What are the differences between selfies and self-portraits?

Jan 2, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

What are the differences between selfies and self-portraits?

Jan 2, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

I am a great fan of self-portraits. I am not the best photographer, but I’m my own best model, that’s for sure. At the same time, I don’t really like selfies and I rarely take them. When I tell this to people, they often ask me “What’s the difference?” I wasn’t sure how to explain at first. But I gave it a thought, and I came up with several essential differences between a self-portrait and a selfie.

First of all, let’s see what the dictionary says. A self-portrait is “a portrait that an artist produces of themselves.” On the other hand, a selfie is “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.”

I prefer to think of myself as an artist. But, I post my self-portraits on social networks, although I don’t think of them as selfies.  Also, it’s possible to take selfies with a DSLR, or take fantastic, artistic self-portraits with a mobile phone. So, what are the differences then?

The idea

The first thing that comes to my mind is the idea behind the photos and what they are supposed to convey. With selfies, I’m not sure there’s too much depth. We take them to eternalize some important or fun moments of our lives, to prove that we were in a certain place at a certain time, to get those “oh you’re so pretty” comments and the like. When I look at someone’s selfie, I usually think how pretty they are, and that’s about it.

A selfie to remember Manu Chao’s concert. I’m not sure it would bring us a lot of “you’re so pretty” comments

It’s different with self-portraits. They usually carry a certain idea and meaning. They carry a message and there is something that inspired the artist to make them. In my opinion, they come as a product of thinking or feeling something deeply, rather than just wanting to capture a moment or fish for admiration. And not only they carry an emotion, but they can also arouse it in the viewer. If they don’t carry an emotion, a message, a story, if they’re not inspired by something… I believe even some self-portraits are actually just selfies. And I make those sometimes, too:

A selfie in the pause of making some self-portraits

The moment

The moment in which you take a selfie or a self-portrait differs, as well as the memory it leaves for you later.

In my opinion, selfies are connected to a specific time and place. When you look at those photos later, you remember the situation, the place you visited, what was going on at that particular time. Also, you may remember how the situation you captured made you feel. And that’s great.

This one’s an instant throwback to the awesome New year’s Eve 2015

Self-portraits are connected more with the feelings or attitude you had at the time of making them or before it. When I look back at my older self-portraits, I don’t remember what was going on at that very moment. I often don’t even know when I made them before I check the EXIF. But, I remember the feelings that made me take these photos. I remember the entire period of my life and the situation I was going through. For me, they recall the emotion, not the event. Also, they are often inspired by music that moves me deeply at some period of life. Music arouses emotions, and emotions cause creativity to burst.

Inspired by Yann Tiersen’s song “Monochrome“. I felt very related with it at the time.

Planning and preparation

Selfies usually come spontaneously, when you are doing something you want to capture and save. At these moments, taking a selfie doesn’t require too much preparation or any particular plan. You grab a phone or a camera, point it towards you (and your friends), and take a snapshot. If you take a while to prepare for a selfie, I believe you take it for those “you’re so pretty” comments. But that’s another topic.

It took use some time to prepare for a selfie here – we took 3 seconds to pick the flowers.

Self-portraits, on the other hand, usually require some preparation and planning ahead. In my case, there’s usually a thought that’s been bugging me for a while, a certain emotion I can’t get rid of, or a tough time I’m going through. I noticed that I rarely take self-portraits when everything’s okay in my life. So, when there’s a song, an emotion or a life period that makes me want to depict how I feel, it takes some time for me to figure out the best way to do it. I sometimes use a notebook and sketch the ideas. I wait for the best light I can get, or set it up myself. Sometimes the idea’s there, but I’m not sure how to execute it, so I just start from some basic idea and build up. And I try my best to get exactly what I imagined, at least message-wise.

“Sometimes I get shocked by my own ideas”

After thinking about self-portraits and selfies and comparing the two concepts, these are the differences I came up with. Sure, there are exceptions and variations, and the line is sometimes very thin between the two. Also, I believe there are more differences that didn’t even cross my mind. So I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the topic. Do you agree with these points? Would you add anything else? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 responses to “What are the differences between selfies and self-portraits?”

