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The best devices and apps to up your selfie game

The best devices and apps to up your selfie game
From Engadget - October 21, 2017

I am not alone in believing there are psychological advantages here. Studies have shown that seeing a good picture of yourself can boost your confidence, while taking a smiling selfie can make you feel happier. Over time, that can improve your self-esteem. But getting selfies to look the way you want requires a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career of testing gadgets that are often designed to help you take better photos. We will talk about those devices later -- best if you nail your technique first.

The basics

First of all, practice, practice, practice. When you have free time at home, take as many selfies as you need to figure out what angle works for you. Whether it's holding your phone up high, sticking your chin out at a particular angle or figuring out which of your smiles looks best, there are certain key elements that even the most advanced technology wo not address.

There is not a rule that applies to everyone, but in general, holding your camera slightly above your eyes will prevent the appearance of double chins. Tilting your head ever so slightly to the left or right will make your face look slimmer (if that's something you are going for), and it usually helps to stick out your chin slightly to elongate your neck. Ultimately, there are various flattering ways one can pose, and everyone's good angles are different. Your best bet is to experiment and learn what works for your face.

Understanding light

Once you have figured out your best angles (make sure you have a few to avoid becoming a one-trick pony), you will need to find or create the best lighting. Any photographer will tell you that light is your best friend, and that's equally true with selfies. This is something you wo not have much control over if you are outside with ample natural light. But if you are in an environment where light is coming from just one direction, try to face the light source without your hand casting a shadow on you. In fact, try to avoid any shadows on your face at all.

It also helps to understand the type of light you are shooting in. The best condition is natural light, specifically during the hour before sunset. Daylight is ideal for bringing out colors and details -- best for showing off a new outfit or hair color. But your pictures will look better on a slightly cloudy day than under harsh sunlight. Clouds provide a natural filter for a softer effect on your face and prevent the overexposure that can happen on a sunny day.

When you are indoors, very often you will be stuck under overhead lights that have an orange or greenish cast. In these situations, try to find a neutral light source and face it. It's also better if the bulb is covered with a translucent material like tracing/tissue paper or a light-color lampshade, since this filters the rays to avoid harshness.

Remote triggers to avoid blur

All the prep you do before taking a picture can be ruined by shaky hands. Sometimes, you have to hold your phone in a way that makes the trigger hard to reach. In those situations, using a voice or gesture trigger can be very helpful. Today, many phones from companies such as Samsung and LG offer voice commands to take photos when you say prompts like "Cheese" or "Smile." You can even ask Siri or the Google Assistant to "take a selfie" (though Apple's software is useless since you still have to press the shutter button yourself).

Activate these, as well as gesture triggers, to avoid introducing blur to your image when pressing down on a physical button. If your phone has none of these options, a good workaround is setting a short timer, pressing the shutter button, then framing your shot. You can also get a mini tripod for your phone, as well as a remote control, to take perfectly still selfies. I'd recommend a selfie stick, because they can be very useful in preventing blur, but they have been banned in so many places (I have had them confiscated at various security checks) that at this point they are not worth the investment.

Accessories you can buy

If you are serious enough about selfies to consider buying tools to improve them, the options run the gamut from lights to standalone cameras. Portrait photographers use a ring light to avoid their cameras casting a shadow on their subject's faces while creating a sparkle in their eyes. The phone equivalent would be a selfie case, like the ones from LuMee or Allure/CaseMate. They add bulbs around the screen of your phone that you can turn on when you are in a dark environment or if you just want a glamour boost.

Both the LuMee and Allure options have their strengths -- the LuMee Duo's lights are more flattering, while the Allure has a fold-out ring that makes for better grip and doubles as a kickstand. I prefer the LuMee Duo (and the Kardashians use it, too) but I wish it were not so hard to pry off your phone once you put it on. I have not tried other options like the Ty-Lite, unfortunately, so I ca not vouch for it.

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