When is a selfie not a selfie?

Selfies. If you’d never heard of a selfie before last night, then I’m sure you have now – with Bradley Cooper’s Oscars selfie (tweeted by Ellen DeGeneres) breaking Twitter records for most retweets – over 2 million and rising!

The word selfie was added to the Oxford Dictionary last year, with the definition:

A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

I’m interested in how a ‘selfie’ is defined in the context of a photo competition. On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram I regularly see entrants complaining about dubious winning ‘selfies’ and in many cases I can see their point! Photos of someone atop a mountain peak, or a group of five mates in a wide shot: are these selfies? Yes, of course it’s a photo of your self, but who took it? Certainly not you! A selfie is a photo of YOU taken by YOU. Selfies and front facing cameras became popular through the growth of social media, resulting in a new type of narcissism: folk desperately wanting to share a special (or not so special) moment with the world, but with nobody around to take the photo. So, with arms outstretched, or posing in front of a mirror, they started snapping away and sharing. And that ‘arm out style’ is what I would consider the classic selfie, like this winning selfie here:   

The handheld selfie is actually pretty hard to do if you have the challenge of squeezing products, clothes or locations into the shot… For their competition, Grazia wanted selfies in Gap changing rooms:  

Absolute Radio wanted selfies of Christmas jumpers

Oxford Street wanted selfies of… Oxford Street!

I think it’s also fine to take a selfie using a camera timer, shutter release or remote control: as long as it’s YOU taking the photo then that’s still a selfie. What I don’t think is a selfie is a photo that someone else has taken of you: even if it’s a close up. But there are grey areas here: after all, you don’t need to prove anything, you could lie and say the camera was on a timer – who can tell?

If the photo is of an animal or baby on their own IT IS CLEARLY NOT A SELFIE. Animals – with the exception of a few clever chimps – simply can’t take a photo of themselves, and nor can most babies! Toddlers can learn to use a front facing camera – but then, most competitions are likely to only accept entries from over 18s so a child’s selfie wouldn’t actually be ‘valid’!

Check out this entry from the Perfume Shop #perfumeselfie competition – THIS IS NOT A SELFIE! (no offence to the entrant of course, I’m just making a point).


When I asked for opinions on selfies on the Superlucky Facebook page everyone had different ideas on what a selfie is – and although I don’t think it’s practical for promoters to include a detailed brief in competition T&Cs, I would prefer to see more of the casual, quirky and spontaneous handheld shots winning rather than a more formal self portrait. As for photo comps with selfie in the title and hashtag, the judges should definitely take into account the origination of the word!

But let’s be honest here: if you win with a shot that’s NOT a selfie, does it matter? Probably not. But at least it gives the rest of us something to grumble about!

Check out my top tips on taking prizewinning selfies – and one day I hope that Brad Pitt will sneak into one of my selfies too…

4 Responses

  1. Annette Slater says:

    Haha its so good ur having this discussion as I took a selfie today in debenhams, I got strange looks and felt stupid, but hopefully worth it lol, and yes it was me taking it and in it…..by myself, looking like a right idiot 🙂 🙂 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/17b9e7523a26f02ff78dd2d6526797b78c85def5fb13a22ec0d286a09ce7a418.jpg

  2. Julia Plant says:

    I hear there is a bit of a debate going on about the grand prize winner of #perfumeselfie as it’s not a selfie (but by whose definition)? I can’t complain, as I was a very lucky daily winner with a genuine selfie on day 2!

    • I think the winner was taken on a self-timer, but I can understand the annoyance of the other entrants who did take proper handheld selfies – it’s a minefield!

  3. HonestMum says:

    Love your selfies, look fab!

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