The etiquette of using selfie sticks whilst travelling

The etiquette of using selfie sticks whilst travelling

Go to any tourist attraction, no matter how obscure, and chances are you’ll find someone waving a smartphone in the air, attempting to compose the perfect holiday snap with themselves firmly planted front and centre in the shot. Holiday snaps have long been an integral part of the travel experience, but with the rise of smartphones, comes more sophisticated in-built cameras. Add the more recent advent of the “selfie stick”, and you no longer have to rely on a stranger to compose the perfect photographic evidence of where you’ve been.

In 2013, the Oxford Dictionary named the word, “selfie” as its word of the year, and the following year Time magazine listed the selfie as one of the year’s top 25 inventions, confirming that this phenomenon, loved and loathed in equal proportions, is here to stay. I recently put my own selfie stick to good use on our European family holiday, and I have some tips to offer to ensure that you’re adhering to the unspoken protocols surrounding the use of selfie sticks whilst travelling:

  • Don’t ruin other people’s experience for the sake of your own selfie. Always ask yourself, “will taking a selfie bother, injure, disrespect or upset someone around me?” If the answer is “no,” then by all means take the photo. The same rule applies for important events, where extending your selfie stick might interfere with or ruin someone else’s view, photo or special moment.
  • Just as you’d take care when opening an umbrella, you should take caution when using a selfie stick in public. Don’t use it in crowded, narrow places (especially indoors), on public transport, on crowded footpaths and at busy intersections. The same rules apply for sporting events and live performances, if those venues haven’t banned them already.
  • Never use a selfie stick to photograph or video yourself whilst walking – you risk injuring yourself or someone else because you aren’t watching where you’re going, and you risk doing injury to yourself. You wouldn’t text while driving – the same common sense applies to selfie-taking.
  • Keep it to a minimum – take a selfie or two, then put it away and move on.
  • Never be disrespectful, insensitive, offensive or inappropriate, and avoid taking a selfie at sites where others might be offended by your lack of regard for the setting. Memorials, sacred or religious sites, hospitals, concentration camps or other places of human suffering are not a suitable setting for a prolonged self-portrait session.
  • If snapping a sneaky selfie is borderline inappropriate, then drawing attention to yourself with a selfie stick will be viewed as offensive. If it’s something that’s really important to you but you don’t want to risk offending others, try a compromise solution: wait until nobody else is around, then quickly snap a discreet selfie and move on.
  • Think outside the selfie: not every holiday shot has to include your own lovely face. Remember that you can also use your selfie stick to capture images from angles you couldn’t otherwise reach. And don’t use a selfie stick when your regular reach will do.
  • If you’re including anyone else in your photo, follow standard photography etiquette and ask for their permission first. And if you’re taking photos with kids, ask for their parents’ permission. Likewise, ask for their permission to share the photo via social media.
  • Never risk your life or health, or compromise the safety of yourself and others, to take a selfie in a dangerous location. Trying to hold on, balance and maneuver a long pole in your spare hand is going to affect your balance and you risk injury.’
  • Selfie sticks have been banned in numerous museums, venues, theme parks and sporting events around the world. These include all Disney Parks, Versailles, Carnival parades in Rio de Janeiro, the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and nearly every major European cultural site. Avoid the risk of huge fines just to show where you’ve been. If you’re not sure – ask, or check online before you arrive.There’s no doubt that the explosion of the selfie stick has changed the way we record our travels, making it easier to place ourselves in the shot and allowing us to photograph familiar landmarks from different angles or from above the crowds. But the most important tip of all is to remember to look up from your camera! Soak up the atmosphere, and absorb the wider sights, sounds and smells, so that when you’re reliving your travels later on, you’re not just relying on what was captured on a screen. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.
Nicole Edgar
Based in Narre Warren South, VIC
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