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Don’t miss your shot when setting up the perfect selfie

Members of the Young Lawyers Division take a selfie during the spring conference gala at the Library of Congress in May.

In 2013, “selfie” was the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year. The dictionary defined selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Robert Cornelius

In 1839, Robert Cornelius set up a Daguerreotype camera behind his family’s Philadelphia lamp and chandelier shop. He removed the lens cap, ran into frame, sat for anywhere from three to fifteen minutes, and then ran back to his camera to cover the lens. On the back of the image, he inscribed: “The first light picture ever taken. 1839.” (You can see that image to the right.)

In 1914, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia took a mirror selfie. The 13-year old Duchess kneeled atop a chair and held the camera as she pointed it toward the mirror. On the back of her picture, she wrote: “I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were shaking.”

Despite a long lineage of selfies, the first evidence of the word “selfie” came out of a drunken Australian’s 21st birthday party. Nathan Hope posted a photo of himself on an online forum, writing: “sorry about focus, it was a selfie.”

National Selfie Day was June 21, and today, selfies are not only a source of fun for all from Snapchats to Instagram but also implicate complicated copyright issues. In the most famous case, Naruto v. Slater 888 F.3d 418, 9th Cir., 2018, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a claim that asked if “a monkey may sue . . . from claims of copyright infringement.”

The 9th Circuit stated that “this monkey—and all animals, since they are not human—lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act.” The seven-year-old crested macaque resides in Indonesia. In 2011, the macaque took several photographs with David Slater’s camera.

But as a law student, and thereby probably broke, professional, you may wonder if selfies are an appropriate replacement for a professional headshot. Looking at your LinkedIn, Twitter, and even firm requests for social media photos, you can get around spending a lot of money on taking photos with a few simple steps:

First, suit up. You don’t want to look disheveled. Wear your suit jacket and a professional shirt. You know what you like, and what makes you feel confident—go with that.

Second, find a solid background with natural light. A solid-colored wall near a window. Ideally, choose a spot where the light does not stream into the room: you don’t want to strip of light across your face. Note that the lighting will change throughout the day. What may appear to be a poor choice with “streaming light,” may become ambient at another time in the day.

Third, think MacGyver-level creativity when setting up your phone/camera. Most smartphones have a timer for your selfie-camera. You can switch it to 2, 5, or even 10 seconds. Moreover, “Take 3 Shots” is also available directly underneath the timer options. Find yourself a table or a stack of 1L books: my own measured almost three feet tall. Those long-forgotten law school casebooks can be useful once more! But, in case, you rented your own books, a cleverly-held selfie-stick works.

Fourth, don’t miss your shot. Try to get a shot that centers your eyes in the middle of the photo and captures your head and shoulders. Ideally, the selfie should be level with your face.

Trying to save money in law school is important, but so is your professional persona. Make sure to honor the selfie pioneers (Robert Cornelious, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, Australian Nathan Hope, and Naruto) and don’t miss your shot.

Kayla Molina Kayla Molina is a student at The University of Oklahoma College of Law. She documents her law school experience on Twitter and has written for Above The Law. Molina has a Master’s in History. Before law school, she wrote National Register of Historic Places nominations.