(Pocket-lint) - So, you're thinking about buying a selfie stick...
It's okay. We won't tell anybody. But, if you're going to hop on this "in" trend, you might as well do it right. If you think you can just go to Amazon.com, then pick any top-rated one, and that's it - think again. There's a lot to finding the perfect selfie stick for your device. Heck, most people don't even realise how to properly use one or what it is capable of doing for you and your photos.
The most common way to use a selfie stick is to take your smartphone, then slide it into place or mount it on the end of the selfie stick as instructed by the stick manufacturer, and connect it via Bluetooth or 3.5mm jack. From there, extend the selfie stick's rod and then use the camera button built into the stick's handle or fob in order to remotely capture photos and videos.
There's actually some real advantages to using a selfie stick as well. You don't have to ask a stranger to hold your phone and take a photo of you, for instance. You can also capture better, wider angles of yourself, and you can shoot more stable video, among other things.
Pocket-lint has detailed everything else you need to know about selfie sticks, including what they are exactly, what kind of characteristics or features they can include, and which ones are worth your hard-earned money.
What is a selfie stick?
A selfie stick is a monopod, and you'd typically use one to mount and then extend your smartphone away from your body in order to take low- or high-angled photographs of yourself or maybe a group of friends. Most models also have some sort of camera control button built into the handle, making it easier for you to actually snap photographs while your phone is out of reach.
Time Magazine dubbed the selfie stick one of the 25 Best Inventions of 2014 (even though the monopod has been around for quite some time), and a recent Pew report further claimed that at least one-quarter of Americans have shared a photo taken with a selfie stick on social media sites (including well-known people like Kevin Hart, Kendall Jenner, and President Obama).
With such a sudden rise in popularity in recent years, there was bound to be some backlash. The selfie stick is therefore not favourably looked upon in some areas and has often been criticised for its association with narcissism. Bans and restrictions on the use of selfie sticks have even been imposed across a range of public venues, such as theme parks, museums, and festivals.
Yahoo has a running list of places that have banned selfie sticks.
Are there different types of selfie sticks?
Yes. A quick search on eBay or Amazon will bring up hundreds of different selfie sticks. Who knew there could be so much variation when it comes to extendable metal rods? The reason why there are so many options to choose from is not just because selfie sticks are a breeze to manufacture, but because there are all sorts of different features they can come with or offer.
Here's the five most important characteristics to consider when buying a selfie stick:
Most selfie sticks come with a mount that adjusts in width in order to securely hold your smartphone in a horizontal postion. A rubberised clamp or bracket that firmly squeezes around your device is one of the most common types. Just make sure to read through the selfie stick's product listing to ensure its clamp is compatible with your device type, size, and weight.
The other thing important bit to remember is: can the selfie stick's clamp rotate or swivel around? We discovered that almost all selfie sticks will offer up to 180 degrees in adjustability, which should allow you to take a wide range of selfies at different angles. Some selfie stick mounts are also versatile in that they will support compact cameras like GoPros.
Folded length and total reach
Selfie sticks are supposed to be portable, so you want one that is super compact when folded. While most selfie sticks will fold to about 8 inches in length, there are a few (usually more expensive) models that collapse to a shorter length for easy stowing in a backpack, purse, or your pocket. We're not too bothered about folded length, but it's a concern for some.
The one area we are sticklers about is total reach. There's almost no point in getting a selfie stick if it can't extend far enough away from your body to get the shot you want, so do the math and figure out the length you'd prefer. We recommend getting one that goes beyond 30 inches and goes preferrably closer to 40 inches. It's up to you and your needs, though.
This one might seem obvious, but it has to be said: does the selfie stick feature a durable build and quality materials? You don't want to lay onto a bed, then hold your iPhone 6 Plus above your face with a selfie stick, and wake up 10 minutes later with a concussion, black eye, and a cracked device. If you're going to spend the money, ensure you get a quality stick.
Beyond safety factors, you might want to consider whether it's lightweight (yet still sturdy enough) for you. Also, does it have a handle grip so it is more comfortable to hold than a slippery metal bar? Is it available in a number of different colours so that it has an eye-pleasing design or matches your device better? These are all small details, but ones to keep in mind.
Camera control and connectivity
Most people don't realise a selfie stick is more than just a metal rod that attaches to your phone. It's also a remote control. Almost all models have a button built into the handle, and with a press of said button, you can snap a picture or start recording a video. But in order for your device to recognise such a command, it needs to be connected to the selfie stick.
There are two main ways of connecting your phone to a selfie stick: Bluetooth, and a cable with a 3.5mm jack (it plugs into your smartphone’s headphone port). With the Bluetooth option, you simply pair your phone to the stick, then slide it into the selfie stick's clamp, and start pressing the camera button on the selfie stick handle in order to capture photos and videos.
The Bluetooth option is the more high-tech version, but it also requires power. Selfie sticks with support for Bluetooth usually have a micro-USB port located in the handle base for charging (and the USB cable is typically included). We honestly don't recommend getting a Bluetooth selfie stick, because it's a hassle to remember to charge, and the battery life often isn't great.
With the cable option, you simply take the tiny coiled cable poking out from the top of the selfie stick and then plug it into your smartphone while it's mounted or clamped in place. There's no need to pair your phone or charge the selfie stick or any of that, because everything will be instantly ready to go. Just press the camera button on the stick in order to take photos and videos.
The only downside to using the cable option is that your phone won't record sound while the 3.5mm jack is in use (although on Android devices, you can customise settings to fix the issue). If you use an iPhone and want sound, you'll have to start recording the video first, then mount your phone, and shoot manually without being able to use the camera control button.
Note: There is a lesser-known type of a selfie stick that comes with a fob device (a small piece of hardware that gives you remote control access). You press the camera button on the fob instead of the camera button on the selfie stick's handle in order to take a selfie, but we don't recommend getting a stick with a fob because it just means having another thing to carry around.
Accessories and speciality rigs
The last thing you need to consider are all the bells and whistles you'd like the selfie stick to feature. You can get a selfie stick with a tonne of different accessories, including lanyards, belt clips, mirrors, flip-lock extensions, etc. We think the mirror accessory is rather cool, mostly because it makes it easier to position yourself and utlise your phone's rear-view camera.
You can mount your smartphone so that it is facing backward and the rear camera is pointed toward you (thus allowing you take high-res selfies with the rear snapper), but that also means you won't see the camera app's viewfinder. Have no fear. You can use an accessory mirror - which usually slots into place on the selfie stick - to line up the shot.
Oh, and some selfie sticks also have zoom and focus controls built into the handle.
And finally, selfie sticks come in all shapes and sizes. You can get rigs that are multi-functional, such as a boom-style one, which could be good for capturing skateboarding stunts, or you can get a water-proof stick for underwater selfies. They're designed to withstand the hardships of underwater use and can sometimes reach up to six feet in length.
Where can you buy selfie sticks?
You can browse and buy most selfie sticks online.
Anything else you should know?
Just remember that your selfie stick really should provide a way to capture photos remotely (without having to tap the phone’s screen or press a button on the phone itself) - whether it be a wired connection or Bluetooth. The selfie stick should also be compatible with your handset while also accommodating different phones or cameras of various sizes and weights.
Those are the two main points to always remember. Oh, and if the selfie stick comes with a third-party app, it will only enhance the selfie stick’s functionality and isn't necessary. Pocket-lint's Camera and Gadget hubs have more info on selfie sticks.
(The selfie stick pictured atop is the non-Bluetooth one from Kiwii.)