Scott R. Kline is a San Francisco-based photographer specializing in headshots and executive portraits. We asked him for some selfie photo tips because we’ve got selfie sticks available at every Kimpton hotel. We think selfies are a great way to document your travels and even document your favorite new eats. Take it away, Scott:
When I’m not photographing executives with my big DSLR or creating headshots for busy companies and professionals, I love exploring beautiful San Francisco’s most iconic views or road tripping through California. Photographing with my iPhone is very liberating—the shots always come out in focus and there’s lots of software available to make your smartphone photos look great. As someone once said, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” And I always have my iPhone.
I’ve gone through my Facebook feed from the past few years to see which selfies got the most reaction and figured out why they worked. All the photos below were taken with my trusty iPhones, without an extender or tripod. From my years of professional and smartphone photography, let’s dive into exactly how you can take a better selfie. Each selfe tip works on its own to up your game, but when you combine elements and angles, you’ll maximize your likes on Facebook and Instagram.
1. Find Your Light
When taking a selfie, shoot from above and face the light. This is a key selfie tip you should never ignore. Natural light is always best, but you need to be well lit even if you’re taking a photo inside, so find a window and bask in the sun’s glow. If you’re Instagramming from a dark bar, look around the space and find the most light sources and face those, and use your forward-facing flash if your iPhone or smartphone has one!
2. Keep the Camera Far from Your Face
Getting the camera a little farther from your face will definitely help—which is where a selfie stick (or very long arms) comes in handy. And as much as possible, try to stay in the middle of the frame for minimal distortion. Also, using the timer available on most smartphones, and a tripod like the GorillaPod, can make a selfie look a lot more like someone else took it.
3. Add Some Context into Your Shot
Getting the context at an event you’re attending can really make your selfie work. This selfie pic with my wife, Patricia, was taken at the 2012 San Francisco Giants NLCS win over the Cardinals. The game was won during a downpour. Still soaking, I shot this selfie with the scoreboard in back proclaiming the Giants champs of the National League. The context adds the story to the shot, making a good selfie great.
Advocate for Causes You Support
I shot this selfie after I had voted. The message is simple. I also like the Mid-Century print in the background for a little pop. I used an Instagram filter to put a frame around it. Also, don’t be afraid of a weird crop. A selfie with a positive message of advocacy is always a win.
5. Share the Fun During Group Selfies
I love to cram a lot into the frame on a group selfie. This shot with my daughter and nieces really shows the fun. One rule I broke here was to look at the image on the screen instead of the phone’s camera. As a result, it looks like I’m not looking into the camera—for a truly great selfie you should look directly at the camera.
6. Frame it Right
I shot this as I was getting on a private jet—not something I do that often. I wanted to show off a little, so I shot it looking away from the camera, somewhat aloof. Note how my head is framed in the white of the plane. Play with not only your framing, but your pose in the selfie. Although you’ll likely face the camera in most selfies, you can often take a more interesting shot if you work on the angles for framing yourself in the shot.
7. Get Graphic with Interesting Backgrounds
The pattern of the painted wall frames my wife and me well; the sunglasses let you know it’s outside. I like the colorful lines and the graphic on my T-shirt, too. Textures, patterns and colors can add visual interest to a shot, particularly when layered into the selfie. Kimpton properties are often renovated historic properties with gorgeous elements you can layer into your photo, or find interesting street art as the background to a travel selfie in a new city you’re visiting.
8. Get Seasonal
I put this Santa cap on and tried to appear sinister by looking out of the top of my eyes. I used filters in Snapseed to make it more Grinchy. I occasionally combine lots of filters and effects until I get the look I want. Usually, you should stick to just a few filters when editing your final selfie before posting online. A broad photo editing app can help with cropping and minor tweaking, then stick to either native filters in the app of your choice, or a single other photo editing app so you don’t overdo it.
Experiment and take risks with selfies—you can easily delete them when they don’t turn out as you pictured them. A constant stream of identical, beautiful selfies taken from the same angle can get old fast.
If you want to contact me or see more of my work, my entire portfolio (including some Kimpton executive photos) is right here.
— By Scott R. Kline with additional reporting by Kimpton