How to take a New Year’s selfie

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that 2013 is the year of the “selfie” — also known as the self-portrait taken with a smartphone — since the photographic technique and style was not only used by so many all year, but the word added to the dictionary, too.

But how can you make the last day of the year special using this technique? Why with a New Year’s selfie, complete with fireworks behind you, of course.

To do this, you’ll need a smartphone, or a media player with a front camera. Selfies generally require the use of a front camera, and the New Year’s selfie is no different, though it’s really all about positioning.

Now if you’re uploading the image straight to Facebook or Twitter, you don’t really need to think about composition. Just aim the camera at yourself, generally keeping the handset at an arm’s length, and keeping your head in shot, with enough of the sky in view.

We had to take the test images for this story outside when there were no fireworks — sorry, that’s tonight, people, and this story needs to be ready now! — but it should work just the same.

If your camera software can meter for the right light, touch your face to make sure it’s focusing on you, keeping your face lit, because the sky will be bright enough once the gunpowder and chemicals burst in the big great blackness above you.

Then just fire the photo, and honestly, you should fire a few for good measure just in case one or two are blurry.

If Instagram or any of the retro-image services where square photos are what you’ll be shooting for, though, you’ll want to position your head in the composition in a specific way to match the square shape required by these services.

Aim for the centre square if you're shooting for Instagram, or cropping for Twitter later on. Don't worry about light, there'll be plenty on the night with the fireworks in view.

Remember, you can crop later even if you don’t use the app, but it’s no good cropping an image to your head if you can’t see the streaks of the fireworks, so set up the composition right to begin with.

Like before, try to hold the phone at an arm’s length so you can see your head and enough of the sky, and think about the centre of the image, because if you’re Instagramming it later, that’s what you’ll likely be cropping to.

One of these is right, the other is wrong. We'll let you and the giant "X" try to work out which they are.

If the frame includes too much of your face, you won’t see the fireworks, and if the frame doesn’t include enough of your face, you’ll barely see the top of you, so make sure to position yourself (and your friend that you’re hugging) so that you see more than just the light from the five minute long firework celebration bathing that skin of yours.

Owners of the Apple iPhone who have updated to iOS 7 (or owners of a new iPhone who have it anyway) will even find their camera app caters specifically to this type of photo, with a square option available inside the app, so you don’t even need to think about the centre of the image, and can shoot more naturally.

The iPhone even includes several colour filters, though if you are planning on Instagramming the photos later, we’d suggest shooting with the setting of “none,” otherwise those filters you love so much might not look as good.

Some photo apps on Android should be able to emulate this square shooting style, too, and include the popular Vignette, Camera FV-5, and Camera Zoom FX apps, two of which can be seen below. Windows Phone doesn’t have it quite as lucky, as there aren’t as many camera apps for that smartphone ecosystem. If you’re shooting here, just remember to think of the centre square.

Camera FV-5 (left) features numerous square formats based on the available resolution of your camera (look for the image resolution have two of the same number, such as 1520x1520), while Camera Zoom FX (right) will crop from the original frame in its FX settings under "crop."

There’s always shooting directly to Instagram, but if you’re taking the New Year’s selfie at midnight surrounded by thousands of others who are potentially trying to do the same thing, we wouldn’t suggest it.

Usually at midnight, the mobile networks are so overloaded with everyone in the same place trying to make phone calls and send short messages, not to mention all those people surfing the internet at once on 3G and 4G phones, that the networks are literally at capacity.

Anyone who has owned a mobile phone in the past five years and tried to send a message at midnight knows it doesn’t always work, so sending directly to Instagram might not be the best idea, and you could be fiddling with your phone trying to make it work and not just missing the fireworks, but missing that potential selfie shot.

Thinking of the centre square pays off when cropping with Instagram.

Instagram comes with the benefit of being able to run any image shot through other camera apps through its filters (as does Twitter and VSCO Cam, for what it’s worth), so if you shoot your selfie in a different camera app and run it through Instagram after the networks have settled a bit, or you’re home in range of WiFi, you need not be anywhere near as frustrated, and can have a happy selfie new year.