Taking a selfie, sending it to your computer, editing it in Photoshop, sending it back to your iPhone, and then posting it on Instagram (#nofilter) is a little too much, right? You're trying a little too hard. Except now your best friend is posting flawless pictures of herself looking like she stepped out of the pages of a magazine--what's up with that?
A good selfie doesn't need to be taken with a professional camera, surrounded by professional lighting, by a professional photographer, and then professionally edited. But that doesn't mean you should throw up a #nofilter picture without making any tweaks. There's a happy medium: Selfie apps. There are tons of selfie apps for taking selfies, editing selfies, tweaking selfies, and sharing selfies--and they're there to show off just how fabulous you really are.
Get the mechanics down
The biggest issue with selfies is mechanical: It's difficult to take a good photo of yourself when the only tools available to you are your (suddenly very short) arms and a low-res, flash-less, front-facing smartphone camera. These three apps can help you get the selfie hardware experience without the actual selfie hardware:
CamMe: CamMe (free) gives you the convenience of a remote without the hassle of, well, a remote. This app lets you take photos of yourself with a simple hand gesture. Here's what you do: Stand in front of your iPhone's camera and raise your hand. When CamMe recognizes your raised hand, an icon in the corner of the screen will turn yellow. When you're ready to take your picture, close your hand into a fist to activate the app's timer. You now have three seconds to perfect your pose before the app snaps your photo.
CamMe works exactly as described, though you may need to play around with it a bit to get the timing down. In addition to "selfie" mode, the app also offers "fun" frames (e.g. your face on the Statue of Liberty), but timing is even more difficult to perfect here. You can take multiple photos at a time by repeating the hand gesture over and over--no need to setup the app each time. As you might expect, this app works best in conjunction with a sturdy phone stand or tripod, since the point is to be able to take a picture without actually touching your phone.
#Selfie: Bigger is better, right? That's the philosophy behind #Selfie (free), which is a simple selfie-taking app that gives you a full-screen view of your face. This app is meant to replace iOS's default camera app (at least, for selfie-taking purposes). It's easy to use: Just open it up and tap anywhere to take a selfie. It only works with the front-facing camera, and it has no options other than a "full-screen flash" (shake your phone before you take a selfie, and you'll get a white screen "flash" for your picture) and sharing with multiple social networks.
FlashSelf: If you need to take a selfie in the dark and you're not sporting your trusty LuMee case, what do you do? You open up FlashSelf ($1), which helps your low-light situation by supplying you with a super-bright screen. This app gives you an extra lighting boost -- though not one as strong, or as flattering, as LuMee's--by cranking up the brightness on your screen. The app shows you a small preview of what your selfie will look like, though that preview gets smaller as you adjust the "flash" brightness (the preview gives way to more light). You can also choose what "color" light you'd like: Swipe right or left to pick from colors such as white, yellow, and neon green.
FlashSelf is a very basic app and perhaps not worth the $1 if you don't take a lot of low-light selfies. But while it's not the most flattering low-light selfie option on the market, it can certainly make the difference between a decent picture and pitch-blackness.
Photoshop: Not just for celebrities
I used to think selfies were a bit like Vine--simple, spontaneous, and unedited. But then I remembered that Vine videos can totally be edited with the help of a few handy apps. So it makes sense that there are plenty of (and by plenty, I mean at least a million) selfie-editing apps in the App Store. If you think your selfies need some oomph, these four apps can help you get it:
Facetune: Facetune ($4) is a bit pricey, but it's worth it if you want to attempt magazine-style retouching on your iPhone. This app offers plenty of subtle (or not-so-subtle) retouching options, including skin smoothing, red-eye correction, blemish removal (similar to Photoshop's Band-Aid tool), and color airbrushing. Unlike other apps, Facetune gives you almost complete control--instead of attempting to remove blemishes from your picture with an algorithm, the app asks you to swipe away spots.
Facetune is good for both beginners and seasoned Photoshop artists: Its subtle effects ensure that beginners don't go overboard, while its precise tools let artists pinch, swipe, and pull photos until they look exactly how they want. (And remember, you're already fabulous--there's no need to go too crazy with the Facetuning, here.) The app even has a "reshape" option, which works like Photoshop's liquefy tool (other apps move your picture for you--Facetune lets you do the pinching). Facetune also offers 30 color filters, 16 lighting filters, and different texture and lens effects, so you can do some Instagram-style editing before you even hit Instagram.
