attention to my nostrils in a not-so-pretty way.

Taking a selfie from below face height is rarely flattering. Yet we do it all the time so we can get a photo of ourselves standing in front of something tall–a statue, a building, one of the monuments. The best thing in these situations is to have someone else take your photo because moving the camera further away will minimize the distortion of your face. However, if you are alone, I do have one trick for you. Try looking away from the camera as I do here.

In the above photos, my phone was clearly being held below chin height, but since I am turned away from the camera, you only see half as much chin and almost no gaping nostrils. Don’t forget to use your best posture for this pose as it will reduce your double chin effect (and be good for your back!)

Now let’s talk about distance. I am a big fan of getting as much distance between you and your iPhone as possible. This is, again, because the lenses on phones have a lot of distortion and the closer they are, the more they distort you.

Here’s what I see all the time: a cute girl puts on cool eye makeup and wants to show it off on with a selfie. So, naturally, she holds her phone right up to her eyes and takes some photos like this:

Umm, yikes.

In the first one, my eyes are taking up approximately 2/5 of my face. Meanwhile my eyebrows are just chilling up there on my forehead like two huge, fuzzy caterpillars.

I look like poorly proportioned anime.

In the second one, you can see the red veins in my eye and the mascara caking off below. Not to mention that nothing about it really resembles me.

So let’s try this again. Let’s back the camera up a little and take the shot from slightly above. Then we can crop it down so it only shows my eyes.

The eyes look like they belong to me. The eyebrows are a nice, manageable size and shape. And you don’t have a closeup to my eyeball capillaries. Plus, it’s SUPER easy to crop on Instagram. So there’s really no excuse for bad eye pictures.

Here’s a recap of your new selfie skills

1. Always try to position the camera above you and as far away from your face as your arm will reach

2. If you are trying to include something behind you and above you (thus having to put your phone lower than face height) you should turn away from the camera and use your very best posture.

3. If you want a cool close up of your eyes, lips, etc. you should still hold your phone a decent distance away and then just crop the image down.

Be sure to check out this final post on posing for your selfies!

Want to know how to evaluate a professional photographers work? Check out this post.

  1. Anhthu Le says:

    Thank you so much for these advices. I’m a photographer and I’ve never tried to take selfies because of various reasons: distortion and bad angles. My face never came out nice! I’ll try these tips to see how it goes.

  2. Gregory Scott says:

    I recognize the lens distortions you’re working to avoid, I’ve also got tricks for avoiding them. I just wanted to say that regardless, what’s clearly visible in all of the photos above is a beautiful woman. If you can’t see that, well… the distortions are somewhere else entirely 🙂

  3. In Question says:

    Why do my eyebrows look better taken from a downward angle than an upward angle? It makes me wonder what tall people think of my brows…

    • Rachael Foster says:

      It probably has to do with their size relative to your eyes. They may frame your eyes better from above. But it could also be the shape of your particular brows–hard to say! I’m guessing tall people like them 🙂

  4. What a great and helpful read! I guess the only thing Im left wondering is whether there is any difference in potential distortion between the front and rear facing lenses? Again, this article is extremely helpful!

  5. Katie says:

    what do you do when you have not a fore head but a five head?

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