Monday, February 19, 2018

The Art of the Selfie: Natural to Supernatural

(WARNING: This post contains many selfies of me. 
If you don't like selfies - or me - you are in the WRONG PLACE.)

Here's what's happening. About a month into my process of growing out my very short hair that I am no longer dyeing various colors, I'm already SO BORED WITH MY HAIR. So I thought I'd fix that by doing some selfies with wigs, and now here I am with a post that may be self-indulgent, but may also be helpful for anyone else who wants to level up in selfotography.

This post is not a tutorial on how to get any exact look, but it will include lots of general tips and ideas, plus information on products, devices, and apps I use. Plenty to experiment with! Also, the stuff about styling yourself is applicable to times when someone else will be taking your picture.

First of all, I take all of my pictures with my iPhone 6s, with the regular camera flipped so that I can see myself on the screen. I use some apps that are available for the iPhone, but I suspect that other types of smartphones have similar apps available. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of photography apps, and plenty of outstanding ones that are free.

So! I'll start with the relatively natural approach to selfies, for getting pictures that look like you at your best. You can obviously use your very own hair for them, but wigs are an option, too. Here's one of me with an auburn wig from Arda Wigs, in the style Vivien Classic. This is a great, shoulder-length wig I'd be comfortable wearing out in the world, and it's only $30! It arrives already styled, but you can use heat tools like a curling iron or straightener to style it differently. The top photo is completely unfiltered, but I'm wearing piles of makeup (more on that in a minute). For the second version, I used a pre-set "look" filter called Portrait, in the Snapseed app. I wanted to show you that even a perfectly good photo can be elevated to a more magical, glowy look without taking you too far from reality.

Tips for natural-looking photos:
  • Get yourself some good, ideally full-spectrum, lighting. For nearly all of the photos in this post, I took the original picture in front of the one window in my house that lets in perfect daylight: nice and diffuse, but bright. You want to have enough light, but avoid harsh, direct sunlight - at least for the way I do it. There's one shot coming up where I used a full-spectrum light that's sold for helping with Seasonal Affective Disorder. The effect is the same as whitish light from outside.
  • If you never wear makeup, because that's not part of your look, the lighting could be plenty for you, but you might like the effect of reducing shine on your face with some powder. If you're aiming for enhancing your prettiness, I recommend mascara and/or eyeliner, at least. Or continue on with the next level of makeup...
  • Whether or not the camera adds 15 pounds, it definitely subtracts makeup. So if you look at the above "natural" pictures and think I'm hardly wearing any, what you need to know is that this look includes a layer of pore-filling primer, a thick layer of full-coverage foundation, another layer of full-coverage concealer under the eyes, translucent powder, heavy, dark eyeshadow, fairly dramatic false eyelashes, and a couple of layers of mascara on both my real and false eyelashes, plus lipstick and some eyebrow pencil. It actually looks kind of gross if you see it in person. So the guideline is that if you usually wear makeup to go out, try tripling the coverage for your selfie. 
Ready to go for more glam?

In the green-hair photos, I'm wearing the Candy-Striper style from Arda Wigs, in the color blend "Dryad." It's long, with a blend of three colors, great quality, and only $35! I LOVE THIS STORE. (I should mention that I do not have any connection to the company - I just like it.) I'm wearing even darker eye makeup in these - literally black eyeshadow all over the lids, black liquid eyeliner on the upper lids, false eyelashes of course. Oh, and on the bottom, I have white waterproof eyeliner on the waterline, which is the name for the bit of skin above the lower eyelashes. Using white or skin-toned eyeliner there makes your eyes look bigger and brighter. I think I also had some shimmery green eyeshadow beneath the lower lashes. Dark eyeliner under the eyes looks too harsh on me.

The bottom two photos in this set look filtered, but they are not! I just took advantage of how the camera responded to the light as I moved around in front of the window. That brings me to another few tips:

  • Take lots and lots of photos, and pick the best ones to use.
  • Move around and try different angles. If you have age-related developments happening around your eyes like I do (thinning and sagging skin, dark circles, puffiness, wrinkles), shadows can be a problem. It's easier to control that problem if you're open to holding your head at different angles, and/or let your hair hang down over one eye so you only have to manage the look of one eye instead of two!
  • Make sure you crop your photos to bring the focus in to your face, and eliminate distractions from the background as much as possible.
On to creative filters!

In these photos, I'm wearing the Amber Classic style in Lavender. Each of the photos has gone through at least one filter, and this post is getting long already, so I think I'll have to take any discussion of filtering to another post. But this gives you a look at just a tiny bit of the range you can get from iPhone photo editing apps. My favorites, used in all of these, are Snapseed, Mextures, Union, and ImageBlender, 

And now for the supernatural!

Look how creative you can be! These looks are not even that extreme (check Instagram and Pinterest under "Fantasy Makeup" and "Cosplay," if you have doubts). I used bolder colors, face gem stickers, and artificial flowers, plus a more lengthy, artistic filtering process for the mermaid one. The apps I use let me layer photos and erase bits of the foreground image to let the background through, or change the opacity of the foreground for a more transparent effect, or use other image-blending techniques to make colors brighter, more subdued, higher- or lower-contrast, or just about anything else I can think of.

I hope this post is giving you ideas about how to rock your next selfie! And I hope you have an excellent day.

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