How to Use a Selfie Stick Without Looking Obnoxious

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We landed in Italy without ever having heard of the selfie stick but it was a fast and furious introduction in Rome.

We were bombarded by street sellers pushing them in our face once they realized we were the only tourists in Rome without one.

We first turned our travel snob noses up passing tacky tourists foolishly taking photos and waived the street hawkers with disdain.

But 24 hours later they started to look list a good idea. At 5′ tall I certainly don’t have the arm span to take photos and Dave is no giant either.

Should you buy a selfie stick? Here's a guide of how to use a selfie stick without looking like an obnoxious traveler.
The Oatmeal Weighs In

Reluctantly we decided to get one and as the street hawker explained how to use a selfie stick and connect the bluetooth remote to the phone I was already hooked.

This was perfect for travel selfies. He wanted 25 Euro for a selfie stick but Dave haggled down to 13, we knew we could have haggled more but we thought $20 was a fair price.

We learned quickly that the best way to take photos was for him to put it into position, me to hold it steady and then hit the remote.

Otherwise the photo can be a bit blurry as you try to keep an iPhone three feet away perfectly still. It takes some practice.

You Know You Want One

The selfie stick is awesome, not just for solo travelers but also couples who want to both be in the photo.

And yet the selfie stick is also obnoxious and it brings out the “jerk traveler” in everyone.

It’s not surprising that selfie sticks have been banned in most museums, Brazilian soccer stadiums and many music festivals.

Selfie Stick at Colosseum

We also learned that it’s banned in the Colosseum in Rome, but hey there’s no ban outside!

Selfie sticks are basically just monopods, extreme sports athletes have been using them for ages for action shots and video.

But with the selfie trend spreading faster than the Bubonic plague it was inevitable that we evolved past the outstretched arm into an extendable stick.

Should you buy a selfie stick? Here's a guide of how to use a selfie stick without looking obnoxious. Get tips, tricks and learn where it's banned.

Different Types of Selfie Sticks

Selfie stick has a built-in bluetooth remote shutter.

One of the biggest issues with selfie sticks is that you need to remove your phone from its protective case and it’s terrifying to think it could drop and shatter on beautiful European cobblestone.

Selfie stick and a bluetooth wireless remote shutter is what we bought. It’s pretty easy to set up and Dave and I had no issues with it although I’m sure at some point the remote shutter will need a new battery.

But this is still my favourite option as you could place your phone down and take a shot 10 feet away without the selfie stick.

Plug and shoot selfie stick. This option doesn’t have the remote device which is awkward but also means fewer technical difficulties.

Insert the cord into your headphone jack and take pictures with the remote shutter control on the handle. There’s also an adapter mount regular cameras.

Should you buy a selfie stick? Here's a guide of how to use a selfie stick without looking obnoxious. Get tips, tricks and learn where it's banned.

Selfie sticks may be obnoxious and maybe even err on the douchey side but we don’t care, it gives us an opportunity to take photos without harassing a fellow traveler to take a horribly composed shot.

I saw a nun trying to take a photo of herself outside the Vatican and she couldn’t get everything she wanted in the shot – that nun needed a selfie stick!

There are nearly 1 million photos on Instagram tagged #SelfieStick

If we all agreed upon a few rules of selfie stick etiquette I think we could learn how to use selfie sticks without being completely narcissistic travelers.

Selfie Stick Etiquette

1.  Don’t use them in crowded spaces, it’s rude to take up so much space or poke someone’s eye out  while you turn to get just the right angle. Don’t whip it out and hog the view, be mindful of your surroundings and other travelers. You aren’t the only one trying to take photos.

2.  Don’t use a selfie stick indoors, do you really need a photo of you next to the Mona Lisa? Probably not.

3.  Let’s all agree not to use it near cliffs, subway station platforms for anywhere else that is too tempting to step back and plummet to our death.

4.  Have some cultural sensitivity, it’s not the place to pull out in cemeteries, disaster sites or war zones. I was shocked I saw people posing with smiling faces at the 911 Memorial in New York.

