Right now, the “selfie” trend is all over news sites, social media, blogs, and forums — but did you know that selfies (and internationally-renowned “selfie artists”) have been around for hundreds of years?
The history of the selfie
The word “selfie” didn’t come around until 2002, but artists have been capturing their own likeness since way back in Ancient Egypt. Sculptors, painters, and even intellectuals have been known to produce works containing their likeness; even the manuscripts of Saint Dunstan and many works of art from the Early Renaissance period contain selfies!
Most notably, Rembrandt and van Gogh are in fact notorious for painting themselves with great frequency — so the next time someone calls you out for Instagramming a picture of yourself at the Eiffel Tower on your Samsung Galaxy S5, remind them that Rembrandt was a fan of the selfie, too!
The first photographic selfie came along in 1839, not long after the invention of the modern camera. Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer in the field of photography, took one of the first ever photographs of a person on his daguerreotype… and, of course, he was the subject! Don’t be shy of developing your selfies on film (just like good ‘ol Robert did) and framing them, or take advantage of the digital age and include them in your photo slideshow on a digital photo frame.
The modern selfie
Nowadays, the term “selfie” describes a much more specific category of works. A selfie is a photo that you take of yourself, by yourself, which may or may not contain other subjects. They’re usually taken nowadays using a point-and-shoot camera or (even more frequently) with a camera phone, and are often shared on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
So, if it’s a photo of you that your friend took on your phone, it’s not a selfie. If it’s a photo of a quokka that you took with your camera, it’s not a selfie. If it’s a photo of you, your friend, and a quokka that you managed to snap with your own phone, congratulations! It’s a selfie! (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver did a fantastic segment earlier this year, titled Newscasters Misidentifying Photographs as Selfies. It contained, as to be expected, a supercut of newscasters mistakenly labelling pictures of people taken by third parties as selfies.)
How to take a great selfie
The thing about selfies is that, well, they’re not such a bad thing! The act of the “selfie” gets a bad rap for being vain and poorly executed, but selfies can be a great way to share your day with your friends, keep a log of your travel adventures, or casually commemorate an important day.
To take your best selfie ever, just remember three key things:
- Take your selfie in a well-lit area (the less light your camera has to work with, the grainier and blurrier the photo will be),
- Take the photo from eye level or just slightly above (too low and you’ll suddenly create a double-chin effect; too high and you risk looking like a MySpace page from the ‘90s), and
- Look at the camera itself, NOT your screen!
The easiest way to take a selfie is on your smartphone, where you have immediate access to filters, photo editing programs, and social media apps. To really step up your selfie-taking game, though (beyond taking a picture with a selfie stick), consider taking a picture using a Wi-Fi-enabled camera and then transferring it to your computer or smartphone!
Wi-Fi-friendly cameras let you upload photos wirelessly and directly to your smartphone, and can be lightweight and affordable (great for family events or lending out to the kids). The Canon PowerShot SX610 HS Wi-Fi 20.2MP 18X Optical Zoom Digital Camera is a great point-and-shoot option in this category, and the mirorrless, interchangeable lens-system Sony a5000 and a6000 are fantastic mid-range finds. (The a6000 is my camera of choice; I tend to shoot with old film lenses attached via a mount adaptor, using the tilt-screen and my iPhone as a remote screen/trigger interchangeably).
For those looking to take selfies with the option of video, be sure to look into action cams like the GoPro Hero4 Waterproof 4K Sports & Helmet Camera. Body-mountable action cams are becoming very, very popular in the age of YouTube and Vine, and come as compact as a pair of sunglasses (for real — check out the BIOS Eyewear Actioncam 720p HD Wearable Camcorder!) You can choose between extremely affordable options like the Vivitar Pro Action Camcorder and waterproof, HD, pivoting, rechargeable action cams like the GoPro Hero4 depending on what you need, so whether you’re documenting your first snowboarding adventure ever or the family’s annual trip to Hawaii, there’s really something in the action cam category for everyone!
The next step in the selfie age
For those of you who like to be right on the forefront of cutting-edge tech developments, I have one word for you: drones.
If it’s a picture or video of you and you’re the one controlling the drone … I mean, it’s technically still a selfie. And unless the head honchos at Google Maps have taken selfies of themselves from orbit (and, I mean, for all I know, they have), you might just be taking the most epic selfie ever!