Jan 10, 2020

The Shelfie: What The Heck Is It?

Plus 6 ways to take gorgeous #shelfies and make all your instafriends jealous 😉

What is a shelfie?

The shelfie (shelf selfie) is, in its most basic sense, a picture of things you keep on a shelf. In order to be a shelfie, an image really only needs to contain three basic elements:

  1. A shelf or shelf-like surface
  2. A collection of meaningful objects
  3. (optional) artful arrangement

What should be in a shelfie?

Because the core concept of a shelfie is so rudimentary, shelfies can depict an incredibly diverse array of subjects. Wanna take a photograph of your bookshelf? That's a shelfie. How about a portrait of the beauty products you keep on your bedstand? Also a shelfie. A polaroid of antique porcelain figurines in your china cabinet? Still a shelfie. Your shelfie, even moreso than a selfie, can be whatever you want it to be - many photographers favor shelfie portraits over traditional portraits for this very reason, as shelfies allow us to demonstrate who we define ourselves to be via the items we own and collect, rather than just display the faces we were born with. While we show our faces to others in public every day, Shelfies allow us to showcase the parts of our lives that are far less obvious.

How do you take a good shelfie?

Glad you asked! Here are our favorite shelfie tips and tricks (with examples!)

1. Play with perspective

A shelfie totally doesn't just need to be taken from straight-on. If you position the camera below or at level of your shelf so that your photo ever-so-slightly looks up at the objects you want to take a photo of, it can show how important you consider these objects to be!


You can also use perspective to show the ways you look at the items on your shelf. If you have items that you see from a particular vantage point (like looking down on bottles on a vanity) try taking a photo with the camera at the level your eyes are. This is a great way to use a shelfie to show a little bit more about your daily life!


2. Add texture to tell a story

Where does your shelf live? Is it in a bathroom where things can get foggy? Is it outside and dew-droppy? Including the textures that your items encounter on the daily is an awesome strategy for getting a great picture- it can tell a story about where and how they are used and also add beautiful and unexpected elements to your photo. Just look how the bottles below have become so lovely with the simple addition of water droplets!


3. Get up close

Taking a picture close up can give a brand new look to a well-loved object. The camera may allow you to see little details you've never before noticed. Plus, showing that an object is important enough to zoom in on can really highlight its importance to the person viewing your photograph just through making that object bigger than usual!


4. Bring in negative space

Empty space is very restful for the eye, especially in the world of Instagram where everything is so oversaturated and visually crazy! It can be really tempting to cram as much as possible into a picture, but there is also great power in simplicity. Try arranging your shelfie so that your viewer only has a couple of important items to look at, and include a clean, simple, and mostly empty background. You might be surprised by the result!


5. Consider color

What kind of vibe do you want your shelfie to take on? Think about this as you decide which objects to include in your shelfie. Populating a space with items that are mostly light blue, for example, can give a photo feelings of refreshment and calm. Golds, meanwhile, can provide elements of prosperity and enlightenment. Color theory is a pretty complex topic and the meanings of colors change according to the colors they are surrounded by, so don't be afraid to play around and experiment!

@lindsey.r.luna @vanessamartinez77

6. Control the focus

A big part of photography is the ability to control distractions. When every element of a photograph is overly sharp, it can lead a photograph to feel unprofessional and confusing to look at. Utilizing your camera's ability to focus on a single element can help the person looking at your shelfie understand what they should look at first, since the focus effectively imitates the way the human eye focuses on objects in space.

@saintsoin @symishi

Looking for some beautifully designed bottles to really up your personal care game and make your shelfies pop? We've got what you need! Take our quiz and let's get started.


The Formulate Team

Caroline Schmidt