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Photography Glossary

What is a Selfie?

September 5, 2023 by

Picture this: It is a good day, you look good, and feel absolutely amazing about yourself. What do you do?

Take a selfie. Since the invention of front-facing cameras, the “selfie’ has taken the world by fire.

In the digital age, it’s nearly impossible to go a day without seeing a selfie.

In 2019, Google reported that at least 93 million selfies are taken every year! You may enjoy it or find it weird, but regardless, the selfie is an essential part of social media.

But what are selfies? How did they come about? Let’s get started.

Whether it’s on social media, news outlets, or even in your own photo album, selfies have become an undeniable part of modern culture. But what exactly is a selfie and why has it become so popular?

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of selfies, how to take the perfect selfie, or why it’s become such a cultural phenomenon, keep reading.

This is a guide covering selfies and everything you need to know about this new way of taking a self-portrait.

Learn selfies From Credible Creators
Table of Contents

What is a Selfie?

Basically, it’s a portrait of yourself taken by yourself. It’s pretty simple to do: hold out your phone, stretch your arm a little bit, find your good angle – and snap!

Since most selfies are taken for social media purposes, it’s then typically uploaded to sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. The word “selfie” itself originated from the Internet.

Most people like taking at least one or two selfies on special occasions, including the older generation.

taking a selfie

Why is it Called a Selfie?

The truth is, nobody really knows who first came up with the word “selfie”.

Since it came from the internet, it most probably went viral at one point as with many other online trends.

You can say that the whole of the internet collaborated to make “selfie” a word.

The term selfie itself is probably Australian slang used to describe a self-portrait photograph using Australian lingo. Australians tend to end their words with “ie.” (They call a barbecue “barbie”, a firefighter as a “firie” and a can of beer a “tinnie”).

So naturally, the word self-photo became the word “selfie” that we all have a love-hate relationship with.

It’s so popular that the popular music group, Chainsmokers, even made a song dedicated to selfies:

Photographers also took the word as a synonym for self-portrait, but just in a different way.

Here we are years later, and the selfie has found new purposes other than attention on social media.

So what really qualifies as a selfie?

What Qualifies as a Selfie?

Well, at its core a selfie is still a self-portrait and with that, it requires you to be in the frame.

It may not come as a surprise that you can’t call a self-portrait with your friends a selfie.

That, my friend, is referred to as a “Groufie” or a “Bothie” if it’s just the two of you (I’ll show myself out…)

Now onto the next selfie rules. A selfie itself is only accepted as one on the condition that your full face is inside the frame. When taking a selfie, you should commonly use your front camera.

This has been something both debated and confused upon, as the results from the rear camera would be better, hence it should be better using it.

Funnily enough, the first “selfie” was not a full face shot itself and rather a close-up of the person’s injured lips.

The rules of portrait photography also apply to selfies, since they will be eventually posted on social media. Making it the last important requirement for your photo to qualify as a selfie.

Although not aiming to restrict the creative freedom of the person taking the selfie and rather guiding them on how to take a good selfie.

In the end, as long as your face is in it, most people will call it a selfie.

what is a selfie (1)
group selfie!

What is the Purpose of a Selfie?

Of course, people have many different reasons as to why they’re taking a selfie. Maybe they look good that day.

Maybe they want to impress someone. Maybe they are just bored.

But, in the world of rampant social media use, The Selfie serves a few social functions, such as:

1. Attention

Social media and attention have always coexisted.

The creation of social media itself is to garner a following, create or join a community, and many more.

People use social media differently depending on their goals, some use it to express themselves, some use it to document their life’s work, and the list goes on.

We, humans, are social creatures and crave attention, specifically affirmation. Affirmation is when someone confirms our feelings or opinion about ourselves.

In its best form, we become more confident and more grateful for our life, as the byproduct of affirmation.

This may become one of the slew of reasons why people post their selfies on social media.

People can simply feel better about themselves by getting a “like” on their photos coupled with encouragement from their peers.

Attention could make them feel more “worth” or maybe they just like it to make them feel special.

selfie example
taking a selfie

2. Personal Documentary

Sometimes it’s just fun to look back at an old picture of yourself (or your friends) to remember just how much you’ve changed.

Photos serve as a memory capsule, and this includes selfies.

People love the feeling of nostalgia and progress in life.

Looking back at their more free younger selves on social media, just to prove how good life was back then.

The good old times.

3. Self-Expression

Since a selfie is a portrait of yourself captured by yourself, this means that you can do whatever you want with it!

This is the time when you have complete control of how your image looks like. You can be dramatic. You can appear sweet and innocent.

You can match your expression to your caption. In any case, there’s always a chance to express yourself.

Selfies are a quick, accessible, and somewhat fun way to express yourself. Some people take selfies to even express their views on politics, their hobbies, or other things.

