From selfie sticks to touch-up apps, a slew of new camera gear and tech is helping mobile photographers improve their art.
Face it, humans aren’t naturally equipped for taking the perfect selfie, which is just out of arm’s reach. Human arms tend to be too short for capturing the most flattering angle.
Rather than relying on someone else to take your photo, new apps and gear are helping people take their own profile pics better than ever.
Put It on a Stick
Selfie sticks, extendable devices that hoist phones and digital cameras up to snap photos, are popping up everywhere to the point where they’ve been banned at some museums and tourist attractions.
“I wouldn’t say that selfie sticks are inherently annoying, but they can be used in very annoying ways,” said Jim Krause, a professional photographer and graphic designer who helped originate the term “selfie” by including it in his 2005 book “Photo Idea Index.”
He recommends stick users look before they extend to avoid blocking other people’s views.
In a recent selfie stick review for the Wall Street Journal, Joanna Stern noted that the sticks help capture stable video and allow for wider angles. She gave high marks to Digipower’s Quikpod Extreme, which has a rubberized handle and retails around $70, and also praised the $70 GoPro 3-Way.
“It folds up into a fairly compact package that can easily be tossed in a backpack, it has two joints you can bend to nail a tricky shot, and the bottom pops off, so it can become a tripod,” she wrote.
No conversion about selfies would be complete without at least a minor mention of the Belfie Stick, whose sole intent is to reach around to capture pics of your derriere.
Other accessories are subtler than a stick.
HALO is a small, wireless, remote-firing button from HISY. You place your phone on a surface, walk up to 90 feet away with the button and snap away – no gaggling arms or scrunched faces.
Available in both Apple and Android versions, the device costs $25, runs on a free camera app and comes in several colors.
CamMe, a free app for Apple devices, allows users to get remote shutter release by making a fist. The gesture control makes taking solo or group photos from a distance easy since you don’t have to hold anything.
Keep It Old School
For instant gratification, the startup Prynt combines nostalgia for instant cameras with state-of-the-art tech. An Android or Apple smartphone fits inside a battery-powered camera case, attaching via a lightning connector or micro-USB.
Special paper with Zink technology prints ink-free photos using heat-reactive crystals.
Prynt’s founders observed that we take thousands of photos with phones, but rarely look at them all. Prynt explained on Kickstarter that it created the case to make it easy to share pictures in a tangible way.
An initial shipment of Prynt cases is expected to ship in August for about $130 for the case and 10 sheets of paper.
Add a New Lens
For selfie takers seeking higher-quality images, the decision between springing for a professional digital camera or a better smartphone is getting easier.
“We’ve all got these mega-computers in our front pocket now,” Krause said. “Why not tell them to do lenses?”
Kodak’s SL25 Pixpro Smart Lens Camera transforms Android and iOS smartphones into sophisticated cameras. The lens hooks onto a smartphone with foldout arms and works wirelessly through a free Pixpro Remote Viewer app.
Features include a powerful sensor, HD video, optical image stabilization, 25X optical zoom and a 24-mm wide angle. It retails for about $300.
For a different effect, Lensbaby makes the LM-10 Sweet Spot Lens that fits onto smartphones and retails for $70. This lens makes photos where the subject is in focus surrounded by blur.
Krause uses other Lensbaby lenses on his digital camera.
“Digital is so capable of perfection that I love tools and tricks that can make things look less perfect,” he said.
The original photo is only the beginning. Smartphone apps now deliver Photoshop-style effects like smoother skin, erasing pimples and slimming lines in minutes.
The highly rated Facetune app costs $4 and works on both Android and Apple devices. Other top touch-up apps include the free Perfect365 and YouCam Perfect. Is the result a lie? Of course it is. For fans, that’s the draw.
While we might not all have the best reach, the right light or even a good camera in hand, a little tech goes a long way.
“Just go for it and take photos of yourself,” Krause said. Also, take a look at selfie-taking tips, like these in Seventeen magazine.
Mastering the art of the selfie has never been easier.
Alyssa Danigelis is a professional journalist covering the intersection of technology with sustainability, business, media, arts and design. Her writing has appeared in outlets that include MIT’s Technology Review, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Live Science and Discovery News. Find her on Twitter at @adanigelis.