Despite the dismal news that selfies aren’t as attractive as you think they are and killed more people than sharks in 2015, the self-snap shows no sign of slowing down as the digital era’s favourite form of photography. Attention-seekers go to increasingly extreme lengths to get self-portraits with viral potential… but a new study from the University of Waterloo proves the perfect selfie comes down to just three fundamentals:
- Face size
- Lighting direction
- Face position
Researchers from the Canadian university generated synthetic selfies using 3D computer graphics. After creating 4000 selfie variations with six different models, they asked participants to select the images they preferred. The results revealed three essentials that, taken together, form an algorithm for capturing the perfect selfie.
Don’t Shoot Too Close To The Face
The size of your face in the shot – meaning how far away the camera was when it was taken – is a key factor in the success of a selfie. Daniel Vogel, one of the study’s authors, told Refinery 29 that, “In order to get good distance, you need to overextend your arm a bit and hold [the camera] a bit farther away than you might normally when taking a selfie.” A selfie stick might seem like the obvious solution, but Vogel cautions that using one could mean the photo is taken too far from your face, making your face seem unappealingly small.
Aim For Even Lighting
Moody shadows are not your friend if you’re looking for the most Instagram likes. The face should ideally be lit evenly – roughly from the front of the face, neither too high nor too low. Natural light creates the most flattering illumination.
If you know anything about photography, this one may come as a surprise. Photographers are typically taught to obey the rule of thirds, which divides a photo’s frame with a grid of lines – two vertical, two horizontal – to determine the ideal placement of the subject. Conventional theory says the subject’s face should fall at one of the intersection points of the dividing lines, but Vogel’s research found the selfies performed best when the subject was centred in the frame, closer to the upper edge.
Vogel tested these results by inviting real people to use the algorithm in an app that directed them to position the camera in the optimal place. Selfies that used the algorithm were rated 26% higher than those taken without it.
“This is just the beginning of what is possible,” said Vogel. “We can expand the variables to include aspects such as hairstyle, types of smile or even the outfit you wear. When it comes to teaching people to take better selfies, the sky’s the limit.”