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If a picture is worth a thousand words, a selfie with a presidential candidate has to be worth at least five times that. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has been shy about snapping selfies with supporters while out on the campaign trail, giving whole new meaning to the concept of putting your best face forward.
In her selfies, whether taken with celebrities like Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian West or everyday voters, former Secretary of State Clinton typically has her gaze turned upward and a big grin plastered across her face.
As for Trump, the former host of The Apprentice usually looks straight into the camera, with a practiced smile that is worlds away from the grimace he usually employs while awaiting his turn to speak during debates.
Sylvie di Giusto is a renowned New York City-based image consultant who has worked with executives at Fortune 500 companies and politicians alike. She tells Yahoo Beauty that in her opinion, the selfie is a crucial tool for both Clinton and Trump and now more than ever in the final days of the presidential race.
“Every selfie they take is self-promotion, and it’s for free,” di Giusto says. “You don’t have to invest thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars into professional images. … We know we’re visual creatures. Ninety percent of the information in our brains gets transmitted visually. If [Clinton and Trump] want to appear up-to-date and authentic, human, fun, accessible — something that’s probably even more important for her than for him — they need to take selfies. It makes them appear normal.”
However, she adds, that’s not to saythe selfie isn’t a medium without potential risks and pitfalls when not employed correctly.
Never focus on yourself in a group shot.
“If the politician takes the selfie themselves, versus letting someone else take it, they have to be very careful to never take a selfie alone. The first rule for all politicians is never focus on yourself. People think you’re just trying to show off yourself,” di Giusto says.
Be aware of your surroundings.
And perhaps the even more important second rule, she explains, is to “never, ever, ever surround yourself with anything in a selfie that might be financially ostracizing to others. People don’t want to see candidates in a way that might make them believe they’re being flippant with people’s taxes.”
She also explains that the selfie presents a particularly unique challenge to candidates, providing yet another medium where they can appear “polished,” which is how voters expect their future leaders to look — and yet, voters also want to see candidates “look exhausted and like they’re doing hard work.” But the right selfie, she says, can successfully convey both these things at once.
When selfies are taken with a candidate and a supporter with the supporter’s phone or camera, “the advantage of that is it’s a kind of digital endorsement,” di Giusto says. “All these people will be posting the image on social media outlets. It’s the best self PR you can have. If I post a selfie with Hillary Clinton, chances are I’m going to vote for her and it tells my friends that and sends out a big message.”
But, she adds, the selfie is also a medium that can “hunt you down” down the road, should the person you’ve snapped the selfie with do something “terrible in 10 years, 20 years, at any point in the future. It’s like a ticking time bomb: What’s in the background, what’s the location, who are you with?”
Keep it simple. Ditch food, hats, and logos.
And di Giusto says she has a few simple rules for clients when it comes to selfies: “No food, no hats, no logos. You never want to see them eating, say, with a hot dog in their mouth. And a hat is not a very good idea. You also have to be very careful that the picture doesn’t somehow endorse a brand or a person.”
She explains that in an ideal world, a candidate would look “professional, authentic, confident, respectful and controlled” in every selfie — and above all, look “authentic. You cannot take a selfie where you don’t look like yourself.”
Remain focused, yet have have some fun.
Di Giusto says her “number one rule,” however, is to “avoid distraction at any price. As a politician, you want to be known for your topics, for the relevant things you are fighting for, for the changes you are going to make for the country. You want to be known for your content. You never, ever want to be known for something you wear in a picture, doing a picture, say with your body language in a picture. If something stands out in a picture, then you’ve done something wrong.”
“My whole theory on selfies is that they’re supposed to come from a happy place, a confident place,” celebrity stylist and veritable selfie queen June Ambrose tells Yahoo Beauty. “The selfie is supposed to be a spontaneous moment where you can be goofy and fun — it’s all about seeing the life, the expression, more than a begrudged kind of face.”
Ambrose adds that she thinks selfies offer candidates a great opportunity to engage with people and showcase their personal spirit and enthusiasm, adding that she thinks “Hillary’s been doing a great job with that.”