As with other forms of self-expression, the selfie is not for everyone (you probably have a friend who has never posted a selfie online).

But to those who enjoy it, can at times go to great lengths to achieve the perfect selfie.

selfie example
another group selfie!

What is the Difference Between a Photo and a Selfie?

Again, the selfie is simply a picture of yourself taken by yourself. While some social media users take their selfie game seriously, the average selfie is something way more simple.

It can be taken while you’re waiting for your coffee, or when you’re out for lunch with your friend.

Unlike professional photography, it is more surface-value and not meant to be an intricate artwork.

You have been to this location and you want an image to remember it by.

Maybe you’re lucky enough to bump into your favorite artist in the mall and want to have a picture of the moment.

The idea of taking a selfie centers around the person taking it and their life. Meanwhile, more traditional photography tries to evoke something within the viewer.

These images strive to evoke emotions and at times powerful ones.

Regular pictures are seen as something interesting and selfies are simply seen as a selfie.

Selfies are also different from regular pictures based on the process of creating them. It takes around 10 seconds to 1 minute at most when taking a selfie.

You position yourself, stick out your arm/selfie stick, strike a pose, and snap. On the other hand, regular pictures may take longer depending on the theme, settings, lighting, and many other factors.

selfie example (2)

Who Invented the Selfie? (Selfie Origin)

Where did the selfie come from, and what is the selfie’s origin?

Some said it was Paris Hilton and Britney Spears that created it because they took pictures 15 years ago using their front camera.

But the argument can’t really be justified by any means.

Because, if the first person to take a self-portrait picture “invented” the selfie, then that person would be Mr. Cornelius.

Looking at the argument, we can say that it was originally created in the far 1839s or so because those were the early years when self-portraits started.

Robert Cornelius took a picture that was the first self-portrait using the first picture.

selfie example robert cornelius
Robert Cornelius

The inventor of the modern selfie was thanks to an unintentional image taken by an Australian man on a 2002 mid-September online ABC forum post.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the selfie origin itself was said to come from the 2002 personal blog of a drunk man. The man posted an image of his lips after falling down.

The usage of the word itself only became popular in 2013 and the usage of the word just increased over the years.

Nobody ever fought over the claim of making nor inventing the word selfie. So many settle with the Oxford Dictionary’s story behind it.

What is a Selfie With Another Person Called?

A selfie with another person is often referred to as a “group selfie” or simply a “selfie.”

While the term “selfie” originally implied a self-portrait taken by an individual, it has evolved to encompass photographs taken by one or more people, including the person taking the photo.

So, when two or more people are in the frame, it’s still commonly called a “selfie” or a “group selfie.”

What is a Selfie Stick?

Ever seen tourists or even people taking out those long sticks and attaching their phones to them?

Yeah, that’s the selfie stick. You could argue that it’s a weird device and looks ridiculously easy to make.

Nevertheless, the selfie stick exploded in popularity along with the selfie. In the beginning, the selfie stick was primarily used by people in the East and SEA.

Now selfie sticks are global phenomena, caused by their affordable components and the growing desire of people to take better selfies.

Selfie sticks are the inexpensive version of the monopod, you know the tripod with only one leg. The monopod was commonly used by seasoned photographers to make their cameras steadier.

Selfie sticks don’t always come with a remote trigger shutter, but people do commonly use that version.

selfie stick
selfie stick

The selfie phenomenon is quite interesting, judging from how it first emerged as a word and how it has now been adapted to the younger generations.

So let’s recap this article, shall we?

The selfie definition is a self-portrait taken using a phone’s front camera and uploaded to social media.

  • The selfie definition is a self-portrait taken using a phone’s front camera and uploaded to social media.
  • The selfie meaning is quite close to self-expression oneself. Maybe their current condition of being or maybe the person’s experience.
  • The main difference between a selfie and regular pictures is the ideas behind them. Selfies are much simpler and can be taken without a fuss. On the other hand, regular pictures need more preparation and time.
  • Selfie origin can be traced back to 2002, said on an online forum by an Australian person talking about how he fell and injured his lips.
  • A selfie stick is like a monopod that can be attached to your phone, which will then be controlled using a remote controller. There are also selfie sticks that only hold your phone in place, but force you to use a timer or wire earbuds to trigger it.

Is front camera selfie?

Yes, the front camera on a smartphone or digital camera is used to take selfies. It allows the user to frame and capture a self-portrait photograph while holding the device at arm’s length or with the help of a selfie stick.

Do you look at the camera or screen for selfie?

When taking a selfie with a front-facing camera, you should look at the camera lens rather than the screen. This will give the impression of direct eye contact with the viewer, making for a more engaging and natural-looking photograph.

How do you hold your phone when taking a selfie?

To take a good selfie, hold your phone with both hands and extend your arms away from your body. This will help you get the best angle and make it easier to frame the shot.