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How to Put Your Best Selfie Forward

‘Better Internetting’ is our etiquette column for a better (digital) you

It doesn’t matter how solid your follower-to-following ratio is or how many times this week someone’s slid into your DMs to say, “Good tweet!”: We all could be doing better on the internet. So before any of us sets another ‘thirst trap’ (see below for a definition) or workshops another high-concept Vine, let’s take a moment and try to be a little better. This is Better Internetting!

Let’s say you’re feeling the way you look today and are thinking about posting a pic of yourself to commemorate the moment. Fair. Maybe you wanna show off how good you look in your new winter wardrobe; maybe you’re hoping someone in particular will throw a like your way. There are plenty of valid reasons to toss a JPEG of your face out onto the ‘net. Selfies are powerful tools for self-expression and self-esteem. They give you the power to show people a version of you that you think is tight and hot and engaging to look at. But people will inevitably have a lot of feelings about your doing so, so let’s navigate these waters together.

Embrace the Thirst Trap

We’ve gotta get this one out of the way right away, ’cause there are some people out there who might try to make you feel bad about posting a hot photo you’ve taken of yourself (probably for the likes). Those people are garbage. Sociological and psychological significance aside, selfies can help you get laid! Who on this dumb planet could knock you for capitalizing on that? No one you need to be listening to.

You’re posting a picture of yourself in exchange for favs, and that’s cool. Hell, yeah. Now be good at it, which brings us to step two…

Mix It Up. Keep It Fresh

You’re taking these pics at least in part to let us know how your face and body are doing, but it doesn’t mean you get to inundate everyone’s feed with the same two flattering angles over and over again. A choice selfie can be powerful, but when you’re only hitting one note aesthetically, shit gets stale.

Ariana Grande is a perfect example of this. Take half a scroll on her Instagram any day of the week and you’ll get a feel for what pics of herself she likes best: they’re of the side of her face and usually with a kissy mouth. She looks great! It makes sense! But it’s also bland as fuck to look at for more than 10 seconds.

Because, if you’ve seen one photo of Ariana Grande…

stopped by @ultabeauty in Chicago today to say hi and thank everyone for making my fragrance #1!!! y’all are incredible! can’t thank you enough for your support. 💜💜💜💜 #Ari Also…. left a surprise for my babes at the Roosevelt Collection store in Chicago….. 👼👼👼

…You’ve seen every photo of Ariana Grande.

The key here is to know your angles and use them strategically. It’s totally valid to want to serve us your strongest looks, but some people want something more relatable. Sometimes, in addition to being a hot person, you’re also a person in front of some lovely scenery or a person hanging out with your buddies. Give us some of that too. It’ll help your audience get to know you.

Work with Your Environment

Location can be a huge part of the story you’re telling with your selfie. If the whole frame is filled with your face or abs in every photo you take of yourself, it’s time to elevate. Mirrors are your friends. Mirrors show us what’s in the room with you; they show us your outfit; they show us your phone case. Damn. So much grade-A social information to absorb and react to. Look at Chrissy Teigen here getting her makeup done:

Good morning Portland! @jenloura @makeupbyliz go team go!

She took a traditional celebrity selfie format (“In the chair with my glam squad!”) and made some straight-up art with it. Look at lovely Portland, Oregon. Look at her insane diamond ring. (And she managed to promote her likely-$ponsored Samsung device.)

And mirrors aren’t your only helpers. The world is brimming with props for your selfie comedy.

Is your mom asleep on a couch? Great.

🌀👆🏼

Have some downtime in a place with a bunch of giant posters? Perfect.

Oh yes right there baby

Want to show your fans that you can read? Ideal.

Yeah I know I’ve got a big forehead… but it was a really great book!

There are a million ways to show the world how good you look today without just flat out saying, “Look how good I look today.”

Find Your Light

Natural light is flattering. It just is. If you’re indoors, face a window (or at least don’t have your back to it). Be mindful of where the lightbulbs in the room are. For the most part, you want light shining on your face, not above your face or behind it. This is Photography 101, y’all.

Consider your timing

I’m a huge proponent of posting live (it’s called Instagram, not, PicsFromLastWeekend), so if any of the following pointers interfere with the above sentiment, toss ‘em. But generally speaking, 7 a.m. on a Tuesday isn’t a peak time for a sultry pic of yourself, and 11 p.m. on a Friday isn’t primetime for, “Check out this shot of me with my newborn nephew!!!” You’re best served posting your selfie at an hour when people will be on their phones and excited to see the kind of stuff you’re serving them.

Chill on the Filters

This might be a personal taste preference, but fuck it, this is my advice column. Your filters make your photos look bad. In nearly every case, the original, high-res photograph that your phone took is prettier than the grainy-ass results of your JV filter job. Don’t believe me? Scroll back to the beginning of anyone’s Instagram account, when the idea of a filter was still brand new and we were throwing Valencia onto a pic of a can of beer. See how shitty that looks? Two years from now, you’ll feel that way about applying Hudson to your face. I know you want to neutralize a zit or combat some perceived aesthetic flaw, but consider hopping into the little adjustments tab and upping your brightness or dropping your contrast first. You’d be surprised.

Basically, the selfie is an exercise in making everything about you. Work it.

Christine Friar is a writer in New York City.

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