Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


Photo by Chase Fountain / TPWD


From Selfie to 'Selfiescape'

A great outdoor selfie takes your surroundings into account.

by Earl Nottingham


An image that includes oneself (often with another person or as part of a group) and is taken by oneself using a digital camera or smartphone, especially for posting on social networks.

As social media-savvy Texans head out this summer for the Great Outdoor Scavenger Hunt (GOSH) and try to capture the perfect “selfie” at scenic locations around the state, it’s a good opportunity to talk a little about selfies and ways to make them even better when shooting outdoors.

Seasoned readers of this magazine should understand that the terms “duck face” and “fish gape” have no relevance to wildlife and are merely two poses employed by serious selfie photographers to aid in capturing maximum facial appeal and, ultimately, a greater accumulation of social media “likes.” In general, most selfies are posed, close-up and often over-retouched facial shots showing little or no background.

However, the key to a great outdoor selfie is to minimize the “self” component and add the environmental elements surrounding you to allow the viewer to not only see you, but you as part of the overall landscape — a much better way to share your experience. Think of it not as a selfie but as a “selfiescape”!

Photo © Pam LeBlanc

There are several ways to make your selfiescapes stand out from the crowd and make them much more GOSH-worthy.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE LIGHT! Regardless of the location, any photo will have more impact when shot at those “magic light” times of day — in the few minutes surrounding sunrise or sunset. Try to avoid shooting during the sunny midday hours when the light is typically harsh and unflattering. If you must shoot during the harsher hours, try to find an area of open shade. If you must shoot in harsh daylight, many of the new photo enhancement apps can help accentuate colors and add creative effects. Another good shooting opportunity is in light fog, which can produce a nice moody feel.

GO THE DISTANCE. Good composition is important in turning your selfies to selfiescapes. The best way to accomplish this is by putting distance between the camera and yourself to show more of the surroundings, making you just another compositional element of the broader landscape. At a minimum, a selfie stick will help provide some distance from the camera. For more separation, consider mounting your camera to a small tripod and using the camera’s self-timer, which will give you time to walk into the scene. Try not to end up in the center of the frame and instead strategically place yourself off to one side of the frame.

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU. Sometimes, the best selfiescape doesn’t need to include your face at all. Compositions such as close-ups of feet hanging off a beach lounge chair, hands building a sandcastle or hiking boots trekking through the desert can often say more than any facial expression. Just make sure you frame the image to include the background to help tell the story.

HAVE FUN WITH ANGLES! No law says the camera must be held at eye level or exactly straight. On the contrary, putting the camera at ground level or raising it high can produce exciting perspectives. Tilting a camera anywhere from 15-45 degrees can often make an image more dynamic and engaging. Diagonal lines in a scene always make it more interesting.

GET CREATIVE WITH EFFECTS. After shooting, explore your camera’s creative effects or those from third-party apps. Often, just adding some color saturation or warming the tones can make a world of difference in the final image. Be frugal with effects, though, or your image will look overly processed.

Please send questions and comments to Earl at earl.nottingham@tpwd.texas.gov. For more tips on outdoor photography, visit the magazine’s photography page at tpwmagazine.com/photography.

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