  1. Matthijs Jonker Avatar
    Matthijs Jonker

    What a lovely post! I love doing self-portraits because it allows me to experiment with various settings and techniques and cool ideas without a model patiently having to wait on my fiddling. Also, as you said: I am my best model as far as certain expressions or movements concerns ;-)
    And the bonus-effect is that it really exposes oneself and I am becoming more and more comfortable in front of the lens – instead of only behind the lens. I am taking this to the next for I will be exposing 15 framed 40×60-photographs of a themed series of self-portraits in an exposition at my work next month. It is frightning and quivering and awesome!
    Attached is a selfportrait I consider one of my best so far. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6e0170e7927d87b78b7b5e7d6e2747e8ddd1cb11b7ffb63538281aa712edfbae.jpg

    1. Dunja0712 Avatar
      Dunja0712

      bonus-effect is that it really exposes oneself and I am becoming more and more comfortable in front of the lens – instead of only behind the lens. –> exactly! I didn’t mention it because I still feel awkward when other people take photos of me. But I do feel more relaxed and comfortable in front of my own camera than I did before. Thanks for sharing the photo, it’s great! :)

  2. paul stapleton Avatar
    paul stapleton

    for me when you take a selfie you can’t see what the result is going to be, they are not flattering selfportraits

  3. Ryu Takahashi Avatar
    Ryu Takahashi

    I am pretty much the same. I sometimes take my own portrait for my conceptual arts, but don’t do selfie at all unless someone else wanna do it with me. I reckon there are two types of photography , one is snapshot and another is artwork (with 256 shades of greys in between) . A selfie is a snapshot, and a self portrait is an artwork, that’s my definition. Of course I’m not saying one is better or worse than another, but simply saying that I also clearly distinguish self portraits from selfies, and prefer self portraits to selfies.

    1. Dunja0712 Avatar
      Dunja0712

      Yeah, it seems that we agree. :)

  4. Charlie Smith Avatar
    Charlie Smith

    Great take on selfies vs self portraits and where the (gray) line is. I’m usually don’t do either of them, but made an exception the day after my 50th birthday last year. I considered it a selfie since I didn’t pay attention to it at the time and took it for myself, but after getting home and posting it, now consider it a self portrait of a very specific time and place in my life.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is be open to what’s in front of you and how it speaks to you. Planning is a must, but sometimes luck just jumps up and says “Hi! Look at me!”.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/db620fd09a54612fdad2e07a32908c0dab165be5b6479176b13358f4b73054b9.jpg

    1. Dunja0712 Avatar
      Dunja0712

      It’s sometimes difficult to determine the difference and the “grey line”. :) I like your example, and from it I can see that some “selfies” may turn into self-portraits after a while. Maybe it’s the other way around too. You gave me something to think about and expand my attitude towards selfies and self-portraits. Thanks for that! :)

  5. John Avatar
    John

    Interesting article on a question all photographers should be asking. We hosted an episode of our podcast on the same theme and had a nice discussion, although there is always more to add. Thanks. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/features/podcast-selfie-or-self-portrait

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c6632bb501fd8f833945520384188cff5be4f4ce8738a6679162f51fd456c575.jpg

  6. Carrie J Avatar
    Carrie J

    Thank you for this! I was looking for a good way to teach my students about selfies vs. self portraits. I am doing a photography course for my students here in Colombia as part of my Peace Corps service. I’m using photography to help students explore their roles in their families, communities and hopefully world – self-esteem building etc. We just finished basics of design and now we’re going to be doing a self-portrait and poetry unit. My kids *love* selfies – so before I start the self-portraits I wanted to talk about the difference in what we’re doing. I was having a hard time explaining the difference even to myself, so this was a great way to help me articulate it! Now, to rephrase it so they can understand it – and translate into Spanish! Thanks for the help! :-)

    1. Dunja0712 Avatar
      Dunja0712

      Oh my goodness, you’ve just made my day!
      I used to be a teacher, and I’m so happy I am still able to contribute to teaching, in a totally new way. I’m really happy my words will be a part of your class. It’s a huge compliment for me. Thank you! :)