Snapping and sending the occasional sexy picture isn’t just a great confidence booster on days you’re really feeling yourself. It can also be a great way to get a new lover excited about an upcoming meet-up or prep a spouse for a spicy homecoming once they’re done at the office for the day. However, knowing you’d love to have a selfie game as strong as Kim Kardashian’s or Miley Cyrus’s is one thing. Understanding how to do it successfully is another.

We hear all the time that all you really need to look five-alarm hot in your sexy photos is confidence, but while confidence is definitely important, there’s more to it than that. Those that have the sexy picture game mastered also have a solid understanding of what separates a really great photo from one that’s just so-so… or, worse, really embarrassing. Become one of them by keeping the following tips in mind.

  1. Look for inspiration online

Average Joes and Janes aren’t the only people that glean inspiration by checking out other people’s pics. Even seasoned professionals know that the best way to stay inspired is to regularly log on and check out what others are up. That said, definitely don’t be afraid to look for great ideas online.

Take a moment to really analyze some of the shots you like and pinpoint what makes them work. Is it a unique or extra-flattering pose? Is it the look in the person’s eyes or a really interesting outfit choice? Whatever it is, think about how you can imitate it yourself or – better yet – improve upon it.

  1. Practice makes perfect

Seasoned selfie-takers look like a million bucks in every shot because they’re hyper-aware of how they photograph. They know what their most flattering angles are. They know what expressions, lighting choices, and make-up options work best for them as well. That level of self-awareness comes from lots of practice.

After settling on some poses and shots you’d like to try out, it’s time to start shooting test pics. Take lots and lots of shots from different angles and in different lights. Eventually, you’ll develop an understanding of which ones totally work for you and which don’t. You’ll develop a deeper understanding of how the whole process works as well.

  1. All-out nude isn’t necessarily the sexiest

If there’s one thing almost everyone gets wrong about sexy pictures, it’s the assumption that “sexy” automatically equals “nude”. While nudes definitely can be awesome when taken for the right person and under the right circumstances, you don’t have to be totally naked to get your point across (unless you want to be, of course). In fact, sometimes it’s much more titillating to leave something to the imagination.

The trick to a really hot selfie is to leave the viewer wanting more. If you’re showing off all the goods right from the get-go, there’s nothing left to look forward to. Instead, try teasing your viewer with implied nudity or a sexy costume that leaves at least a little to the imagination.

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  1. Don’t be afraid to get dressed up

Picking out something to wear in a sexy picture is a lot like choosing just the right outfit to wear out to dinner with someone you really want to make a good impression on. We’ve all got a few go-to pieces in our closets that we instinctively reach for when we want to look as drool-worthy as possible. When it really matters, those staples are what we fall back on.

In other words, that little black dress that makes you feel just like Kate Upton isn’t just a good choice for a hot first date. The same goes for that magical pair of skinny jeans that never fails to stop traffic when you’re out with your friends. Those pieces can be awesome choices for sexy selfies as well with a little creativity. And of course lingerie or intimate wear is always a great option for those times you really want to get your point across.

  1. Develop a catalog of go-to facial expressions

Don’t simply assume that a pouty duck face shot is the way to go with your selfies just because so many other people do it. Not only do techniques like that definitely not work for everyone, but there are always people out there that find them profoundly unattractive almost on principle. Plus, gimmicky facial expressions can sometimes come across as insincere or silly.

Instead, practice taking shots that showcase a variety of facial expressions. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative either. Anything from a shy smile, to a naughty smirk, to a quirky expression that adds a subtle hint of tongue can be incredibly effective. Experiment until you’ve discovered a few go-to gems to fall back on in the future.

  1. Pay attention to the lighting

It’s impossible to overemphasize just how important lighting is when it comes to any sort of photography and racy selfies are no exception. Terrific lighting highlights your best features and can make you look even better than you do in real life. However, bad or inadequate lighting can ruin even the greatest angles and compositions.

If it’s available, natural lighting – especially through a window — is always best. It has a way of making skin glow in a way that’s flattering on absolutely everyone. It also shows off colors at their best and delivers great results without a lot of fuss. However, artificial lighting or even a standard flash can work in a pinch as well.

  1. Mind your composition as well

Making sure you look incredible in your shots is about more than choosing the right lighting, facial expression, and wardrobe. The way you frame your shot in general also counts for a lot. As with lighting, a composition that’s well thought out can really elevate even a quick, casual selfie, but a bad one can be distracting (if it doesn’t ruin the quality of the image altogether).

Your composition choices are ultimately going to be what guides the viewer’s eye. For instance, taking the sexy picture from a high angle places the length of your body along the camera’s vanishing point, making body parts that are further away appear smaller and while emphasizing those that are closer. Frame orientation matters too. Portrait orientation should always be used for close-ups and selfies of your face, but landscape orientation is definitely better for full body photos.

  1. The eyes have it

While it’s definitely possible to make a selfie sizzle while looking away from the camera, don’t underestimate how powerful eye contact can be. When the subject of a photo is looking at the camera, they’re also looking at the viewer. A smoldering gaze directed straight into the lens generates sexy photos that imply an intimate interaction between the subject and the person on the receiving end.

That said, definitely get comfortable with taking shots that have you looking at the camera. As  with poses, composition, lighting, and so forth, practice makes perfect. Shoot until you get it right. You won’t be sorry when you experience the effect such shots will have on your lover firsthand.

  1. Get creative with props

If you want a fun, easy way to give a sexy selfie a flirty, playful feel, consider adding a prop or two to the mix. As with clothing choices, poses, or facial expressions, a clever choice in props can instantly add creativity and originality to your shot. It can help lend a given photo a specific mood you might be after as well (e.g. sweet and innocent versus hot and horny).

Just about anything can make a good prop, so don’t be afraid to get creative. Try using common household objects to strategically hide portions of your nude body for a fun and flirty feel or surrounding yourself with red roses to add a hint of romance. You can get playful with food or triple-X sexy with actual sex toys. Absolutely anything goes, so let your imagination run wild and see what you come up with.

  1. Go easy on the filters

While we’re definitely living in the day and age of Instagram filters and easy post-editing, resist the urge to rely too heavily on them. You might think you’re polishing your photo and making it more appealing, but it’s a lot more likely that you’re making your photo look unnatural and contrived in a way that’s distracting to your viewer. Sexy photos at their best are supposed to feel spontaneous, natural, and real, so too much extra tweaking really defeats the purpose.

Instead of falling back on filters and editing, spend more time working on your choices in lighting, poses, and composition. A good photo shouldn’t require more than a few minor adjustments here and there. If a shot feels like it requires major photoshopping before it’s fit to send, you’d be better off just starting over and trying again. Remember, practice makes perfect!