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9 Hacks to Help You Snap the Perfect Selfie

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For some, selfies seem self-indulgent; for others, they're a just a regular part of daily life. In honor of National Selfie Day (June 21), these nine tips could help upgrade your personal pics from so-so to standout snaps, regardless of whether you're a novice or a pro at capturing the perfect self-portrait.

1. ENHANCE YOUR JAWLINE.

Photographer Peter Hurley explains that taking photos up close can capture jawlines in unflattering ways—what many people call the "10 pounds" added on by cameras can often be attributed to the appearance of a slight or accentuated double chin. Luckily, you can fix this in a pinch with a simple trick: adjusting the angle of your head. Pushing your forehead out and down tightens skin around jawline, diminishing the appearance of sagging skin while defining the neck and adding contrast between the two.

2. INVEST IN A SELFIE STICK.

Selfie sticks might have gotten a bad rap when they blew up the market a few years ago, but the public stigma has mostly subsided (especially now that no one is trying to rebrand them as "monopods" or "narcissticks" anymore). Selfie sticks can be particularly useful when traveling alone or for trying to catch the perfect background view when your arms just won't reach. Plus, these simple contraptions make selfies with groups of friends so much easier and higher quality.

3. GET OUT OF THE BATHROOM.

Woman taking a selfie.
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If you tend to take a lot of mirror selfies in the restroom, it’s time to pick a new backdrop. Ditch the MySpace-era bathroom selfie for a brighter, less soap-scummy room. Also, the fluorescent, yellow lighting in bathrooms can make you look prematurely aged, while mirrors will reflect unflattering lighting in all directions, essentially creating the worst possible filter.

4. BE AWARE OF YOUR LIGHTING.

Lighting truly makes a selfie, so swap out fluorescent overhead lights for more natural light that makes you glow. Larger, diffused bulbs are softer on your complexion than smaller bulbs, which create harsh, direct lighting. Portrait photographer Sarah Sloboda also recommends facing your light source (whether that be an open window or a soft-lit lamp) and keeping lights at eye-level—the most flattering position for face-on selfies.

5. ADD MORE CURVES TO YOUR POSE.

Model Tess Holliday recommends striking a pose to add more definition to full-body snaps. Placing a hand on your waist and popping a knee can add curves and visual dimension, especially in billowy or non-form-fitting clothing. While at first the photo pose can feel a little unnatural, it’ll soon become second nature when selfie after selfie looks great.

6. USE THE RULE OF THIRDS.

Woman taking a selfie with a camera.
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Just because you're taking a selfie doesn't mean you can’t keep to the rules of photo composition. The Rule of Thirds—which divides photos into a three-by-three grid—suggests that you can take flattering and visually interesting images by moving the subject off-center. For a new take, position your face in the left or right upper-third of the photo, with your eyes about one-third of the way down.

7. EXPERIMENT TO FIND YOUR BEST ANGLE.

Finding the right angle for your face can make all the difference. Selfie aficionado Kim Kardashian (she did publish an entire book of selfies, so we trust she knows what she's talking about) recommends her trick for slimming down her face: chin tucked down, with the camera held slightly above face level. This angle can soften round faces while eliminating neck rolls. If your arms are feeling a little short, the selfie stick can really help here.

8. EMBRACE FILTERS.

In the world of selfies, retouching isn’t vain. In fact, photographer Ryan Hebert says you shouldn’t be afraid to "smack a filter on it," simply because it makes selfies more flattering. If you're not a fan of adding full filters, it's still OK to retouch certain areas by softening harsh lines or adding more shadows. But if you're simply looking too good for a filter, don't forget to add that #nofilter hashtag.

9. REALLY, JUST DON'T OVERTHINK IT.

Man takes a selfie with the Eiffel Tower.
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If your camera roll is full of attempted selfies, stop and think about what your end goal is. Are you wanting to document the moment or are you aiming for a model-esque headshot? A good selfie should be uplifting and easily sharable with friends and family to let them know that you're experiencing something fun or unique, or that you're just looking really fly. The longer you take to compose your photo, the more likely it’ll look forced or unnatural. It’s just a selfie—so don't stress it. There are plenty more to be had.

