In Praise of the Selfie

Five questions for the authors of “A Beautiful Mess”


Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman are two of the more inspiring amateur photographers we know. They’ve got a blog, an app, and now a book of 95 ideas to make you a better citizen of Instagram. Here they share a few thoughts on selfies, iPhones, and not letting your pictures languish online.


Like it or not, it’s the Age of the Selfie. What can we learn about the rise of Internet self-portraits?
One thing that sticks out to us is how eager people are to share and connect with each other. It’s funny, because it can seem narcissistic to take photos of yourself. But we honestly think it’s the modern way of sharing a little bit of yourself as you try to meet and connect with others online.

These days, if you can dial your mother, you’re a photographer. What’s the single most important thing to consider when shooting photos with a phone?
Lighting. Smartphones don’t have setting options like digital SLRs. You can’t just adjust your ISO settings if you find yourself in a dimly lit area. Of course, the built-in flash is an option, but flashes tend to flatten everything and cause photos to lose detail. The best bet is to pay attention to how to find the best light in whatever area you are in.

What are some of your favorite photo apps for iPhone or Android?
1. AfterLight. We adore all the filters — such a great help to make your iPhone photos really pop.

2. A Beautiful Mess. Admittedly we are pretty biased about this one, but we love adding cute borders, doodles, and handwritten phrases to our images before uploading them to Instagram. It’s fun!

3. VSCO Cam. A really great, basic smartphone photo editor.

What specific equipment would you recommend for someone who wants to graduate from the iPhone but doesn’t know where to start?
We have always used Canon cameras, so we are really comfortable with them. For anyone looking to get into taking better photos, we highly recommend a Canon Rebel. They are awesome little cameras with pretty affordable price tags.


What should people be doing with their photos besides uploading them to Facebook?
Print them! It’s so easy to upload your images to Facebook or Instagram and just forget about them. It’s kind of weird to be living in an age where printed photos are starting to become rare. Make it a goal to print some of your favorite photos from this past year and make a simple photo album, scrapbook them, or create cute photo-based crafts to gift to friends or display around your house.

A Beautiful Mess is available online at amazon.com, $14.

Photos: Courtesy of Amphoto Books