5.  Be aware it puts you and your phone in a precarious situation as it’s easy for thieves to snatch and run. As someone who has been robbed in Vietnam, robbed in Nicaragua and with my sister when she was robbed in Quito, Ecuador I’m wary of tempting thieves by dangling expensive goods.

6. If you’d rather ditch the phone, check out these useful GoPro accessories.

One final word of caution:

Selfie Sticks Can Be Dangerous

Images (c) The Oatmeal, Etsy (CA)

Join the Conversation

  1. I haggled for a selfie stick in Paris in front of the Lourve. We haggled from 25 down to 5 euros. Yes we used it throughout France and yes I did take a selfie in front of the Mona Lisa! I can’t tell you how much fun it has been.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Agreed! Traveling should be fun and we loved our selfie stick.

  2. Sam - Journo and the Joker says:

    We have selfie sticks for the Go Pro but not for the phones. But we have only ever used the selfie stick once. There are times when I can see that it could be handy – I am rarely in photos for example. But people are ridiculous with them. I was horrified to see people taking selfies at the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh recently with the big stupa of skulls in the background… WTF? I am sure we will be converts at some point.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Agreed there is a time and place, some people have no sense of etiquette although even without the selfie stick they would be doing something inappropriate.

  3. Jenna of This Is My Happiness says:

    Wow, good thing you had that selfie stick for that photo of you two in front of the Colosseum! That’s such a nice photo of you two and doesn’t look at all like a selfie stick shot. I like that you don’t hold it way above you like some do…why have it angled from the sky??

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s one of my favourite photos of us, for that reason alone the selfie stick is worth it.

  4. Cool piece, Ayngelina. I completely agree with you on this one. I’m gonna go ahead and copy-paste a comment I left on a Friend’s facebook post about the subject, because it’s germane to the discussion:

    ‘ve seen two kinds of critiques of selfie sticks. one of them irks me, the other one makes sense.

    the one that irks me is the one coming from self-righteous old grumps (mostly aging gen-Xers, but also often younger people) who view it as the ultimate symbol of millennial narcissism, something to be fervently decried at any opportunity they get, because it likely serves as a reminder of their rapidly fading sense of relevance. those people love to turn their nose up at youth culture. that kind of crotchety mentality, “in my day we set our analog cameras on top of the TV and hastily ran into place!”, it is everywhere and it’s tiresome as hell.

    the other critique is that people are often inconsiderate when they use selfie sticks, and end up obstructing other’s view (at concerts) or smacking others in the face. that one i can understand.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I listened to a CBC (Canadian version of NPR) piece on the narcissism behind it but I also disagree. Yes it makes it easier to take a photo of ourselves but I feel like the same people who are complaining about this are those that use a tripod with a vintage film camera somewhere in the world. They still want to take a photo with themselves in it but they are doing it in a different way.

  5. Melissa | Suitcase and Heels says:

    I keep telling people that there are perfectly legit reasons to want to have a selfie stick and that you can you it without being a tool. Thanks for a post that I can point those people too now.

    It’s so nice not having to have my arm in photos or to have to ask strangers to take my photo when I want to capture something with me in it while travelling solo.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Agreed, if done in the right way you get great photos. How many times did you ask some stranger to take your picture only to find out it’s not how you’d compose it at all.

  6. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    I just can’t do it!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Just try it once and you’ll never want to travel without one again.

  7. Yea, everyone loves taking photos of themselves one way or another. Selfie stick definitely solves the problem of taking selfie efficiently. This is especially true for group photos.

  8. Sonal of Drifter Planet says:

    Haha – I saw this on Pinterest and I LOVE THIS POST!
    I have many travel pictures but I’m in very few of them! Still I refuse to buy a selfie stick. I hope I don;t cave in.. 😀 😀

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Just try it once, you will definitely cave,

      1. Sonal Kwatra Paladini says:

        I bought a GoPro and now I’m turning into a selfie-monster and I’m not proud of it. 🙁

  9. I just got a selfie stick for blogging but haven’t used it out of my apartment yet LOL We’ll see how it goes. My husband said I’m not allowed to use it when I’m with him so it’ll be great for solo shots if I get the courage Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      One day you’ll want a photo together and he’ll be hooked, just as fast as we were!

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