9 Hacks to Help You Snap the Perfect Selfie

iStock
iStock

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.
iStock

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.
iStock

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.
iStock

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.

16 Soothing Facts About Muzak

Keith Brofsky/iStock via Getty Images
Keith Brofsky/iStock via Getty Images

Whether you know it as background music, elevator music, or, as Ted Nugent once called it, an “evil force causing people to collapse into uncontrollable fits of blandness,” Muzak has ruled speakers for the better part of a century. Press play on your favorite easy-listening album and scroll on for some unforgettable facts about the most forgettable genre of music.

1. Muzak is a brand name.

Much like Chapstick, Popsicle, and a certain type of vacuum-sealing plastic food container, Muzak is a registered trademark. It began as the name of the company that first produced the easy-listening instrumental tunes that played in factories, elevators, and department stores. As its popularity grew, people started to use Muzak as a generic term for all background music.

2. Muzak was invented by a U.S. army general.

Major General George Owen Squier
Library of Congress // Public Domain

During World War I, Major General George Owen Squier used electrical power lines to transmit phonograph music over long distances without interference. He patented this invention in 1922 and founded Wired Radio, Inc. to profit from the technology. The company first devised a subscription service that included three channels of music and news and marketed it to Cleveland residents for $1.50 per month. When Squier and his associates realized their product was a little too close to regular (free) radio, they started pitching it to hotel and restaurant owners, who were more willing to pay for a steady broadcast of background music without interruptions from radio hosts or advertisements.

3. The name is a portmanteau of music and Kodak.

In 1934, Squier changed the name of his business from Wired Radio to Muzak, combining the first syllable of music with the last syllable of Kodak, which had already proven to be an extremely catchy, successful name for a company.

4. Muzak has been releasing instrumental covers of pop songs since its inception.

The first-ever original Muzak recording was an instrumental medley of three songs performed by the Sam Lanin Orchestra: “Whispering,” by John and Malvin Shonberger, “Do You Ever Think of Me?” which was covered by Bing Crosby, and “Here in My Arms,” by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers from the 1925 Broadway musical Dearest Enemy.

5. Muzak was briefly owned by Warner Bros.

The sound of Muzak was wafting across the country by the end of the 1930s, which caught the ears of Warner Bros. The company bought Muzak in 1938, fostered it for about a year, and then sold it to three businessmen: Waddill Catchings, Allen Miller, and William Benton (Benton would later publish the Encyclopaedia Britannica and serve as a U.S. senator for Connecticut).

6. Muzak was designed to make factory workers more productive.

Muzak manufactured soundtracks, based on a theory called “stimulus progression,” that consisted of 15-minute segments of background music that gradually ascended in peppiness. The method was meant to tacitly encourage workers to increase their pace, especially during the productivity lulls that often occurred during the late morning and mid-afternoon.

7. Muzak helped calm anxious elevator passengers.

Since more advanced electric elevators diminished the need for elevator operators in the mid-20th century, passengers were often left alone with an unsettling silence that made them all too aware that they were hurtling upward or downward in a steel box. Soft, calming Muzak played through speakers offered the perfect distraction.

8. There’s a reason Muzak's tempo is slower in supermarkets.

Just like factory workers might move faster while listening to fast-paced tracks, you might slow down while shopping to slower-tempo Muzak—which is exactly what supermarket owners want you to do. The more time you spend in a store, the more likely you are to toss a few extra snacks in your cart. (It's unclear whether the slower music might inhibit the productivity of supermarket workers.)

9. More than one U.S. president endorsed Muzak.

Muzak was installed in the White House during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration, but he was arguably only the second biggest presidential fan of the genre. Lyndon B. Johnson actually owned Muzak franchises in Austin while serving as a U.S. Senator from Texas.

10. Andy Warhol was also a fan of Muzak.

Andy Warhol
Graham Wood/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Pop culture aficionado Andy Warhol supposedly said, “I like anything on Muzak—it’s so listenable. They should have it on MTV.”

