Five ways to take better selfies (without the stick)

Tired of blurry, badly framed, poorly lit selfies? Follow these tips to improve the quality of your personal portraits.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
4 min read

It's fun to make fun of selfies, and even more fun to make fun of the people taking them ( especially if they're holding a selfie stick). But, let's face it, front-facing photos are here to stay, so you might as well make them look as good as possible.

That can be a challenge. For one thing, your arm is only so long (hence the popularity of the sticks). Then there's the awkwardness of trying to press or tap buttons while holding your arm steady and not blocking the lens. Oh, and lighting? Unless you're standing outside during daytime, selfies often turn out dark or muddy.

Granted, newer phones are making these snapshots easier, thanks to features like wider-angle lenses and front-facing LEDs or even screens that pull flash duty. But there are several ways to improve the quality of your front-facing photos regardless of which phone you have. I'll share my five favorites; you hit the comments and add your recommendations for selfie salvation.


Friends hanging out at big outside music festival, in the sunset.

Klaus Vedfelt, Getty Images

1. Angle up

Your arm, that is. When you hold your camera at eye-level or below, you increase the risk of chins. And chins are selfie enemy no. 1. So when you stretch out your arm, make sure it's above your head, angled down toward your face(s). That way you'll have to tilt your head(s) up slightly, which easily and effectively solves this "chin-justice."

2. Use the self-timer

It's hard enough to hold your arm steady when it's outstretched. When you add the pressing of a button or tapping of the screen to fire the shutter, a little camera-shake is all but inevitable. Result: blurred selfies.

Thankfully, most camera apps include a self-timer option, and while that may kill a little of the spontaneity, it'll help reduce the shake. That's because you can focus on holding the phone steady without the acrobatics of pressing the shutter-release. Added bonus: The extra few seconds gives everyone time to remember to look at the actual camera lens instead of staring at the screen or (you know who you are) Home button.

3. Add a flash

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If you don't have an iPhone 6S or one of the handful of phones that has front-facing LEDs, you need a way to illuminate your face. Especially for those indoor/nighttime/clubbing/haunted-house shots. More light equals better pictures, period. (I know there are exceptions, but you catch my drift.)

Android users can try an app-based solution like Selfie Light, which simply blasts light from the screen. And all users can spring for a rechargeable, self-powered LED fill light that plugs into your phone's headphone jack.

Just hit up Amazon and eBay and search for "selfie flash." There are a number of identical-looking products that have 16 LEDs and rechargeable batteries, though some have the added benefit of three brightness settings instead of just "on" and "off." These range from $3 to $9 depending on whether they're shipped from China or the US. (You can find them for around £2 in the UK or AU$3 in Australia.)

Either way, it's an awfully cheap fix for low-light photos. And, of course, you can spin the LEDs around to add light to your rear-camera photos as well.

4. Make your phone easier to grip

Just flip your hand over for a more secure, comfortable selfie grip. Lazy-Hands

One reason selfie sticks are so popular is they relieve you of the uncomfortable claw-like grip that's typically required to hold your phone at arm's length. But there are other options for easier hand-holds, namely Lazy-Hands and Ninja Loop.

Lazy-Hands adds a set of finger loops to the back of your phone. This not only helps you grip it more securely (and operate it one-handed more easily), but also gives you a more comfortable way to hold the phone during selfies. Instead of gripping it at the edges, you can slide your fingers through the loops. Prices start at $9.99 (around £6.50 or AU$14).

If you want something a little less bulky and obtrusive, Ninja Loop affords a similar finger-powered phone grip. And that wasn't even a factor when I suggested it might be the best six bucks you could spend on your smartphone.

5. Hang your phone on a wall or window instead

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Look, ma, no hands! NanoHold suctions your phone to any non-porous surface. Selfie-time! Eoseek

Forget the selfie stick; how about a self-sticking phone instead? That's the idea behind NanoHold, which started out on Kickstarter but is now a shipping product.

For $6 (about £4 or AU$8) you get a specially designed sticky-pad that adheres to the back of your phone or flat case. Then you can just magically adhere it to just about any flat, nonporous surface (such as a window or whiteboard). Presto! Now you can use the aforementioned self-timer (or an app like CamMe) for hands-free, zero-shake selfies.

The NanoHold isn't designed to stick your phone to a wall for hours, but it can certainly hold it there long enough to snap some photos.

Watch this: Disney bans selfie sticks over safety issues