10 Tips to Take a Good Selfie Photo, According to Science

Christian Cawley 13-06-2017

National Selfie Day will be here on 21st June! Yes, in the recent tradition of giving everything under the sun its own special day, selfies have been awarded their own 24-hour slot of media glory. No doubt you’ve already been out and about, snapping and sharing your selfies online… but were they really that good?


Recently, science has been employed to find out just what makes the perfect selfie photo. From that, and with a bit of additional research, we’ve found out how you can make top quality selfies that people will love. You might even get more followers on Instagram How to Find the Best Instagram Hashtags for More Likes & Followers Hashtags are an essential part of Instagram. If you need help getting started, here's how to find the best Instagram hashtags. Read More .

Better still, it’s ridiculously straightforward!

The Science Bit

Andrej Karpathy is the Ph.D. student from Stanford who used a Convolutional Neural Network (ConvNet) to establish what type of selfie photograph was popular. With two million images to classify, the software was trained to spot good selfies from bad ones. A ConvNet is essentially image recognition software. This video shows a similar tool:

The aim of this project was to find out what makes a good selfie, and use the findings to take better photos. So, how do you take the perfect selfie? Well, first, let’s find out how to do it wrong.

How to Take a Rubbish Selfie

Here are five bad habits you need to overcome in order to produce the best selfies.


1. Poor Lighting

Dark selfies with poor lighting… they suck, don’t they? Night clubs, night-time locations, bad weather — in short, anything that results in a grainy, low-light photo should be avoided. Noisy photos scored poorly in Karpathy’s research.

Sure, you could use a flash. But don’t. Also, you might get better-than-usual results with some high-end smartphone cameras 6 Reasons Your Smartphone Is the Best Camera You Own It might not be a digital SLR, but your smartphone is punching well above its weight when it comes to photography. The next time you go out, leave your old point and shoot at home. Read More . These might deliver photos that you consider good enough. However, as a general rule, keep your selfies reasonably well-lit.

national selfie day group
Image Credit: lipik via Shutterstock

2. Include as Many People as Possible

You know those famous photos with as many celebrities squeezed in as possible that everyone likes to copy?


Stop it. Stop it now. Group shots are not good. They’re also not really selfies, if we think about it. A single group shot appeared in the top 100 selfies in the neural network research. By all means, take group shots, but don’t expect them to be liked as much as your others.

3. Overwhelm the Lens

Getting too close to the lens also results in a low score from Karpathy’s neural network. Filling the lens with your cheeks, nose, and eyes isn’t a good look to begin with. Knowing that it is not likely to attract likes for your selfies should discourage you from repeating this type of photo in future.

4. Show the World Your Nose Jam

It doesn’t matter whether you’re making a selfie or a YouTube vlog. You need to maintain your dignity. Even if you’re exposing your innermost thoughts… even if you’re showing a bit of skin in your selfies. Keep something personal.

No one wants to look up your nose.


And we didn’t need a neural network to tell you this. Avoid showing off your nostrils. Keep the camera high. If you really must show some of your lower nose off, make sure you clean it first, yeah?

national selfie day pout
Image Credit: Gulobovy via Shutterstock

5. Do a Duck Impression

It’s so 2016 to stand in your dressing room, bedroom, or nightclub toilet, phone in your hand, arm outstretched, trying to look like a semi-sentient duck. 1980s rock star poses are so embarrassing.

Whatever you do, don’t pout in your selfies. Stand out from the crowd with your individuality. Don’t let lost in the forest of duck pouts. Be different. Be YOU.


5 Ways to Take a Great Selfie

Now you know how to take a terrible selfie, it’s time to learn how to make your selfies amazing. Let’s get serious.

1. Show Off Your Hair

You have beautiful hair. Let the camera see it. Slicked back hair caked in gel or hairspray don’t look nearly as good as long, flowing locks. Long hair is also a great way to frame your face, and selfies with hair on show did very well in the Karpathy project.

national selfie day solo
Image Credit: Misha Beliy via Shutterstock

2. Use Filters

It would probably be a surprise to find any photo on a social network these days that hasn’t already been “treated” to a filter. Even so, they often prove popular, and the majority of the top 100 selfies in the neural network research had a filter applied. Stick with contrast reducing filters and those that add a faded effect.

3. Faded and Overexposed Images

Remarkably, images that have a faded look, or are overexposed, prove popular. This is in contrast to under-lit selfies (see above).

Both of these effects can be achieved using filters, but you might also consider a specialized camera app that offers full control over the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Take a look at these camera apps 6 Best Free Alternative Camera Apps for Android Don't like the camera app that comes on your phone? Give these alternatives a try! Read More if you use Android, while our look at ProCamera for iPhone shows how you can overexpose photos From The Default iPhone Camera To The Better ProCamera For Serious Shutterbugs For the last several weeks, I've downloaded over a dozen camera and video apps for the iPhone, and though each has something unique to offer, I was particularly interested in finding the most practical camera... Read More .

4. Don’t Worry About Squeezing Your Head In

While your face should be visible in the photo, don’t worry about squeezing it all in the shot. As long as your key features are on show — including hair! — it’s okay to lose some forehead, chin, or even a good chunk of the side of your head.

It’s also okay to lose your forehead. This is a useful option should you be taking a selfie with a friend and need a way to get both of you in a shot. After all, it’s just a load of empty space.

5. Use a Timer

This is a very important aspect of taking selfies, one that many tend to overlook. While you’ll probably find that a timer is more useful for selfies with friends than for solo shots, they have their uses for both.

national selfie day duo
Image Credit: wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock

After all, nothing says “pose now” like a smartphone display counting down. How many times have you taken a selfie only to find that you were looking at your nose and not the camera? The majority of camera apps have a timer function, so use it, especially if you’re using a selfie stick Battle of the Selfie Sticks [Round-Up Review and Giveaway] A week can't go by without somewhere banning their elongated presence. Despite this, selfie sticks are as popular as ever. We thought it was worth having a look at what's out there. Read More .

Your Tips for a Perfect Selfie

There you have it: 10 great tips that will help you to improve your selfies. Whether you share them on Instagram or stick your photos straight onto Facebook, you’re bound to impress your friends and family on National Selfie Day and beyond.

What do you think makes the best selfie? Tell us in the comments!

Related topics: Photography, Selfie.

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