The most underrated and criticized form of photography gets its bad rep because most people don’t know how to take good selfies.

Selfies capture perspective, character and the human element – factors of great adventure and travel photography.

-John V Cain

The Selfie = Open The Camera App >> Extend the Arm With The Smartphone >> Pose >> Snap…

They’re so easy to take yet there are more bad selfie shots on record than there are good shots of every other type of photography combined, ever.

To understand how to take good selfies, one must understand why so many visual atrocities have been captured in this manner since the inception of the word “selfie”. Then we can learn to take masterpieces.

Bridge From Ceningan Island to Lembongan Island on a Motorbike // Vagabonding - Vinjatek
Selfie Taken at Cenigan Island, Indonesia //

Let’s take it back a decade to when MySpace was the emperor of social media and Facebook was Harvard only. Like the dotcom bubble, it was during this time that the “selfie” boomed, but this bubble never burst.

All of a sudden, millions of people needed a digital portrait of some sort for their new social media profiles. It started out fairly normal, similar to drivers licenses and passport photos – just head shots or badly cropped images from scans of existing prints.

This was also when digital cameras became popular with camera phones on the rise. Naturally the competition for the “best”, sexiest and coolest profile photos began – by way of selfies. But the atmosphere of social networks back then were more high school than civil. Poisoning the art of the selfie since then.

Even now, selfies are like the red-headed stepchildren of the photography family. But with this guide, I’ll have you taking selfies to elevate them to be the golden child.

How to Take Good Selfies   //

Times Square, New York City ///
Times Square, New York City

The Background

Ironically the most important element of a selfie photograph is not the “self” but the background. Whether it’s a bedroom wall or a natural wonder of the world, the subject will only look as good as what’s behind.

So when taking a selfie, take it like you’re photographing landscape with you being in it incidentally. Beautiful scenery obviously makes for beautiful photos and it’s no different with selfies, even if you’re indoors. You are secondary.

Also consider the details of the background to make sure there isn’t anything you don’t want the world seeing that could be incriminating or embarrassing. Learn from the internet’s most famous bad selfie.

Angkor Wat Temple in SIem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The Angle

It doesn’t matter if you’re a natural beauty, average or have a face only a mother could love, everyone has a certain “good side”. By this I mean that perfect angle of someone looking at your face and you look your absolute best.

Find that sweet spot and practice doing selfies with your camera. Then you’ll be able to take flattering selfies on the fly in no time. Instead of struggling to get the right shot in public repeatedly.

It’s not about trying to look better than others, it’s about finding your best look with just the right angle.

Hitcase Pro: The GoPro Alternative + Review - Vagabonding VInjabond
Hitcase Pro + iPhone

The Camera

“The best camera is the one you have with you.” This is particularly true nowadays as smartphones take phenomenal photos and it’s something you’ll have on your person at all times anyways. When it comes to selfies, it makes even more sense.

All my photos, including the selfies on this post were taken with an iPhone equipped with a Hitcase. I never ever use the front facing camera but always the primary back camera. The Hitcase expands the field of view to 170 degrees for extremely immersive selfies.

Another option is to use the panorama app to capture your selfie with a generous amount of background.

Because remember, despite the name, “selfies” are not just about you but the world around you.

My Bungalow in an Undisclosed Area of Mexico // VAGABONDING
Undisclosed, Mexico

The Editing

Unedited selfies are like unframed paintings, perfectly fine as is but presentation makes it better.

I’m not advising you to go photoshop crazy with actual Photoshop. Basic enhancements with contrast, saturation, brightness, sharpness and cropping with apps. Filters and more advanced editing is great to add spice to selfies but don’t get carried away.



Blurry or out of focus is never acceptable.

Horses at Číčovice, Czech Republic /// Vinjatek
Číčovice, Czech Republic

The Multishot

The more shots you take, the more likely you’ll capture that perfect selfie. This is the most basic method of how to take a good selfie.

There are 2 ways to achieve this; snap a selfie, stop and look at the photo, snap again and keep repeating until satisfied or snap multiple shots in a couple of seconds in one go. The former gets the same result but without the odd stares from public onlookers and in the fraction of the time.

So when you take your selfie, rapidly snap photos in place (or with an app) with slight face and angle variations. Then just keep the best one and delete the rest.

This is the same way professional photographers photograph models. In this digital age, physical film is irrelevant so you don’t have to be stingy with going snap crazy.

Taipei Airport Vagabonding Minimalism
Taipei, Taiwan

The Mirror

There are very few instances where using a mirror with the camera clearly in the shot makes for a good selfie. When doing this, try to imagine the subject (you), not in the photo and if that photo would still be interesting.

Otherwise it’s tacky and unnatural.

Avoid the classic mistake of having your camera blocking your face.

The “bathroom mirror selfie” is the worst, especially when it’s obvious that’s where you are.

But if you’re compelled to take a selfie in such an unflattering place, make sure the toilet is nowhere in the shot.

- Sunset Over The Cave Village of Cappadocia, Turkey -
Cappadocia, Turkey

No matter how beautiful and objectively well photographed a picture may be, they simply don’t have as much personal value as suppose to having the human element included, of you and friends alike.

Examples of How to Take Good Selfies :

Life-Size Gundam Robot in Tokyo /// Vinjatek
Tokyo, Japan
Zip Lining Sentosa Island in Singapore /// Vinjatek
Sentosa Island, Singapore
Maya Bay Beach of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand /// Vinjatek
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Mount Batur During Sunrise /// Vinjatek
Bali, Indonesia
Gili Air Island Bungalow, Indonesia /// Vinjatek
Gili Air, Indonesia
A Day in The Life of a Vagabond: Bangkok /// Vinjatek
Bangkok, Thailand
Lounging on Lawn Chairs in South Beach, Miami // Vinjatek
Miami, USA
A Day in The Life of a Vagabond: Tokyo /// Vinjatek
Tokyo, Japan
The Great Pyramids of Giza /// Vinjatek
Giza, Egypt
Uluwatu Temple Kecak Dance Ceremony in Bali, Indonesia /// Vinjatek
Uluwatu Temple, Indonesia
Mount Batur Sunrise Trek in Bali, Indonesia /// Vinjatek
Mount Batur, Indonesia
Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey /// Vinjatek
Istanbul, Turkey
Urban Survival at Taipei, Taiwan /// Vinjatek
Taipei, Taiwan

// How to Take Good Selfies

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  1. Masa Onaki Reply

    I think it helps to take selfies in beautiful locations around the world, unfair advantage :). Anyways, great tips.

  2. Jine Niner Reply

    I’ll be using your tips, also, love the little history lesson of MySpace. I think I still have a MySpace profile with a silly selfie.

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