the selfie vs self portrait debate

creative selfie portraitSelf Portrait-Acadia ,Maine

Taking a Selfie vs the Self Portrait? What's the difference between shooting a selfie and taking a self portrait?

One is a relatively new activity, newer than Amazon and Facebook and Google. The other's been around since the time of the cave man's artful drawings on the wall of his rocky cave. 

Selfies have become ubiquitous in our society. I avoided them at all costs at first. Now, I even have a Facebook page dedicated to creative selfies. We've all done it. We've been overcome by selfies everywhere. Whether you personally participate or not, you likely won't affect the popularity of shooting selfies by the rest of society. Selfies are here to stay.

A selfie is a photograph that you take of yourself spontaneously, usually taken with a cell phone camera or a webcam for the purpose of sharing on social media, like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or Twitter. A self portrait  is a portrait made of one self using a camera or artist's brush in an artistic way, with more thoughtful planning.

Definition of Selfie is included in Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The definition of selfie is now included in both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries. I was reluctant to indulge in photographing myself at first, but now I've jumped on board the selfie bandwagon. Crazy as it is, I even have a FaceBook page devoted to taking creative selfies. 

I even purchased my first selfie stick to give myself a few more creative possibilities to make them more artistic.

what's the difference between a selfie and a self portrait

Common Selfie PoseTypical Selfie

I've researched the topic extensively. Ha Ha. No, really I have!  To be strictly labeled a selfie, a photo must be taken while you are holding the camera/cell phone camera in your hand or with a selfie monopod.

If more than one person is in the photo, the camera must be held by one of the subjects in the photo and it is called a group selfie.  When someone jumps into or is included unintentionally in the selfie, it is called photo bombing. 

Self portraits, on the other hand are usually created without camera in hand, often by using a tripod or nearby table.  The self portrait is always a photo of you, just you by yourself.

It often involves more time and more meticulous posing, sometimes exploring inner emotions, and usually less frequent sharing of most of the photos you take.

what are the benefits of taking SELFIES and selfie portraits?

self portrait relfectionPlanned out "Reflection Selfie"

The question comes out whether the act or taking selfies is harmful narcissism or is it healthy self-exploration? Let's look at the benefits of taking both selfies and self portraits.

I encourage you to have little fun with both of them.  Young women have been the biggest participants of selfy posing, but us old guys should be able to pose and not feel embarrassed, right? 

This "Reflection Selfie" I took was for a workshop I was running for pre-teenagers as part of building their self-esteem.

Honestly, it's such a great time to be interested in photography. Here's how you'll win.

what you gain from taking a self portrait

1. PRACTICE. You get practice in the craft of creating artistic self portraits by observing and controlling light, using the right background and applying good compositional technique. Deliberate practice, consciously designing a photographic image takes more thought and knowledge of lighting, controlling perspective, and producing an impactful, emotional image.

2. SELF AWARENESS. You can get to know yourself better is to see how others perceive you. You can learn from the reaction of others who see your self portraits. You get to control what facets of your uniqueness you want to show.

what you get from taking a selfie

1. INSTANT GRATIFICATION, spur of the moment fun, social network sharing with the push of a button, building of relationships with others through posting one's experiences throughout our daily lives.

2. FUN. Taking selfies can actually enhance an experience by placing yourself within an activity or included in a certain environment, rather than photographing just the event or location without you included within it.

3. EXPAND YOUR CREATIVITY. Using selfie portraits as a theme to follow is a valuable way to practice your creative techniques. Check out the examples and techniques in this post I did dedicated to creatives selfies

final comments on the selfie vs self portrait debate

The distinct gap between the selfie vs self portrait styles of photography has narrowed dramatically and many photographers, myself included, might argue that there is a complete continuous spectrum of self photography between these two strict definitions.

After all, with the improved hardware and software improvements in cell phone cameras and webcams, who is to say we can't plan out an artistic self portrait of ourselves and take it while holding onto our mobile phone camera.

Likewise. we can put thought, effort into planning and good lighting and posing technique into taking a photo while holding onto our DSLR cameras and by definition it is indeed a selfie.

Self portrait with dog and ball - using the rule of thirds

I am occasionally guilty of the  selfie, posing with one of my favorite malted beverages and sharing with old college friends or posting a photo of myself at an event on Facebook. 

I've also recently challenged myself to participate in creating visually interesting self portraits, trying to grow as a photographer, sometimes using the hand held cell phone camera and at other times using my advanced point and shoot camera or one of my DSLR cameras.

If you enjoyed this article on the thoughts behind a selfie vs self portrait debate, please share it with someone. Have a blast!

Article published by Bruce Lovelace


Bruce is the publisher of this website. He is the author of the book "Improve Your Photography Instantly."  Read more on Bruce on his Bio Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since 1994. Read more about this website.

View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram.   Visit the Facebook Page. Watch him on YouTube.  Bruce runs photo workshops for kids and adults, and provides one-on-one photography coaching.

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