Selfie Sticks are long smartphone-gripping poles used for taking the eponymous self-portrait of the smartphone generation. While a normal selfie barely fits a face (let alone the background) into the frame, a Selfie Stick distances the lens further and allows the taker to include more in the frame. The Selfie Stick trend burst onto the scene in China about two years ago and was rapidly adopted worldwide. They’re certainly controversial – some travelers love how helpful and flexible they are, while others perceive them as narcissistic and obstructive. In the interests of all sides, we’ve decided to find out more about the Selfie Stick, and how to use it in a creative but careful way. Happy Snapping!
A Brief History of Selfies and the Selfie Stick
Selfies and Selfie Sticks are mostly associated with millennials and the new digital world, but our fascination with our own image is as old as the hills. Most famously, the Ancient Greeks told the cautionary tale of Narcissus, who was so enchanted by his own reflection on the surface of a pool that he fell in and drowned.
The self-portrait in photography developed alongside the technology itself. In 1839, about a decade after the first photographs were made, Robert Cornelius created what is arguably the world’s first ever selfie, a daguerreotype of himself exposed on silver-plated copper.
Self-portraiture developed further with the advent of self timers, tripods and various other homemade devices, as well as the kindness of strangers. In 2002, the word ‘selfie’ was coined by an Australian man called ‘Hopey’ in an online forum. With smartphones and tablets now in the hands of billions, it’s now become easier than ever to take a selfie – although taking a really good one is a different matter and requires at least a little practice! If you’re looking for a shortcut to excellent selfies, it’s worth checking out the 7 Steps to Selfie Success, a useful (and funny) guide by one of our favourite bloggers, Scott from Intrepid Escape.
However, as Ellen Degeneres discovered at the Oscars, it’s not easy to fit a group into a regular selfie! When she posted the photo on Twitter she bemoaned that Bradley Cooper’s arm just wasn’t long enough to fit everybody in (sorry Jared Leto).
In short – the selfie has been around for a long time, and for that matter, the Selfie Stick is not so new either. A device very much like the contemporary Selfie Stick was developed in 1983 by Hiroshi Ueda, an engineer at Minolta and family-photo enthusiast. After his camera was stolen in Europe, Ueda resolved to find a way to take photos of the whole family without relying on strangers to return his camera. He invented and patented the ‘Extender Stick’, but unfortunately his creation was destined to become what he calls a “3am invention” – one that came before it’s time. It flopped on the market and eventually his patent expired in 2003. In 2005, another inventor called Wayne Fromm created the ‘Quik Pod’, a similar device that would be adapted by hundreds of selfie-stick manufacturers after the craze took off in China in 2010.
It’s now so common to see them at popular tourist sites worldwide that a backlash against users has occurred, with other travelers complaining the devices are bulky, narcissistic and intrusive. However, the Selfie Stick is undoubtedly a useful device, so in the interests of both harmony and creativity, we’ve put together a handy list of Do’s and Don’ts for Selfie Stick users.
Do’s and Don’ts of Selfie Stick use
- Do experiment with your selfies and try to vary them – alter the height of the stick and the angle you hold it at so they don’t look exactly the same. Looking for inspiration? Check out Barack Obama’s technique.
- Do ask any one who might appear in the background of your photo if that is okay with them. Some countries have quite strict privacy laws regarding photography in public.
- Do take it anywhere you are allowed to! Several selfie-sticks are designed for any terrain. Use the stick to get great action shots, whether you’re in the sun, surf, snow or skateramp. Just remember to take care and avoid attempting dangerous exploits just for a great picture.
- Do use the camera on the back of the phone rather than the front for the highest resolution images.
- Don’t use it in a gallery, museum or crowded place. Like umbrellas, bikes and wheelie suitcases, Selfie Sticks take up a lot of space! You’ll get in other peoples way and you may even get kicked out – several institutions including MOMA, the Palace of Versailles and Coachella Festival have now banned selfie sticks on the premises.
- Don’t take too many pictures with the selfie stick. No one, (including you hopefully) wants to look at 200 pictures from your holiday that are all you and no scenery.
- Don’t answer your phone while it’s still attached to the selfie stick!
- And Don’t include the stick in the photo! Adjust the angle so that it doesn’t appear in the final image.The point is to have a nice photo of yourself, not the Selfie Stick.
There are a number of important factors when buying a Selfie Stick. Is it compatible with your phone? How much are you willing to spend? Does it need to be light, or super sturdy? Can you use it with a Go-Pro or DSLR? Here a a few examples of good options that meet different needs:
- Hikers and climbers looking for flexibility might want to try the XSORIES U-Shot Aluminium Extension Pole. With a wrist strap and carabineer for handy attachment to your belt-loop, it’s easy to keep your hands free until you need it. The comfy foam grip and lightness of the pole (at 105 grams its actually lighter than most smartphones) make it easy to take a photo. Oh – and it comes in bright orange so you’re sure to never lose it! US $39.
- Another epic option for hikers is the I-Pole Trekking Pole, which doubles as a hiking staff! US $24.95
- A great value choice is the Dolica-WY-1003.At 67 inches (170cm) this is as long as you will ever need, and the light aluminium-alloy stick can hold your smartphone, Go-Pro or DSLR camera. For the lightweight version, it’s just US $14.99.
- There’s even something for vintage film-camera wielding hipsters. The Polaroid Camera Extender attaches to the bottom of any camera, the way a tripod would. Use the mirror attachment to make sure everyone is in the frame and the self timer on the camera to trigger the shutter. US $17.99
- The XShot Pocket XShot is a pocket-sized Selfie Stick, perfect if you don’t have a bag, or want to hide your Selfie Stick form the gaze of others when you aren’t using it. US $24.95
What will they think of next?
Other novel variations of the Selfie Stick are already available, from the ridiculous Ipad Selfie Stick to the Belfie Stick, which promises to help you get the perfect shot of your behind, just like the inventor of the Belfie, Kim Kardashian.
Meanwhile, the next selfie trend is already well on the way. Phone and lens makers have been working together to create wide-angle and fish-eye lenses that attach to your smartphone. The result: a smartphone photo that fits a lot more into the frame, even without the Selfie Stick! Some are already on the market, and while they are more expensive than Selfie Sticks, they’re sure to drop in price in the next couple of years and become the next must-have accessory for the smartphone photographer.