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The Trick To Taking Insta-Worthy Selfies – Part 1: Choose Your Backgrounds, Strike Your Poses, and Plan Your Angles

Ever wondered how other Instagrammers all seem to have amazing, coordinated feeds, while yours turn out plain, messy, and boring? If you aspire to start taking better photos of yourself without having to burn a hole in your pocket on expensive clothes and professional camera equipment, this is the guide you’ve been waiting for.

To create an eye-catching photo, there are a few things to look out for: the background, the outfit, the angles, the poses, and the general colour scheme. All of this may sound daunting, but once you get the hang of it, taking good pictures will become second nature to you.

The first part of this guide will give you all the essential information you need to present your best self on social media – from pre-photos to post-processing – all you need is yourself, your phone, and your surroundings.

1. The Poses

Before you force your reluctant and frustrated friends to help you take OOTDs, it is important to first get used to being in front of the camera and understand your best angles. This way, you will get the best photos you want in a short amount of time.

In order to take a good photo, you have to know what you want the viewers to focus on and to be confident in front of the camera. Poses help to achieve these by naturally guiding the eyes towards what you want viewers to focus on. Want to show off your earrings or hair? Simply show your side profile or swipe your hair behind your ear to achieve this effect.

One of the most common problems people usually face is the infamous Awkward Hands – where you find yourself feeling uncomfortable in front of the camera because you don’t know where (and how) to put your arms to look natural.

The secret in looking natural with your hands is to let them do things they already naturally do; putting them in your pockets, playing with your hair, or even holding your bag – when you give your hands a purpose within the photo, it helps complete the look. Plus, it also makes you appear more confident and natural, rather than looking like a stiff robot.

Show off your better side profile along with your accessories (Model: Celina Eu)
Play with your hair and putting your hand(s) in your pockets creates a more relaxed, natural look
Rest your chin on your hand, or fold your arms for an effortless, nonchalant stance
Show off your accessories (like your handbag) to complete your look

You can also use different poses to bring out the special features of your clothes, like a slit dress or a flowy dress – movement can help highlight slits while showing off a little of your legs, or emphasise the waves of flowy dresses to bring out a cute, dainty demeanor. As an added benefit, it gives more life to your photos, ensuring that your outfit does not look too flat on camera.

Bonus Tip: Try burst shots

Get your photographer to take burst shots of you as you move and change between poses to capture candid movement!

A little swish shows off your legs (and makes you appear taller!)

2. The Angles

Playing with different angles using the same background can help make you look better and create a more interesting visual. Conversely, a bad angle can make you look distorted and short.

When your phone is tilted downwards, it creates a distorted effect

Pictures like these are always posted on Instagram, where the subject looks unglamorous and short – like a dwarf – probably not what you want.

This can be easily resolved by simply asking the photographer to take a few steps back. A common reason photographers tend to tilt the phone downwards is to keep your full body in frame. When the subject stands further away from the camera,there is no need for the photographer to tilt the phone downwards any more. Try taking the photo at the subject’s eye level (by holding the camera straight up) or from an upwards angle (squatting and tilting the camera upwards).

So, should we avoid downward-facing angles when taking photographs entirely? Not necessarily. Downward angles can be used when the subject’s height is not the main focus – for instance, when the model is sitting on the floor and looking up (towards the camera).

Bonus Tip: Try a 45-degree angle

When posing against a wall or pathway, play with different angles. Certain angles (like a 45-degree angle) can make your photo appear even more impressive, and give the illusion of you looking taller!

A 45-degree angle gives a little more dimension to the photo
Use corners to add an extra dimension to your photo – allowing it to stand out more.

3. The background

The background plays an essential role in accentuating and highlighting your outfit. A good backdrop usually either complements or contrasts with the colours you’re wearing – rather than dulling it down and causing the entire image to appear flat and uninteresting.

Take a look at these two images to see the difference:

The beige-and-white background (combined with poor lighting) not only gives the outfit a bland look; but also causes the model’s complexion to look flat with a skin tone that resembles an odd shade of orange and brown.

While the photo could theoretically be saved to a certain extent with post-editing, there is only so much you can do – without compromising the overall quality of your photo and  overexposing the subject. Besides, why not save the hassle by getting the fundamentals right on camera first?

To make yourself stand out in your pictures, take note of the colour scheme of yourself and the surrounding background. Developing a keen eye for unique spots and a strong understanding of how to match colours will be instrumental in upping your photo game, but do not fret – that can be developed with time.  Oftentimes, you rarely have to go out of the way to obscure, inaccessible places to find a good OOTD spot. Spots as unassuming as textured walls in the neighbourhood, flowers en route to your destination, or even just at your void deck!

While black and white are the easiest colours to pair for a good outfit, the problem therein lies in making these colours pop. In the case where you have a white dress and you only have white walls to work with, consider going wider than just a singular wall or pillar – consider looking out for sunlight and or shadows to add texture to your background, or pillars that can make you appear physically taller.  

At least Singapore’s hot weather can still be put into good use as exceptional lighting!

A more colourful background also go miles toward injecting splashes of life into your pictures, making them more eye-catching (for your viewers to scroll through your Instagram, of course). Likewise, when wearing black, look out for other dark colours – such as navy or olive green – to better distinguish your outfit from the backdrop.

When wearing colourful outfits, aim to find a background that either accentuates or contrasts the colour scheme you are wearing:

Focusing on a single colour can make the entire picture more visually appealing and satisfying.
Complementary colours like purple and yellow work hand-in-hand to make the picture more vibrant.

Bonus Tip: Try backgrounds that contrast with your outfit

When you can’t find a background that matches the colours of your outfit completely, plain white walls or the scenery can also be good to work with –  by framing your outfit as the only pop in colour in the entire photo, the spotlight will inadvertently fall onto you.

Bringing it all together: Candid movement, shot from an angle, alongside a single splash of colour to make the model stand out.

Beyond plain walls, keep an eye out for patterns, shapes and symmetry that can help to make your photos even more eye-catching. You will be surprised at the amount of symmetrical buildings and oddly satisfying patterns you can find around Singapore!

For instance, commonplace fixtures such as ledges, doors and chairs that you can pose with can help to frame your pictures.

Pathways can serve as leading lines that leads the viewer’s eyes to focus on you, forming a visually appealing and meaningful aesthetic.

You now have it. With the knowledge  of various angles, memorised poses and a keen eye for special backgrounds, you are almost guaranteed to take Insta-worthy pictures wherever you go.

Naturally, the next step would be what happens after your photos are taken – how do you edit your photos to stand out? Look out for the second part of our Insta-worthy Photography Guide Series to learn how best to edit your photos, using just your mobile phone!

Photos courtesy of Goh Jing Wen of the DANAMIC team.

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Jing Wen Goh

Survives on too much milo and too little sleep. Pursuing photography in the hopes that she doesn’t become a starving artist in the future.

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