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Taking a good naked photo is harder than it looks, even if professionals (Instagram influencers, sex workers, and Reddit models) make it look easy. Any casual selfie-taker—that means me, and probably you—can stand in front of a mirror and snap a passable thirst trap, but whether it’s good or should be instantly deleted depends on your experience and your equipment. Grabbing your smartphone and pointing it at yourself isn't going to give you good results—you're going to need to buy some better stuff.
First of all, you’re nude: Anything you do naked, if you’re not used to hanging out with your glorious, naked self on display, instantly becomes more awkward and clumsy than you’d hope. Second, you’re probably using a busted phone and the fluorescent, half-burnt light fixtures that came with your apartment.
I asked nude selfie experts for advice on how to strike the perfect naked pic, and their suggestions apply to anyone with a body and a desire to get flirty with their camera phone.
Your camera and how you hold it
Most smartphones made in the last five years or so will take perfectly fine photos—there’s probably no need to get a dedicated DSLR or mirrorless camera. Omfgmeow, an award-winning clipmaker on adult video hosting and streaming platform ManyVids and self-described professional nude selfie taker, told me she doesn’t upgrade her phone every year “cuz that is just wild,” but said she does update it every two years or so for the camera updates alone.
A lot of the art of taking nudes is about the angles and experimenting with which angles are most flattering for your body. What that means to you is entirely your call—and I’ll get to that in a moment—but first, you’ll need to decide whether you can grip your phone well enough to twist and turn it without dropping it. And if you do drop it, you'll want a screen protector.
“If this is nearly impossible because you have a giant smartphone, you're clumsy or have small hands—whatever the case, you need a PopSocket,” omfgmeow said. These little suction-cup shaped pieces of plastic stick to the back of your phone and help you keep a grip for taking photos.
“A PopSocket allows you to get the craziest angles while maintaining stability and that sexy booty pose,” she said. “While some people get help and have a friend as cameraman, most don't. These PopSockets will save your phone’s life and they are like, four dollars.”
If you don’t love the look or feel of a PopSocket, spending another $10 or so on a selfie stick could help get all the goods in the frame. Don’t forget to angle it so that you’re keeping the stick and stick-holding arm out of the shot. It’s so unsettling when people don’t do this.
Sex and culture writer Sofia Barrett-Ibarria told me that a tripod can also help: “Any device that can hold your phone in place is also great for getting an upward angle, which is bad for selfies but great for butt pics,” she said. “Any ass can look amazing as long as the camera is positioned lower than the butt pointed slightly up.”
Some selfie sticks double as camera phone stands, which can be helpful for another of omfgmeow’s recommendations: A Bluetooth remote shutter button. While they’re a step up in technicality from the PopSocket plastic and a literal stick, they’re still relatively inexpensive, and allow you to go more-or-less hands free. They’re also great for taking pictures that don’t require a mirror or an assistant. Some remote Bluetooth shutters cost around $15-20 and have a connectivity range of up to 30 feet.
Get lit with ring LEDs and window coverings
Even your most basic selfie-taking stage, you’ll want to be mindful of lighting—but you don’t necessarily have to buy any extra equipment if you’re strapped for cash.
“I would say natural lighting is absolutely essential and the most flattering,” Barrett-Ibarria said. “It also gives off a carefree daytime sex vibe.”
But even with the dreamiest natural light streaming through your bedroom window, the sun’s rays might be too intense, crossing from glowy to glaring. Omfgmeow suggest getting semi-sheer curtains that filter the light. This is especially helpful when you need to draw them in order to reduce glare in mirrors and on your phone.
If you’ve watched any amount of YouTube makeup tutorials, you’ve likely seen the results of a ring light, those round LED lights that leave a little ring of catchlights—the little specks of light reflected in the subject’s pupils.
"Since it's a ring of light, you have this beautiful neutral zone in the middle and a ring of light around the face, so it gives a soft glow along the edges," Stephanie Musick, an educator at the DVE Store, told Racked in 2016. "It's not a single source hitting your face, so it really helps wash out any blemishes. You don't need to worry about light placement. You just put it right in front of you and it illuminates you appropriately.”
Omfgmeow told me that she replaced all the all the lights in her house with LED ones, so that every room is photo-ready. But the casual selfie-taker doesn’t have to go that far. One ring light in your favorite nude room will do.
“These lights are great they will showcase your makeup, and even out your skin tone everywhere and bring some light to your naughty parts so there is less shadowing,” she said.
Use a mirror
Short of contorting yourself into impossible shapes, the classic mirror selfie is your best bet for getting your entire, glorious visage into the frame. Position a good-quality full-length mirror near your bed or in a spot that’s generally free of clutter, and snap away.
The “hoe mirror,” as omfgmeow calls her own floor-length mirror, is an absolute essential. “I cannot stress how much it’s necessary if you are trying to get the best selfies,” she said. “These mirrors are great for front pics, for booty pics, and for kneeling on the floor pics.”
How much you spend on that mirror could push you into the luxury-zone—some floor-to-ceiling mirrors cost upwards of $200. They’re beautiful, but not essential; any mirror that makes your whole body visible and can hang on the back of a door or prop against a wall will work, as long as you like the frame style and size.
Now that you’ve got that big glorious mirror, you’ll likely notice a lot more of your own clutter reflected back at you. Get that shit cleaned up, kick it under the bed, scoot it out of the frame, and generally move it out of your shot so the focus is on you. “No one wants to see a bag of Cheetos in the background,” omfgmeow said.
You don’t really need more than a simple setting—a mirror, a tidy room and some flattering lighting—to achieve the perfect nude. But if you do end up with stray junk behind your otherwise ideal pose, you’ll want to edit that out.
Omfgmeow uses Photoshop very sparingly, but suggests using other, simpler apps like Filmora to touch up lighting or crop as needed.
Angles, breathing, and sending nudes safely
You can have all of the above—LED lights all over your house, the latest phone camera, spotless mirrors and strategically-positioned tripods—but if you’re not skilled in striking a pose, your nudes will fall flat.
Here are a few tips for finding your good side:
- How you pose depends on what you’re highlighting, of course, so be mindful of where your focus lies. For a hint of sideboob: Lie on your bed nude, lift one arm, arch your back, and get your whole body in the mirror. For a sexy belfie: Lie on your stomach and shoot over your shoulder. Find the poses that work for you and repeat them until you feel comfortable.
- Professional photographers borrow a technique from marksmanship experts to get a clear shot, that works just as well for selfies: Set up your shot, exhale half a breath, pause, and press the shutter button. It’ll keep your hands from shaking and steady your focus.
- You don’t have to send your nudes to anyone or post them online to enjoy them. Taking nudes can make you feel sexy, if you’re into it and having fun, and that’s the real goal here. That said, if you do decide to share them with someone, brush up on Motherboard’s guide to secure sexting, before you hit send.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.