In my salad days I posted some supremely unflattering selfies. I was a photo newbie, a bearded amateur mugging for the camera. I’m happy to say that the results of my self-portraits (shared below purely for educational purposes, of course) have improved through experience, but if I had a ruthless robot telling me where I was going wrong it would’ve been a lot easier. Luckily, the magic of machine learning is now upon us, and it’s here to tell us how to take a good selfie.
Thanks to Stanford Ph.D. student Andrej Karpathy and the aid of a neural network, you can see what separates a good selfie from a bad one, and figure out why some selfies pop and others fizzle.
Karpathy began with a convolutional neural network, an artificial neural network designed to mimic a visual cortex. He then fed the network 2 million selfies, separating them into “good” and “bad” selfies based on followers as well as the number of likes. Karpathy then used a new dataset of 50,000 selfies unseen by the network, and let it categorize them accordingly.
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The difference between the best and worst selfies is pretty striking, but there are patterns among each category that you should definitely keep in mind when snappin’ for the ‘gram.
How to Take a Good Selfie
Let your hair out: Photos showing off your flowing locks are generally ranked higher than photos lacking in the hair department. The top 100 selfies in the sorted dataset don’t include a single male, but the top selfies for men indicate that styled hair is definitely in.
Get faded: Photos with slightly faded and oversaturated faces are seen as more appealing and uniform compared to their undersaturated counterparts. The best selfies were bright, while the worst were consistently underlit.
Filters, filters, filters: Nearly every top-ranked selfie had a filter overlay, with the majority of filters reducing contrast and fading the image itself. Chalk it up to that nostalgic look, perhaps?
Ditch the forehead: Whether intentional or otherwise, a surprisingly large amount of “good” selfies are missing a chunk of the subject’s head.Contrary to what you might think, the best selfies aren’t the most raunchy. In fact, there was little correlation between the amount of skin showing and the quality of the selfie.
How to Take a Bad Selfie
Fill the photo: We get it, it’s a selfie. But if your head looks like it’s about to engulf the entire frame, maybe move your camera back a bit, but remember to lean your head forward and down a little bit. Leave some room, if only to let the world know you have a neck.
Take a group shot: More people equals more likes, right? Well, not really. Only one group selfie was in the top 100, while the majority of the bottom 100 were group selfies. Getting the right angle for a group photo is also pretty hard without some light human contortion.
Shoot in the dark: poorly lit photos suck, and selfies are no exception. The worst photos were consistently dark or underexposed, and as a result full of noise that distracted from the subject.