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travel
LaGuardia Airport Is Serving Up Personalized Short Stories to Passengers
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In between purchasing a neck pillow and a bag full of snacks, guests flying out of the Marine Air Terminal at New York City's LaGuardia Airport can now order up an impromptu short story. As Hyperallergic reports, Landing Pages is an art project that connects writers to travelers looking for short fiction written in the time it takes to reach their destination.

The kiosk was set up as part of the ArtPort Residency, a new collaboration between the Queens Council on the Arts and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which sponsors different art projects at the Marine Air Terminal for a few months at a time.

Artists Lexie Smith and Gideon Jacobs set up the inaugural project at the terminal earlier this month. To request a story from Landing Pages, travelers can visit the kiosk and leave their flight number and contact information. While the passenger is in the air, Smith and Jacobs churn out a custom story, in the form of poetry, illustration, or prose, from their airport terminal workspace and send it out in time for it to reach the reader's phone before he or she lands.

The word count depends on the duration of the flight, and the subject matter often touches upon themes of travel and adventure. As Smith and Jacobs continue their residency through June 30, the pieces they complete will be made available at Landingpages.nyc and in hard copy form at the airport kiosk.

Landing Pages isn't the first airport service to offer à la carte short stories. In 2011, a French startup debuted its short story-dispensing vending machine at Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport. Those stories come in three categories—one-minute, three-minute, and five-minute reads—and are printed out immediately so travelers can read them during their flight.

[h/t Hyperallergic]

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats 'Blep'?
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As pet owners are well aware, cats are inscrutable creatures. They hiss at bare walls. They invite petting and then answer with scratching ingratitude. Their eyes are wandering globes of murky motivations.

Sometimes, you may catch your cat staring off into the abyss with his or her tongue lolling out of their mouth. This cartoonish expression, which is atypical of a cat’s normally regal air, has been identified as a “blep” by internet cat photo connoisseurs. An example:

Cunning as they are, cats probably don’t have the self-awareness to realize how charming this is. So why do cats really blep?

In a piece for Inverse, cat consultant Amy Shojai expressed the belief that a blep could be associated with the Flehmen response, which describes the act of a cat “smelling” their environment with their tongue. As a cat pants with his or her mouth open, pheromones are collected and passed along to the vomeronasal organ on the roof of their mouth. This typically happens when cats want to learn more about other cats or intriguing scents, like your dirty socks.

While the Flehmen response might precede a blep, it is not precisely a blep. That involves the cat’s mouth being closed while the tongue hangs out listlessly.

Ingrid Johnson, a certified cat behavior consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the owner of Fundamentally Feline, tells Mental Floss that cat bleps may have several other plausible explanations. “It’s likely they don’t feel it or even realize they’re doing it,” she says. “One reason for that might be that they’re on medication that causes relaxation. Something for anxiety or stress or a muscle relaxer would do it.”

A photo of a cat sticking its tongue out
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If the cat isn’t sedated and unfurling their tongue because they’re high, then it’s possible that an anatomic cause is behind a blep: Johnson says she’s seen several cats display their tongues after having teeth extracted for health reasons. “Canine teeth help keep the tongue in place, so this would be a more common behavior for cats missing teeth, particularly on the bottom.”

A blep might even be breed-specific. Persians, which have been bred to have flat faces, might dangle their tongues because they lack the real estate to store it. “I see it a lot with Persians because there’s just no room to tuck it back in,” Johnson says. A cat may also simply have a Gene Simmons-sized tongue that gets caught on their incisors during a grooming session, leading to repeated bleps.

Whatever the origin, bleps are generally no cause for concern unless they’re doing it on a regular basis. That could be sign of an oral problem with their gums or teeth, prompting an evaluation by a veterinarian. Otherwise, a blep can either be admired—or retracted with a gentle prod of the tongue (provided your cat puts up with that kind of nonsense). “They might put up with touching their tongue, or they may bite or swipe at you,” Johnson says. “It depends on the temperament of the cat.” Considering the possible wrath involved, it may be best to let them blep in peace.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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