In a world of oversaturated Instagram photos, the art of taking a natural-yet-flattering selfie is a nuanced craft that many try to imitate, but few truly master. One of those masters happens to be YouTube beauty sensation and makeup maven, Michelle Phan. A quick perusal through Phan’s own Instagram (which currently boasts 1.4 million followers, to wit) yields selfies of all types—barefaced selfies, done-up selfies, and even DIY cloth face mask selfies. Clearly, Phan is a guru at the craft, which is why we tapped her to share her best, never-before-shared selfie secrets. Prepare the front-facing camera—your selfie game is about to reach a whole new level.
Keep reading for Phan’s best selfie-taking tips, plus her favourite photo filtering apps!
Phan says there are two lighting scenarios that make for a perfect selfie-taking environment, each with different final effects. “If you turn your back on the light, it gives you a more backlit look, which will make your photo look softer and more mysterious,” she says. “However, if you want your face to look brighter—brighter light means better clarity—turn towards the main light source, like a window.”
“When taking a selfie, it’s all about the angle!” Phan says. “Hold your camera and extend your arm out. The further the camera is away, the more it will reduce that fishbowl effect.” She recommends experimenting with landscape and portrait format, because some people look better in one than the other. Another tip: hold your neck out when posing. “Try not to scrunch in your neck, to avoid the double chin effect,” Phan says. “It’s all about posture, so elongate your neck.”
Not sure where to start? Phan says holding your camera out at a ¾ angle is the universal “good selfie” angle. Trying to look cute? Consider what Phan calls the Baby Face angle. “Hold the camera up high and bring it closer to you,” she says. “Because of the lens, this will create an illusion of bigger eyes. Sometimes I do the kissy face when I want to do something fun other then smile!”
Filters may be the selfie gods’ gift to us all (thank you, Walden and Valencia), but Phan says you shouldn’t rely completely on their power. “Instead of relying on the magic of a filter, get the photo right the first time,” she says. She recommends always taking selfies in good lighting, standing in front of a broad, soft light. One trick she shared we’ll definitely be trying? “Put a piece of white paper under you,” she says. “This will bring more light under your chin area and brighten up your eyes and face.” Noted!
With her makeup expertise, we had to ask Phan to share the best makeup for a good selfie-taking session. “Foundation first!” she says. “After foundation, if you need to cover up any spots or darker areas, use concealer.” She loves the Shade Play Mixing Palette ($28) by her makeup line, em Michelle Phan. “It’s customizable and allows me to perfectly mix the right amount of coverage to neutralize, correct and highlight,” she says. Another good mix-and-match concealer? Bobbi Brown’s Creamy Concealer Kit ($35).
Next Phan recommends sealing everything with a dusting of powder, then defining your brows, curling your lashes, and applying mascara for the perfect selfie-taking makeup look!
And finally, we had to ask—what photo apps does Phan use for her own selfies? “Photowonder, Vscocam, and Wordswag,” she says (two of the three in which the author of this post is proud to have already downloaded).
Phan’s last words for her legions of selfie-taking followers? “If all else fails, just smile!” she says. Simple as that.
Are you a selfie-taker? How do you take the perfect selfie? Tell us below!