YouCam PerfectandYouCam Makeup: YouCam Perfect (free) is a selfie-editing app, and YouCam Makeup (free) is its sister makeup app. While there's some overlap between the two apps (for example, you can reshape your face, enhance your nose, and enlarge your eyes in both apps), Perfect focuses more on general editing, while Makeup focuses more on, well, makeup. In Perfect, you can tap individual blemishes to remove them (to smooth out the blemish), remove bags from underneath your eyes, and use the "taller" feature to make yourself look taller. This app also has red-eye removal, shine removal, face contouring (heightens contrast), skin smoothing, skin "toning" (changes the tone of your skin with a subtle color overlay), and decorations such as frames, effects, and lens flares.
But if you're looking to add some fake eyelashes, Makeup is the app you'll want to use. In Makeup you can do many of the same things as in Perfect, though not to the same extent (e.g. blemish removal is performed automatically, and you can't remove blemishes the algorithm didn't pick up on). But you can also add makeup, including eyelashes, eyeliner, eye shadow, blush, lipstick, lip gloss, and foundation. Makeup can of course be tweaked to fit your face--you can adjust the points around your features so that the makeup hits the right places, and you can change the color of the makeup and make it more or less opaque.
In YouCam Makeup, you can also play around with your eye color (I found this app gave the most natural-looking eye color change) and hairstyle and color, though you will need a very specific type of picture (head-on, hair pulled back) to pull off a realistic hairstyle change. I found that Perfect and Makeup worked best when I used them one after the other: Perfect first, for general editing, and then Makeup for a pop of mascara and lip-gloss.
ModiFace Photo Editor: The main issue--though it's not really an issue--with Facetune and both YouCam apps is that you're required to edit each section of your face individually. While this isn't difficult, it can mean that beginners might go overboard, which will make their face look a little out of whack. For a more one-click editing solution, ModiFace Photo Editor (free, with an optional $2 in-app purchase for more features) is a good choice.
With ModiFace Photo Editor, you're asked to place dots around all of your features right away: Mark your eyes, eyebrows, and lips, so the app knows how to apply its full-face looks. Marking your features doesn't take a lot of time, but it can be frustrating if you just want to edit one feature (such as your eyes), not all of your features. Once you've marked your face, you can start editing individual features or you can use ModiFace's full looks to tweak your selfie.
There are two types of looks: "Looks," which just change the shape of your face and eyes; and "makeup," which applies a full face of makeup (liner, mascara, eye shadow, blush, and lipstick) to your face. The "looks," which include "young" (larger, brighter eyes) and "glamour" (larger eyes, slimmer face) are a little hit-or-miss--you could end up looking great, or you could end up looking a bit uncanny valley-ish.
Show the world
Why take selfies at all if nobody's going to see them? If your Instagram followers and your Facebook friends are getting bored with your constant stream of snapshots of your face...check out one of these apps designed specifically for the #selfienation:
Selfie: Your Instagram followers aren't thrilled with 800 shots of your sexy mug, so maybe it's time to ditch them for a new social network: Thinkboks' Selfie (free) social network, which is a social network of just selfies! The premise is simple--take selfies, see other people's selfies, get followers, and share selfies with the world.
Easy enough, right? While you can upload previously taken (and, perhaps, edited) selfies to Selfie from your camera roll, you can also take photos in the app--and the app has some pretty neat selfie features. There's a selfie timer, several filters (swipe left or right to change the filter), and there's also a frames option. But by frames I mean multi-photo frames like Picstitch, not simple frames that go around your pictures. What's cool about the frames option is that you can take each photo for a frame in real-time, instead of taking pictures and then trying to fit them into frames. This lets you line-up framed pictures perfectly, which means you'll be able to set up some pretty creative photos.
Once you have the perfect selfie, Selfie lets you post it to the social network or share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. The Selfie feed is similar to Instagram's--double-tap to like (or unlike) a picture, hit the repost icon to repost a picture. You can't comment on photos, but you can chat with and follow users.
Everyday: You know those "picture everyday" projects, where people take a photo of themselves every day for a year and then make it into a cool video? Well, if your selfies are more for you than for your throngs of admirers, Everyday (free) can help you turn them into a cool video just like that. This app prompts you to take a selfie every day and line it up on an alignment grid so you'll eventually be able to make a cool video like this one. By forcing you to line up your selfie, Everyday takes some of the hassle out of creating the video, since otherwise you'd have to line up the pictures by yourself.
The app sends you daily reminders (you can shut these off) to take your selfie, and you can generate a video at any time. Once you've made a video, you can share it to your social networks or save it to your camera roll. Everyday can only process one timeline at a time, which is too bad--this seems like a great app for parents who want to document their children's lives in pictures.
Remember: Editing your selfies before you post them isn't about dramatically changing the way you look or fixing any flaws--we are all #flawless. These apps just give you the tools to present your selfies in the best way possible. Pair them with one of my favorite selfie gadgets to get an even better effect.