How To Create More Breathtaking Selfies

Don Orkoskey | April 19, 2022
how to create breathtaking selfies

If you want to know how to create more breathtaking selfies that will stop everyone mid-scroll then check out the following selfie-tips from me, Pittsburgh portrait photographer Don Orkoskey. I've been a professional photographer near Pittsburgh for over 20 years and in that time I've taken a ton of selfies. Because of that I've put together this how-to from my years of experience taking portraits of others, my photography education, and from taking my own selfies.

Selfies 101

Welcome to selfies 101. What makes a good selfie? If it checks all of the following boxes then it will be a great selfie.

  • Well lit
  • Your eyes are in focus
  • Not blurry from shakiness
  • The background isn't drawing attention away
  • You look confident
  • You don't look like you're trying too hard
  • You're showing off something unique*

Nail It!

If you can nail it on all of those steps you'll take awesome selfies that will take everyone's breath away. Just know that when I say you're showing off something unique that I don't mean skin which, let's be honestly, is not all that unique. I mean some bit of clothing, jewelry, or holding something nobody else has or doing something that other people can't do, can't do well, or wouldn't think to do.

Read my 5 amazing tricks to using a selfie as your headshot.

So how do you create more breathtaking selfies?

5 Steps To Creating Mind Blowing Selfies

I'm going to tell you how to create killer selfies that will stun anyone who sees them. If you follow these steps you'll be sure to grab all the attention.

1. Location

First, find a location that is well lit and doesn't have a background that is distracting. The background should be darker than where you're standing so don't take your selfie under the umbrella on the beach. Take that selfie with the umbrella behind you and the light shining off the white sand to light you up brighter than the background.

Remember that the background should not be distracting. Forget about the bathroom selfie unless the bathroom is some place truly amazing like a wild dive bar or the International Space Station or the bathroom of a wild dive bar on the International Space Station.

Places that are popular with tourist are often popular because they're pretty. There's nothing wrong with taking a great selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower or Grand Canyon. Beyond tourist traps you can create more breathtaking selfies in front of interesting walls. Look for patterns or textures that speak to you. Do you want a grungy selfie? Try run down areas. Are you looking to create a selfie that looks slick and sophisticated? Find a background with lots of metal and glass.

2. Focus

Make sure your eyes are in focus. The rest of the photo can be out of focus but make sure your eyes are sharp and that they're what is drawing the most attention.

If you're taking a selfie inside or at night get as close to a light as you can. I mean crazy close - less than a foot from the lightbulb. This will help make sure that the camera can take the photos fast enough that there won't be blur from the darkness. It will also make you brighter than the background (see point 1).

3. No Flash

The flash on your phone sucks. I'm sorry but it does. It's really a flashlight, it's too small, too weak, and you won't ever look stunning in that light. If you're taking photos in low light find some other light source or ask a few friends (at least 2) to use their phone's flashlights to light you up but not from right where your taking the photo. Their cameras shouldn't be next to yours, they should be coming from a different place.

Have them light you with both of them on one side and slightly above you. Then you can face that light and turn your eyes back to your camera (with no flash turned on). Tell them to get as close to you as possible without their cameras showing up in the photo.

Alternatively you can use an LED light (or more than one). I'm a fan of the ring lights used for vlogging but there are also LED panels that you can attach to your friend's phones which will work better than their flashlights.

4. Confidently Effortless

A great photo look effortless and a great portrait show off how confident you are. This is a rule that you're welcome to break. If you want to capture a specific mood or look that doesn't scream confident go for it. These are your photos, you're in charge So you can delete any that you don't like. That's power.

Twenty years ago I was taking selfies with film. I had to wait days to get the photos back to see if I looked stupid or amazing, (it's a fine line after all). If I didn't feel confident when taking them that showed up in the photos.

One tip to make you feel more confident is to get a tripod or some other way to hold your camera and to use a timer or voice command. That's what I did in the photo at the top.

5. Attention

Hold something attention grabbing or do something unique that will make people pause to look at your photo. We are inundated with photos and videos these days. To stand out you have to do something different. A mind-blowing selfie isn't one that can fade into the atmosphere. It's one that grabs people and makes them look.

You want their eyes to move around through your picture, not just stay focused on your eyes. Your eyes are wonderful but if you're wearing a strange hat or holding a real human skull it'll keep them looking far longer than if you weren't.

Bonus Tip

Here's a bonus tip: control the light. If we only allow light to shine on the parts of the picture we want them to look at it we can direct their eyes how we want them. By creating lighter and darker areas we can direct their eyes. You don't have to have everything you don't want them to see be black. You can just block the light a little bit in those areas. Try finding cool places where you can stand in the light but where there are shadows you can let fall on parts of you. Using window light and pulling the curtains in a way that blocks the light from hitting places you want to minimize will help you do so.

Selfie Master

That's all there is to it - you're now a selfie master. Think about these things when you're taking selfies and I promise your selfies will improve dramatically.

Keep Learning

Do you want to keep learning? If you're in the Pittsburgh area or want to take a virtual photography class check out my listing of photography classes near Pittsburgh or contact me and let me know you'd like to sign up for a virtual class.

Check out my portrait work, my commercial work, and visit my artist website or Flickr to see more of my work. Have questions or comments? Hit me up on the contact form here.

Now go take some incredible selfies!

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