11. Ted Nugent offered to buy Muzak for $10 million to “shelve it for good.”

In 1986, the Whackmaster put in a bid to purchase Muzak from parent company Westinghouse just to shut it down. According to the Ottawa Citizen, he called it an “evil force” that was “responsible for ruining some of the best minds of our generation.” Westinghouse rejected the bid.

12. Muzak didn’t formally introduce vocals until 1987.

As part of a rebranding campaign to modernize Muzak, the company started adding voice-accompanied tunes in 1987. Before that, Muzak broadcasts had only featured voices twice. The first was an announcement that Iran had freed American hostages in 1981, and the second was as part of a worldwide radio broadcast of “We Are the World” in 1985.

13. 7-Elevens blared Muzak in parking lots to chase off loiterers.

7-Eleven storefront at night
Mike841125, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1991, 7-Eleven parking lots in Southern California became well-trafficked watering holes for youth who evidently had no place else to go. To deter them from loitering with skateboards, beer, and lots of teen angst, the stores blared Muzak—and it worked. “It will keep us away,” one young loafer told the Los Angeles Times. “But they’re torturing themselves more than us because they have to sit inside and listen to it.”

14. Seattle is the capital of Muzak.

Though it's well known as the birthplace of grunge, Seattle also had a thriving elevator music scene. Muzak based its corporate headquarters there in the 1980s, and three other leading background (and foreground) music corporations opened in the city over the years: Yesco Foreground Music, Audio Environments Inc., and Environmental Music Service Inc.

15. Kurt Cobain wanted Muzak to cover Nirvana songs.

When an interviewer told the Seattle-based rock star that Muzak didn’t recreate Nirvana tracks because it found them too aggressive for its purposes, an amused Cobain said, “Oh, well, we have some pretty songs, too. God, that’s really a bummer. That upsets me.”

16. It’s no longer called Muzak.

In 2013, an Ontario-based sensory marketing company called Mood Media acquired Muzak. The company, which provides music, smells, signs, lights, and interactive displays to businesses to achieve a certain mood, consolidated all of its services under the Mood brand, effectively killing the Muzak name (at least officially).

Meet Horatio, the Old-Timey ‘Smart’ Speaker From Hendrick’s Gin

Hendrick's Gin
Hendrick's Gin

The tech news you almost definitely heard about this week was Apple’s unveiling of the iPhone 11, a characteristically sleek, user-friendly gadget meant to make your life as modern and efficient as possible. What you might not have heard about was the release of Horatio, a very genteel, relatively smart speaker from the creators of Hendrick’s Gin.

Horatio is not your father’s speaker. In fact, he’s more like your grandfather as a speaker. The tabletop device is made from brass, leather, and copper, and looks like the offspring of a phonograph and a candlestick telephone. He won’t eavesdrop on your conversations, but he also won’t necessarily answer your questions—his slightly snide, British-accented responses range from commenting on your outfit to telling you that it’s “a good day to carry an umbrella in one hand and a cocktail in the other.” If your cocktail happens to be a martini, you can rest it on Horatio’s built-in martini holder.

Hendrick's gin horatio speaker
Hendrick's Gin

The device was released by Hendrick’s new Department of Not-So-Convenient Technology, the intentional antithesis to virtually every other existing department of technology. While most people are optimizing their home offices with minimalist decor and lightweight robot assistants, Horatio is a mascot for those of us who miss the dusty, dimly lit, leather-covered comfort of Grandfather’s study.

He’s not unlike Hendrick’s Gin itself, whose manufacturing process is old-fashioned and utterly laborious. It’s made in a tiny Scottish seaside village on two types of stills, infused with 11 botanicals, and combined with rose and cucumber essences.

Hendrick's gin horatio speaker
Hendrick's Gin

To add to the intrigue, only five Horatios exist in the world. Each unique, handmade device costs $1113, and, unfortunately, they’re currently sold out. While you’re waiting for one to hit an auction block near you, kick back with a glass of gin and dive into the world of fancy Prohibition cocktails here.

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