take better selfies

No one needs to be told that selfies are a huge deal. Though the self-portrait has been an artform since long before cameras were even invented, it’s just in the last few years that we’ve seen them become the “word of the year,” the subject of heated debates, and center of Kim Kardashian’s latest venture. But before you wave off the humble selfie as the purvey of teenagers with too much time on their hands, consider something else that has become ubiquitous: Social media.

“When I say ‘selfie,’ I also mean profile picture, dating picture, LinkedIn picture,” explains body language expert and Science of People founder Vanessa Van Edwards”because really, a selfie — or a profile picture — is our first impression online. People look at our picture and in 2/10ths of a second, they judge if they’re going to find us credible, confident, and happy.”

The importance of a solid photo of your own face can’t be understated. And while professional headshots for your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., are ideal, they can also be expensive and time-consuming to acquire. In a world where we all need multiple photos of ourselves for any number of reasons, a proper selfie is actually extremely important. So how do you make sure you take better selfies — the kind that could also be a professional portrait?

Vanessa says it’s all in the way you smile.

In her class, The Power of Body Language,” Vanessa explained the concept of the “micro-expression,” which is the “facial expression we make when we experience an intense emotion,” like happiness.

Often, people will give a fake smile in their selfies, which makes them look overly posed or unnatural. To curb this, says Vanessa, you have to make sure you’re smiling in a way that reaches your upper cheek muscles — and the only way to do that is to actually feel happy.

The next time you’re taking your own photo, try to think of something that genuinely makes you happy, whether it’s your best friend, your pet, or something funny that happened at work. Once you’ve got a real smile going, you can finesse your selfie by changing the angle of the camera (it should be just above your eye level, not way above it), and look for the right light (direct, not bright enough to cause you to squint).

Then, apply these other excellent tips from selfie master (and master photographer) Sue Bryce. All of a sudden, your cheesy profile photo is professional, flattering — and convincing.