Selfies may be the in thing (the word was so popularly used it made it into the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary last year), but self-portraits are not new.
As early as the mid-15 th century, artists were already depicting themselves on canvas. The first self-portrait photograph was shot in 1839 by American photography pioneer, Robert Cornelius.
What has made selfies (self-portrait photos) a meme has been the proliferation of accessible, easy-to-use technology for taking pictures (think mobile phones and tablets) as well as a deluge of photo-sharing websites for people to show off their self-expressions.
But just because it can be done does not mean that everyone knows how to do it right. Here are some top tips and tech from seasoned photographers to help make your selfies spectacular.
Get Your Equipment Right
Not all mobile phones are made equal. Some are better equipped for selfies. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (S$618), made famous by Ellen DeGeneres when she posted an Oscar selfie taken with it, is one such smart device. Its front-facing lens (the lens faces the user rather than outwards towards the subject) makes it easier for selfie-snapping. It has an additional picture-in-picture mode that uses both the front and rear-facing cameras, letting you insert yourself into a picture with your subject. You will never be left out again.
For the selfie aficionado, the latest Samsung phone – Galaxy K Zoom (S$798) – is a must-buy. It is the first selfie-friendly camera-specialised smart phone. Apart from its impressive camera specifications, what puts it streets ahead in the selfie scene is its Selfie Alarm. The phone’s back camera can actually sense when you are trying to take a selfie (from the way you position yourself) and detect your face. After three beeps, it takes your picture automatically. You won’t have to worry about hitting the capture button and shaking your perfectly composed shot.
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (S$798) solves this same problem of tapping the capture button in another way. It has a physical shutter button that makes taking selfies easier because it allows you to click where you would naturally grip the phone, reducing the chances of shaky shots. Waterproof features mean that you can take pictures under water, or even adventurously experiment with mood shots in the rain!
Your choice of background can affect your selfie. Messy rooms and fussy backgrounds make your selfies look more amateurish. HTC One M8’s (S$998) is a great mobile phone for including interesting backgrounds in your selfie thanks to its wide-angle lens. With the wide-angle lens, everyone can be included in your group selfies, too. There is even a timer countdown so no one will be caught off-guard.
“Take as many selfies as possible. Try different angles to be familiar with your camera’s scope,” says Edward Tien, Voters’ Choice Award winner of the CapitaLand-National Geographic Channel Photography Competition 2013.
The Apple iPhone 5s (from S$988) is just the phone for that. Its HD Face Time camera captures pictures at lightning speed, letting you take plenty of selfies at a go till you snap just the right one.
Another selfie tip that is applicable to any type of photography is light.
“The best light is natural sunlight,” says Tien. “Stand with the light falling on your face, not with the sun behind your head or your face will be in the shadow.”
“Get the angle right,” says Liew Tong Leng, second prize winner of the CapitaLand-National Geographic Channel Photography Competition 2011.“If you want to look slimmer, a higher angle works better.”
Friends of Selfies
If your arms are not long enough to let you take a high angle selfie, then mount your mobile phone onto an extendable selfie stick or monopod. 77 th Street carries a range that comes in stylish brilliant hues (S$15.50). It can be extended to nearly a metre and is lightweight, with the stick and mobile phone coming up to no more than 500 grams in all. With the monopod, you can experiment with different angles including wider angles that let you accommodate more in your shot.
Steady shots are harder to come by when attempting a selfie because there is only so long you can hold the camera still as you adjust how you look, your pose, the background, the light, and the angle. With a device as small as a mobile phone, every movement is also magnified. To give your arms a rest, get a smart phone clamp. They cost anything between S$8 and S$35. Just go to Funan DigitaLife Mall, the haven for shutterbugs, and shop around. With the clamp, you can attach your mobile phone to any regular camera tripod.
Another accessory you might need is a blue-tooth trigger (S$15) if your mobile phone does not have a self-timer. This helps you snap pictures remotely when your camera is mounted on a monopod or tripod and out of arm’s reach.
Catering to the selfie craze, Westgate has started a Social Wall at The Courtyard on Level 1. Three digital photo kiosks are available for shoppers to take selfies in, and there are even effects you can add to the photos for a dazzling finish. Apart from posting them on the Wall with a flick of the finger, the uploading feature allows you to post your pictures online to wow your Facebook friends. Within 1.5 months, the kiosks have generated more than 26,000 pictures!
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