She continues: “When you take yourself too seriously — like Trump, who takes himself way too seriously, probably because no one else does — he’s always like, ‘Look I’m so strong. I’m a leader.’ He’s overcompensating in that way. He’s trying to naturally fit in and it ends up looking a little weird.”
Ambrose says she would advise potential political supporters-cum-selfie-snappers to keep things “cheeky” should they get a chance to grab a pic with their candidate of choice. When it comes to technical aspects for success, she says to be sure not to forget the basics — get as close to the candidate as you can and try not to snap a photo where your favored politician is moving.
“A true candidate selfie,” says Ambrose, “You should be able to see the truth in their faces, the sincerity in their eyes. You should see someone who is present and willing to engage. A selfie is about connecting with yourself and the other people in it, identifying that thing that makes you feel the most confident and most real in that moment. I know I take a good selfie when I find my energy and my angles and then the picture speaks for itself.”
Know your angles, find good lighting, and never do the Zoolander face.
And Ambrose’s advice to the candidates? “Keep your chin down, not too much teeth, and don’t have a dead stare in your eyes!” She adds that she personally loves her own selfies when she’s really able to “find [her] angle — my face is contoured without heavy contouring, the light is hitting me right, my face isn’t showing any lines or creases.”
The secret to a good selfie, always, says Ambrose is the right lighting.
“Find the light — face the light, don’t stand with your back to it. Avoid shadows. No one should avoid taking selfies — but if you can’t find the light, don’t take a selfie. A selfie is about finding your best self,” she says.
Ambrose also compliments Clinton on the selfies she has shared on social throughout the campaign, noting how in them, the candidate “looks girly and fun and like she’s letting loose. The ones she’s shared have been really bright and full of energy and spirit.”
And Ambrose’s biggest selfie don’t? “Zoolander face. Avoid it.”
What you’re wearing in a selfie is just as important as who you’re taking a selfie with.
Di Giusto says she actually regularly uses images of both Clinton and Trump in presentations and training sessions she does to best explain what not to do in terms of visual imaging. For Clinton, she points to an example of her having worn bright green to the G20 Summit in 2012 for the “class picture””taken of all the participating countries’ foreign affairs heads, the rest of whom were all wearing white.
“The media used this against her,” di Giusto says. “The topic became her fashion faux pas, and it was a disrespect to the event itself because no one wrote about the important events of the G20 itself. The topic of her dress became more important than the decisions that were being made at the meeting.”
And in regards to how she tells clients to not be like Trump, she notes how “you cannot allow your appearance to become a topic in a campaign. Do you remember at the beginning of the campaign how many people talked about his hair and his suntan and how we looked? If you allow this to become a topic, it’s so hard to overcome — and that’s so much time and effort being used to overcome this that could be used to discuss important political issues.”
That said, di Giusto notes that Trump and Clinton shouldn’t shy away from the selfie if they want to succeed.
“They have to use this medium to their advantage because this medium is the main medium of today, particularly with the younger group of voters. We have a first lady who is on Snapchat — that sends a very loud message. It addresses a group of voters who are otherwise very hard for candidates to reach. In the past, you could reach the younger generation only by going through the older generation. You worked on mothers and father to get to their daughters and sons,” says di Giusto. Today, however, social media tools like the not-so-simple selfie empower politicians to connect with younger voters,and do so in a way that seems effortless.
“You should and must use selfies for success,” di Giusto says.
Echoes Ambrose, “I think the whole candidates-taking-selfies thing shows they are modern and with the times. They’re the perfect call to action, the perfect way to say you’re with her or with him.”
She adds that for candidates, the act of selfie-taking belies something even more important to the political process.
“It’s the perfect way to say, ‘I’m just like you and I’m a citizen, and all citizens need leaders — but I still feel a connection with you.’ I think people can learn a lot from [the presidential candidates] in that it’s OK to be a leader and still be inclusive and be in the general population and on the ground. To hear people, you have to get close to them. That’s what the message of selfies have been — I want to be your friend and I want you to trust me.”