The “selfie” is now commonplace in modern culture. We use selfies to express ourselves - wanting the world to know how we are feeling, what we are doing, or what we look like at the time. We use selfies to show the world that we exist!

Taking selfies is easy, anyone with arms and a camera can take a selfie. That means billions of people (in fact, anyone with opposable thumbs), can snap a shot on the go with their smartphone - anywhere, anytime.

A selfie taken by a macaque monkey on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi with a camera that was positioned by British nature photographer David Slater Photograph: AP

While selfies have become a form of self-expression, they also have the capability to bridge the gap between an amateur self-portrait, and a professional portrait.

Need to quickly whip up a selfie for LinkedIn or your new website but it’s too much effort/time/cost to organise a professional headshot? Take a selfie. The trick is to make it look ‘semi-professional’. The simplest way to do that is to make it look like someone else took it.

Let’s look at a few ways you can do that.

Crop out the tell-tale selfie arm

Got a great selfie, but your arm gives it away as a selfie?  Try cropping it out.

Image © David Slater
Image © David Slater

Prop it up

Use a tripod with a smartphone adaptor to prop your camera up at eye level - then use the timer function on your smartphone so that you can get into position, to make it look like someone else took the photo.

Selfie of the author, smartphone on a tripod at eye level. © Peti Morgan

And before you say - oh you must have a really nice top-of-the-line phone camera…. I’m going to bust that myth apart for you. Photographers know light. They know that good light makes a better photograph. In fact, good light is more important - in my humble opinion - than the camera you use.

Give a good photographer a kit lens and they will make a great photo, using what they know about light to get that image. Let’s go back to our friend the macaque monkey above. Sure, he took the photos and they look pretty damn good. But a photographer set the camera up, with the right settings, in the right light.

This is what you need to remember when you are taking a selfie - with ANY camera, be it a high-end professional DSLR with incredible glass, or an old 4MP iPhone.

If you can just get the light right, magic will happen

For most of my students, the hardest part of taking a good selfie is not the tech, or the gear, or even the light. It’s not learning how to use their smartphone, choosing the right accessories, and finding the perfect backdrop. All of this seems to be 100 times easier than posing for them!

How do you look ‘natural’ and relaxed AND unposed when taking a selfie but pretending someone else is taking the selfie?? It’s hard enough posing in front of a professional photographer, but to pose all by yourself, with no one to direct you?

Well, I have a  number of tricks up my sleeve to help you achieve this, but here is the simplest and easiest ****to remember.

Look at your camera as if it is a person you are meeting for the first time, someone you want to make a good impression on!

Think about it - you want to appear friendly and approachable, so look like that. You’ll probably smile, right?

Try it now - look at something within arms’ reach, as if you’ve just been introduced. “Hello coffee machine, nice to meet you!”

What would you do? You would probably smile brightly, say hello, perhaps put out your hand to shake theirs?

This is what you do to a camera, to get a good shot.

Don’t worry about ‘posing’. Just be your friendly self.

I think that with the right mindset, anyone can take a good selfie, any time. I teach simple, memorable principles in my Pro Selfies Masterclass - in which anyone can learn how to take ‘professional’ looking selfies, in a fun video course that can be done in just a few hours.

I have one final tip to leave you with for taking great selfies, which might just be the best one…

When you are photographing yourself, act like nobody's watching. Be goofy, make yourself laugh, put your camera on burst mode and capture the moment. No one will know! Except maybe me, and I won’t tell ;-)

Peti Morgan is an award winning New Zealand photographer and the creator of the Pro Selfies Masterclass & DIY Brand Shoot. You can find her over at Instagram or her website

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