You’ve undoubtedly snapped a selfie, but have you taken the real plunge: a shirtless selfie?
It couldn’t be easier. Just remove your shirt and snap a photo. The shirtless selfie has become a ubiquitous calling card, unabashedly saying “Here I am! See me! Notice me! ‘Like’ me!”
Getting those likes aren’t always easy. The competition, to say the least, is fierce. Like daddy long legs spiders or female ghostbusters, there’s no data on how many shirtless selfie-ers are out there, walking among us, plotting their next flesh-fest. No telling when an innocent snap taken at the beach can lead one down the wormhole of shirtless selfies. Perhaps it’s the dopamine effect, that jolt elicited each time one of the 1.6 billion “likes” is clocked on Instagram. Or perhaps it’s the commonality of shirtless selfies amongst both celebrities and our peers, which has made it an accepted part of everyday life.
I wanted to learn more, so I went straight to the source, the #Instahunks or #Instastuds, as they’re often coined, a subset of guys with two overarching commonalities: abs, and an insatiable desire to photograph those abs.
What qualified as an “expert” in my research was a minimum of 20,000 Instagram followers. I came to this number for the simple fact that there seemed to be a clear break between the amount of #Instahunks that hovered in the 15,000 range versus the 20,000-plus. Another qualifier was that they needed to post shirtless photos regularly; you needed to go on their account and quickly be able to see #abs.
How do they do it? And how can they help the rest of us take better shirtless selfies?
Photographer Luke Austin-Paglialonga claims that a successful shirtless selfie is 80% lighting. (Sure, Luke.) His ideal spots are the bathroom, the gym, the changing room—everywhere I’d typically associate with the worst place to snap a photo.
“Jump for joy when you find a changing room that has strong strip lighting down both sides of the mirror,” he says. “Cause that lighting is your best mate.” Then: “hold the phone out about a foot away from you and just under chin level so the pecs are in full display. A slight turn in the hips makes the bod look banging—and don’t forget the slight scowl and furrowed brow for the ‘sexy’ look. This look usually comes naturally ’cause you haven’t been breathing for a minute.”
And don’t just take one photo, he cautions. “Take about 20 to allow for blurry ones, and ones where you weren’t sucking the gut in hard enough.”
Personal trainer Mike Thurston, who has 138,000 followers, claims you can’t build an audience without recognizing your target demographic.
“Are you out to impress the females, or do you want to earn respect from the guys?” he says. “If you have a large number of male viewers, be prepared for the onslaught of abuse that will come your way due to the fact that you’re posting a selfie in the first place. Second of all, I would assess yourself and ask, ‘Am I worthy of taking a selfie?’ In other words, are you in good enough shape? When a guy posts a selfie when he is comfortably out of shape, it’s just, well… awkward.”
Thurston advises downloading a self-timer app and setting your phone down to take the picture. “The fact that it comes across as though somebody else has taken the picture automatically makes you look as though you do in fact have friends and that you are less desperate for approval,” he says. “It will also give you the freedom to become creative and try some natural action shots, which will no doubt go down well if you get them right.”
Menswear duo Andrea and Matteo Pieri emphasize the importance of the filter, cautioning to use high levels of exposure. “Using one that has a certain level of contrast will show more definition, duh.”
You heard them. Duh! Obviously obtaining the perfect definition is as easy as selecting between Instagram filters like Valencia (a favorite amongst the guys I spoke with) and Kelvin.
For fashion photographer Leonardo Corredor, it’s about taking a deep breath. “Breath out all the way until you can’t speak—which is what models do when we’re doing underwear shoots and body stuff,” he says. “Make a silly face, and done. Effortless-looking selfie accomplished.” He’s also a big proponent of water, adding that “being a little wet always helps the shot.”
Hairstylist Kyle Krieger, with his 128,000 followers avidly watching, takes on a more cinematic approach with faded, underexposed photos. You could call him the David Lynch of Instagram hunks.
He emphasizes the importance of not taking this too seriously. “I get that standing around in my underwear is inauthentically validating and quite narcissistic,” he says. “However, when you put thought into it, and when you create a self portrait that is more than a lazy shot in the mirror after doing 20 push-ups or a workout to look ripped, it can turn an inauthentic experience into a authentic, validating one.”
If all else fails, I was given this hush-hush tip: You can download the app Facetune and create your own muscles.
So there you have it. Whether you’ve never taken the plunge or are a seasoned shirtless selfie pro, these foolproof tips can take you to the next level. Get a little wet in a changing room with strip lighting, turn those hips, breathe out until you feel like you might pass out, scowl, and don’t forget the filter. Good luck!