It’s no secret that some people edit their selfies before posting them online. And by “some people,” we mean pretty much every social media-savvy celebrity and a slew of your friends. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
While there are a bunch of great photo-editing apps to help cover up zits and slim you down, sometimes bad photo editing happens to good people—your arm ends up looking wonky or a door in the background looks distorted.
To keep obvious signs of photo doctoring from happening to your pictures, we consulted photo editing experts for their tips on how to get the perfect (digitally-enhanced) selfie. We also called out the biggest celebrity offenders so you can avoid their very obvious mistakes.
Obsess over the background.
This is where the most doctored selfies get caught out. Kim Kardashian created a wavy doorway, Miranda Kerr made a curved bookshelf, Beyoncé disfigured a wine glass…the list goes on.
Skillfeed’s photo editing expert Howard Pinsky says the best way to solve that problem is to be subtle about your edits and take frequent breaks. “As an edit is underway, our brain is actively becoming accepting of each edit, even if it’s full of mistakes,” he says. Taking a 15-minute break can help your clear your brain, so you can more easily spot issues when you get back to it.
If you’re using Photoshop to edit your pic, photo editor Raymond Selzer of Interslice Designs recommends copying the original image into two layers. Smudge/liquify on the top one, then use a layer mask to isolate the body from its background.
Add a third layer between the two layers on which you make clone stamp touch ups to remove any overlap. …Or just edit in an app using a photo that doesn’t have a background with straight edges—they’re easy to mess up.
Watch your edges.
Kylie Jenner and Beyonce both got into trouble with this one: If you do a big trim of your body, the edges can look jagged or pixelated. (Check out Kylie’s right inner thigh, below.)
No matter what app or program you’re using, slim down body parts in phases, advises Selzer, who recommends thinking about it like whittling a piece of wood, layer by layer. That should help avoid unnatural lines, jags, or bulges, which can look off.
Leave some imperfections.
Nobody has perfect, poreless skin—not even supermodels. Pinsky says that it’s important to leave some imperfections in order to make your photo look more natural. “Often people over-smooth their skin, removing all blemishes. Don’t be afraid to leave a few here and there,” he says.
Mariah Carey clearly could have used that advice.
Only fix obvious issues.
Don’t have six-pack abs? It’s okay—most people don’t, and you don’t want to end up with a photo like an already-fit Britney Spears did here. “Our perception of our own looks is usually quite negative, especially when we’re actively looking for areas to fix,” says Pinsky. “This will usually cause over-editing, resulting in unnatural images.”
With that in mind, just fix issues or areas that are really bugging you, like a zit or a spontaneous muffin top caused by how you were sitting. Don’t try to get too complicated: It’s hard to hide big edits, and even professionals screw them up sometimes.
Let your hair be.
Perfect, smooth strands sound great, but when your hair is too perfect, it’s a clear sign that your photo has been edited. Flyaways happen, and they’re often unnoticeable to other people. Selzer recommends just leaving your hair be.
“Avoid editing hair-related stuff too much because of the strands,” he says. “It’s very noticeable when hair has been messed with.”