The Perfect Selfie

2018-03SelfieFeverLove them or loathe them, selfies seem here to stay. As long as people have faces, cameras, arms and the notion that anyone gives a shit, facebook and instagram will be straining with the weight of a bazillion vanity shots. When tech pioneers first developed the net, I'm sure they didn't expect to catch quite so much trout. With jaws set, abs tensed, eyes wide and lips full, it seems we've turned the lens on ourselves just to stand out in an increasingly busy online world.

It used to be we gazed at the world around us for beauty, inspiration and a record of human achievement. Some 60 years before the invention of the film camera, famous landscape painter John Constable sat below evocatively cumulus skies and tall, swaying trees, painting the intricate majesty of Salisbury Cathedral. His famous 1823 work depicts cattle grazing peacefully by a river as a smartly dressed gent squires a lady in the grounds and holds his walking stick aloft in awe of the natural beauty surrounding this holy place... His stick hath not an iPhone 5 attached to the end!

That's not to say there was no interest in oneself nearly two centuries before the dawn of the profile pic, but society's demand for the selfie paled in comparison to today. Furthermore, those attempting one had to contend with trying to sketch themselves whilst simultaneously looking into a mirror or body of water, remaining perfectly still and not getting a really concentratey face on - it wasn't an easy feat. Even Picasso, who is considered by all accounts fair cop with a brush, frequently got them wrong, painting both ears on the same side of his head or both eyes on one side of his nose. In fact Constable himself took a fair stab at one early in his career, nailing the trout pout long before it became de rigueur. But one only need look at the hollow, downturned gaze to see he knew his time could be better spent elsewhere.

If you're detecting a slight whiff of cynicism already..... thanks for paying attention. In truth, of course, there are times when selfies are acceptable. eg. Online dating profile, when there's not a Spanish waiter on hand to get that shot of you pissed and grinning on a night out or your publisher has given you a day to come up with an article on selfies and demanded your own should accompany it. However, the first time a millennial walked down the road carrying a selfie stick and didn't get chased by several people waving actual sticks, something went wrong.

Nevertheless, having already squandered half my word count on this selfie-bashing intro, here's my guide to taking the perfect selfie. Since i'm no expert in poses, fashion, make-up, hair.... or “how to take the perfect selfie”, I'm going to employ the timeworn “what NOT to do approach” and hope that at least narrows it down for you. Think of this article as one of those youtube FAIL compilations where drunk people repeatedly fall off swings, slides, trampolines and quad bikes, thus warning you NOT to mess around drunk on swings, slides, trampolines and quad bikes..... If however you own more than one selfie stick, feel free to sharpen all ends to vicious spikes, down a few sangrias and then mess around on swings, slides, trampolines and quad bikes....

Here goes:


Selfies are all about showing the world what a successful, care-free, fun-loving, cool and spontaneous person you are. You want everyone to know how rich and full your life is, so if you're out in public and you're not nailing both your expression and your aim in the first saaaay, 30 shots, it's time to take yourself to Selfie School (NB: there is no longer a Selfie School since the damages paid out in continuous lawsuits from students who walked into walls or fell down stairs whilst staring at their phones began to outweigh the revenue from tuition fees)

Learn to operate your camera phone with your eyes closed (great for thoughtful, deep selfies), calibrate your arm - not just angle, but extension and rotation. Practise that pout. Are you saying, “I'm having a good day, I'm feeling happy..... and pouting” or is it more “F.M.L., the world keeps knocking me down but I keep getting up.... and pouting”? Is a friend constantly letting down your paired selfies with their unsexy expression or ill-timed blinking? Could this affect the bottom line on your Facebook LIKES? It's time to consider whether you really need those kinds of “friends”....


We all know there's nothing more important than showing the world what you're up to, but like anyone with a drink problem, credit card and Amazon account can tell you, a few negligent clicks in one little corner of cyberspace can leave your life in ruins. You may have had the best night of your life, but if your boss is likely to frown on anything you did, don't incriminate yourself.... unless you're gonna get like, TONS of shares. Even then, shares won't pay the rent. Except share-shares, as in when you have shares in a lucrative business, like Snapchat.... or the fucking selfie stick.


Ok, you've attained the suggestion of a 6 pack and you've enhanced it to within a hair's breadth of reality with the most contrasty filter instagram has ever produced, but if your face has gone blue and there's blood trickling out your nose, eyes and ears, people are going to know you're tensing too hard dude. It's good to care, but try not to appear to care too much. Selfies are about finding that perfect balance between looking super-buff and not having blood trickling out your nose, eyes and ears.


There's no point taking the perfect selfie if you're not around to see the groundbreaking effect it has on the world – The tears of joy it elicits, the rifts it heals... the peace, wisdom and understanding it brings to all. Before you snap a shot, use the camera viewer on your phone screen to survey any potential dangers in the area around you and decide if this is the time and place to create your magnum opus. If you're old school and still viewing the world around you directly through your eyes and not via your phone screen, it might not be too late for you. Ask yourself if the world really needs another photo of your head. Will your head cease to exist simply because someone hasn't liked a picture of it on Facebook? If a head has a great hair day in a forest but there's no phone there to take a selfie, did the head really have a great hair day???...

Assuming you've weighed it up and you're still going the selfie route, be mindful of hazards such as wild animals, fast-moving vehicles, millennial-loving muggers and better-looking individuals passing through frame.

DON'T run out of time on your writing deadline because you've been procrastinating over taking your own selfie as requested by your publisher. DON'T spend ages agonising over whether to apply some outrageous instagram filters and attempt to look macho or remain professionally true to the scathing cynicism displayed thus far. DON'T compromise everything you stand for at the last minute.... DON'T. Just DON'T ...Oh fuck it, even Constable pouted....

Ian Greenland is a surprisingly uncynical wedding photographer and writer. Having lived in Andalucia, he also speaks Spanish, but far less sarcastically.

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