Do you hate your selfies? I guess the answer to that question is: if you’re a millennial, you love your selfies. If you are over a certain age, yes, you hate them. It doesn’t have to be this way!

I Pose and Take a Selfie. I Groan. Ugh. Awful. Delete!

Here’s the thing: the reason young people take such good selfies is twofold. First, they are young, so every picture looks great. Youth is beauty. And secondly, what they don’t tell you is: they practice, practice, practice.

We think they hold up a phone and snap, voila. What you don’t know is they have taken hundreds of pictures of themselves and scrutinized them for days, until they figured out their face, their pose, their look.

Selfies Are Anything But Casual

They are actually very studied. The key is to understand your face. To understand your angles. To change your angles. To figure out and tweak your weak spots. To be aware of shadows and lighting. And that’s why there are fashion photographers! Snap.

Understand that what works for Kim Kardashian won’t necessarily work for you. She says, “camera up, chin down,” and my daughter says exactly the opposite, “chin up, camera down.” To clarify, she says, “It all depends on the shape of your face.” So, first thing, know the shape of your face.

First of all, for the women out there, there’s makeup. The makeup you put on to go out into the world, is not the same makeup that registers in a selfie. Make up in a selfie always has to be stronger, to the point where you would feel ridiculous being out in public looking like that.

The same goes for video chats. Sixty and Me’s Margaret Manning and Ariane Poole did a video on makeup for video chats.

The Attributes of a Good Selfie Are: Lighting, Angle, Direction and Expression

It’s all about downplaying your “bad” points whether it’s your arms, your ears and your neck. It’s about understanding how the shape of your face changes as you move your angles or lift the camera up, down, off to the side. The change in light angle can work magic too.

A selfie is about creating and constructing an illusion.

The neck is all important. You want your neck. You want to make it as long and thin as possible. Don’t squash yourself into your shoulders. Don’t put your chin down and hide your neck.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Try shooting yourself in bed, in a mirror, sitting on a chair, backwards, forwards, in elevator mirrors, lying in bed and sitting on the couch.

Liza Dunkel selfiesYou need to edit yourself just as an art director edits thousands of shots for Vogue. To show yourself as YOU want to be seen. Try different expressions. Go “cray cray.” (That’s millennial speak for “crazy.”)

My professional photographer daughter says, “It’s important to really take the pictures and not just look at yourself in your phone. Hit the snap button. Even if they’re not successful, you need the pictures to study them.”

Now, a Few Words About Facial Expression

In the fashion world you rarely see smiles in photographs or on the runway because smiling is problematical. You must either look grim, mysterious or moody. Selfie queen Kim Kardashian never smiles because, “smiling makes you look fat,” which is apparently the worst thing in the world to her. So she goes for grim or annoyed. Grim is cool.

Smiling is a messy business: eyes squint, cheeks protrude, there’s the toothiness or the closed lip. It’s why we apparently should “smize” – what Tyra Banks teaches her models on America’s Next Top Model. It’s smiling with your eyes. Hold your mouth still and think smile, but don’t smile. It’s hard to do. Fabulously alluring when it works. It’s smiling with your eyes open and your lips in a bare quiver.

Finally, never give the “say cheese” smile that looks like milquetoast. The new accepted practice is to oversmile. It’s an over the top smile that hurts your face and makes you feel positively ridiculous when you do it. But the result in the photograph is a happy person who just looks like she’s smiling. It’s brilliant.

If all of these dos and don’ts give you one big ennui… well, I’m just telling you why you’re not happy with your selfies. Selfies seem casual, but they’re not. The young people have practiced snapping themselves more than we ever want to know. So now that you know the secret of the casual selfie, go forth brave Boomers. But most of all, have a blast! And remember, even “beautiful people” can look bad in photographs.

How do you feel about your selfies? What’s your experience been? They’re here to stay…so what advice can you share with us? Please join the conversation.

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