As anyone who has tried to take the perfect selfie likely knows, getting these kinds of images just right can take a lot of practice. As a contemporary iteration of the age-old self-portrait tradition, selfies provide individuals with a new way to express and define themselves on their own terms. There are so many great reasons to take selfies, from celebrating your body, to documenting a memorable moment, to showing off a new look, so it's worth taking a little time to improve your selfie game.
My background is in art history, and when I look at modern selfies, I can't help but think of the historic European traditions of portraiture, and how both of these art forms often use similar conventions of self-representation. Like the individuals in the Renaissance portraits below, contemporary selfie-takers often create images of themselves in order to define social roles, assert status, or commemorate important events.
Despite all the tired criticism of "selfie culture" out there, there's not a lot that distinguishes the intentions of your latest profile pic from the vaunted arts of centuries past. There's no need to hire your own court painter for your next portrait, though. These old-master-approved selfie tips will have you looking as fabulous as a 16th century royal in no time.
1. Know Your Favorite Angles
Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of Sir Nicholas Carew, 1532-1533
Most people have certain angles that they prefer to showcase, so snap some pics of yourself from a few different perspectives to discover your favorite. Whether or not you love a classic three-quarter profile like Sir Nicholas here, you'll appreciate knowing that you'll always catch your fave side.
2. Experiment With Filters
Barthel Bruyn the Elder, Portrait of a Man, 1515-1550
Even if you like a more natural look, there's nothing wrong with experimenting with different effects on your selfies. Go dark and moody, like this portrait by Bruyn, or try a high-key filter for drama and emphasis.
3. Natural Light Is Your Friend
Albrecht Durer, The Furlegerin with Braided Hair, c. 1497
When it comes to taking selfies, natural light is definitely best. If you can't go outside, at least try to stand by a window for some added radiance.
Raphael Sanzio da Urbino, Portrait of Cardinal Bibbiena, c. 1516
Although Cardinal Bibbiena never got to watch America's Next Top Model, his smize (smiling with the eyes) would make Tyra Banks proud. This trick will make your face look more alive and inviting than a blank stare, so go ahead and practice in your mirror until you get it just right.
5. Pay Attention To Your Background
Jean Clouet, Portrait of Charlotte of France, c. 1522
Although sometimes it's fun to take a selfie at a big event with lots going on, generally it helps to place yourself against a more neutral backdrop that doesn't distract from your face. Charlotte has the right idea here, positioning herself against a simple black background so that all the attention goes to her awesome embroidered snood.
6. Ignore Body Shamers
Albrecht Durer, Dresdner Altar, c. 1496
When it comes to showing skin on social media, there always seems to be someone trying to criticize. But the thing is, only you can decide what's best for your body, so shut down the shamers and celebrate yourself however you please.
7. Accessories Are Key
Paolo Veronese, Portrait of a Woman, 16th Century
The right accessories can definitely add some style to a great selfie. Go Renaissance-chic with lace, velvet, and ropes of pearls, or, if you prefer a more understated look, grab your cutest sunnies and snap away.
8. Pose With Friends
Raphael Sanzio da Urbino, Double Portrait, c. 1516
There's something extra-fun about a group selfie with all your best friends (although hopefully you look like you're having a better time than these two). You'll hopefully love looking back later at all those great memories.
9. Just Do You
Lucas Cranach the Younger, Miniature of Barbara Radziwill, c. 1565
If you love to get dressed up and wear a full face of makeup for your selfies (or, like Barbara, you rock gold dresses and crazy hats), that's awesome; if you want to take pics of yourself sweating at the gym with no makeup on, great! There's no right or wrong way to present yourself.
10. Look Back At It
Andrea del Sarto, Portrait of a Young Man, after 1510
Get sexy with a selfie shot from the back. Blogger Nadia Aboulhosn might be the queen of this genre, but this guy knows how to throw some smolder as well.
11. Include A Pet
Vecellio di Gregorio Tiziano, Emperor Charles V with a Hound, 1533
Nothing ups the cute factor in a selfie quite like including your favorite animal friend. Give your fur baby some love for all their unconditional devotion.
12. Try A Full Body Shot
Jakob Seisenegger, Erzherzogin Anna, c. 1545
No need to limit yourself to close-ups! Show off your favorite head-to-toe look and share it with your fashionista friends.
13. Express Yourself
Albrecht Durer, Heller Altarpiece, 1507-1509
Like classical portraits, selfies exist in large part to give people a chance to express their personalities and values. You don't need a shield with your family's coat of arms to complete your images, though; just include the objects and symbols that matter to you.
Thanks to changing times and new technology, you don't have to be a royal to have your own self-portrait anymore. Use these classically-inspired tips and tricks to add some (really) old school flavor to your next selfie. Your Instagram feed will thank you.
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Images: Wikimedia Commons (13)