Go to your camera roll right now. Scroll the short distance to the last time you were taking selfies. Now pause to observe. Chances are, you banked somewhere between five and 450,000 shots until you got the right one. We all do it. That’s because nailing the perfect selfie isn’t easy—it’s about the right combination of light, angle, setting, and photo filters.
According to a research letter recently published by the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, you would need 5-foot arms to take the perfect selfie because that’s the ideal distance for taking a picture in which your facial features aren’t distorted by the camera. “Often times, selfies are taken just 12 inches away from the face, which can result in a “funhouse mirror” effect and make your nose look up to 30 percent bigger than it actually is,” facial plastic surgeon Boris Paskhover, MD, study co-author, said via Live Science.
In order to confirm his suspicions, Dr. Paskhover and his colleagues used a mathematical equation to distinguish the extent in which cameras can distort selfies from various angles and distances. Using an “average male and an average female face” (which were found using measurements pulled from the average dimensions of a random selection of racially and ethnically diverse participants in the United States), researchers calculated how camera angles and distance changed facial features.
“Predictably, an image taken at 5 feet, a standard portrait distance, results in essentially no difference in perceived [nasal] size,” the authors determined in the study. “However, images taken 12 inches away resulted in a 30 percent increase in nasal size in men, and a 29 percent increase in women.”
While these results might seem obvious to some, others might view their distorted selfies as a direct reflection of themselves, leading to insecurity and a desire to change their features with the help of a doctor. Furthermore, a recent survey found that 55 percent of plastic surgeons had patients come to their practice because they wanted to look better in selfies (this number is up 13 percent from the previous year), proving just how influential one’s selfies can be on self-perception.
“Ultimately, these findings prove that how you look in a selfie doesn’t necessarily mean you look like that in real life, so don’t let it affect how you view yourself” says Dr Tan Ying Chien who routinely has a thorough consultation with all his patients to understand their psyche before proceeding with cosmetic surgery.
For the rest of us who are still determined to nail that perfect selfie, here are some selfie tips from a vlogger.
- Lighting is Everything
It sounds obvious, but the first rule of selfie-ing is to pay attention to your lighting. You need good lighting. Natural lighting. Good lighting can actually make undereye circles and shadows totally disappear. “Of course a good night’s sleep does help as does a good eye prep. I use Liquid Gold under my eye makeup, it’s my must-have,” says Emily, a beauty blogger.
If you’re shooting your selfie inside, beauty blogger (and frequent selfie-taker) Emily advises that you find a window. “Having nice, natural sunlight streaming in will make for a good selfie. Another thing I do is take a piece of white paper and hold it underneath my chin, which creates a natural bounce of light, illuminates the face, and also reduces the double-chin effect.”
- Avoid Shadows
“There is nothing worse than having a huge shadow cast over your face,” says photographer and style blogger Julia. “When in doubt, face directly into or away from the sun. If it’s the middle of the day and the sun is high, the shadows can look like bags under your eyes. The golden hour to shoot a photo is during sunrise or sunset, when the light is low and the most beautiful.”
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- Smile Like You Mean It
“Flash a real smile and no image will look bad,” advises Ariel, a model. Don’t contort your face into a grin that’s too big or forced. Natural smiles are always better. On the other hand, if you’re going for slightly more serious selfie, pull a Tyra and “try smiling with your eyes.” Lake’s advice for perfecting the smize? Practice in front of the mirror until you get it right. You’ll get the hang of it!
- Play to Your Angles
If there’s one piece of advice you should take from Kim Kardashian, it’s this: When it comes to selfies, keep your chin down and the camera up. There are about five people in the world who look good when shot from under their chin, and we haven’t met any of them. When taking a selfie, hold the phone so that the bottom of it is level with your eyes. Or better yet, use a selfie stick. They’re ridiculous in every way except one: Because you hold them up high, they make everyone look svelte and supermodel-y in photos.
Furthermore, you probably shouldn’t stare directly into the camera. “Most people don’t look their best straight-on. Turn to the side a little bit — not to the point where it’s a full-on profile, but just slightly,” says makeup artist Nick.
Read more: Glam It Up the Monroe Way
- Don’t Over-Edit
While we’re all for editing and filtering, don’t adjust your selfie to the point that it looks unnatural. When editing, use a really light touch. It’s easy to get carried away. Only touch up the areas that are glaringly obvious to you — those little lines around your eyes make you look human. If you’re using a filter, you also have the option to not use it at max capacity. Instead of just selecting a photo filter on Instagram, click on the filter itself (Amaro, Valencia, etc.) until a sliding bar comes up. Then you can reduce the severity of the filter, making the photo appear a little less edited. Remember don’t compensate poor skin with a heavy hand on the photoshop department. “I usually prep my skin with a spritz of Rose Ginseng Toner so my skin looks hydrated and supple, you can’t fake a glow with dehydrated skin” says Rosie, a model.
Read More: 5 Common Makeup Mistakes to Avoid
- Don’t Overthink It
Just relax. A trying-too-hard selfie is never going to be a good one. The thing about selfies is that you don’t want them to be too serious. If your makeup looks like it took you an hour to do and you look too posed, you’re not doing it right. The best selfie poses are the ones that come naturally to you.
- Embrace Natural Expressions
“Right before you snap a selfie, say ‘yes’ in your head, or ‘yasss’ if you’re feeling extra sassy. You can also inhale just as you hit the shutter for lightly parted lips and a relaxed expression,” Liberty says. He also recommends keeping your eyes shut until the moment before you take the shot. “Expressions look best when they’re fresh.”
Read more: Do You Have Chin Envy?