Photographic News Stories

The Rise of the Selfie

Professional photographers never quite switch off, even on holiday, and sitting on a beach in Crete recently I was struck by the phenomenon of the selfie. The warmth of the day and the sheltered cove had brought people out in large numbers and in just 30 minutes I watched a constant stream of people whipping out their phones and launching themselves into selfie mode.

It’s quite amusing to see people walking along looking sombre, then suddenly breaking into a beaming smile - or the ubiquitous glam-pout – simply designed for posting to social media to show their friends what a good time they are having.

Everyone seems to have a special selfie face too, whether it’s a head tilt or a duckface. And it seems that people feel they have to be included in every shot they take. Too much posing produces a stilted, awkward result, which is why over my long career as a North East commercial and PR photographer my style has developed into a fresh and natural approach that delivers much better results in terms of capturing a special moment in time.  

If you’re keen to improve your own photographs try some alternative styles, don’t always go for the obvious. For instance focus in on a tiny detail that sums up a mood, rather than trying to show the viewer exactly where you are. As a teenage camera enthusiast learning my trade I remember wondering how good the photo was going to turn out when watching situations like someone standing in front of a beautiful fountain in Barcelona, with their partner yards away across the road, trying to get the figure and the fountain in. I suspect it ended with the person in the fountain showing up as just a dot in the distance, and even back then I thought there must be a better, fresher way to take pictures.    

Selfies have become embedded in our society, it’s almost as if we are trying to prove what a great time we are having, rather than actually enjoying the experience for what it is. The recent pictures of sorority girls more interested in taking selfies than watching the baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks is a perfect illustration of the selfie culture.

People are even using selfies for their LinkedIn and other professional social media profiles now and I think this is a big mistake. Camera phone wide angle lenses produce some very unflattering pictures, and are really made more for happy snapping, not for professional purposes. Hiring a professional photographer to take some natural shots would be money well spent.  

The term selfie was coined in 2004 and is now big business, with hundreds of apps that help you lose pounds and whiten your teeth in pursuit of better pictures. For some people their whole lives are now catalogued online, for better or for worse. But how many pictures of ourselves do we really need?

Are selfies encouraging a culture of narcissism and devaluing the power of images?  Some would say that if it’s not recorded it’s not real, while others say it’s simply showing off. So will the selfie bubble eventually burst?