The rise of the 0.5 selfie


Julia Herzig, a 22-year-old from Larchmont, NY, has “an obsession.” It’s about taking a new kind of selfie — one that’s not exactly compliant.

In some of these selfies, Ms. Herzig’s forehead bulges over half the frame. Her eyes are half panes looking at something behind the camera. Your nose is sticking out. Your mouth is invisible. These images are at their best when they have “ominous, spooky vibes,” she said.

Ms. Herzig began taking these images — known as 0.5 selfies (pronounced “point five” selfies rather than “half” selfies) — as she progressed to one iPhone 12 pro last year and discovered the rear camera had an ultra-wide lens that could make her and her friends look “distorted and crazy.”

But what seemed like a joke was bigger than Ms. Herzig, a recent grad from Washington University in St. Louis, realized. It opened a few months ago, after spring break Instagram to a feed full of 0.5 selfies.

“One day everyone was suddenly taking 0.5 selfies,” she said.

Wherever Gen Z congregates these days, a 0.5 selfie is almost inevitably taken to capture the moment with casual flattery — or hilarious lack of it. The 0.5 selfies are popping up on Instagram, spreading in group chats, becoming the talk of the town at parties and often snapped to record the little things of everyday life.

Unlike a traditional selfie, which people can endlessly prepare and pose for, the 0.5 selfie is so-called because users tap 0.5x on a smartphone camera to switch to ultra-wide mode – became popular because it is anything but curated. Because the ultra wide-angle lens is built into the rear cameras of phones, people can’t watch them take a 0.5 selfie and create random images that convey the whim of distortion.

“You really don’t know how it’s going to turn out, so you just have to trust the process and hope something good will come out of it,” said Callie Booth, 19, of Rustburg, Virginia, adding a good .5 selfie was the “antithesis.” ‘ to a good frontal photo.

In her best 0.5 selfies, Ms. Booth said, she and her friends are blurry and not straight-faced. “It’s not the traditional picture perfect,” she said. “It makes it funnier to look back on.”

The problem is that it’s difficult to take a 0.5 selfie. Because of the rear camera, fishing and physical maneuvering are a must. If selfie shots all want to fit in one frame, they need to stretch their arms out and up as far as possible. If you want to maximize how much a face is distorted, you need to place your phone perpendicular to your forehead and right at your hairline.

In addition to this acrobatics, since the phone is flipped, 0.5 selfie fans need to press the volume button to take the picture, being careful not to confuse it with the power button. Sometimes 0.5 selfies with large groups also require the use of a self-timer. Nothing is visible until the selfie is taken, which is half the fun.

“I just take it and watch it later, so it’s more about capturing the moment than seeing how it all looks,” said Soul Park, 21, of Starkville, Miss.

Wide and ultra wide-angle lenses are not new. First patented in 1862the lenses are often used to capture more of a scene with their wider field of view, particularly in architectural, landscape and street photography.

“It goes as far back as photography was a thing,” said Grant Willing, a photographer who reviews cameras for electronics supermarket B&H Photo Video.

Selfies made popular by celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, are a more modern innovation (although even this is sometimes disputed). In 2013, the Oxford Dictionaries added “Selfie”. his online dictionary and labeled it the word of the year.

The 0.5 selfie was born through the convergence of the wide-angle lens with the selfie, made possible by the addition of ultra-wide-angle lenses Apple’s iPhone 11 and Samsung’s Galaxy S10 in 2019 and on newer models.

Because of the wide angle, subjects closer to a lens appear larger, while subjects further away appear smaller. This shift distorts subjects in a way that is welcome in architectural photography, for example, but traditionally discouraged in portrait photography.

“Wide angle in portraiture has always been very different because it just distorted it more,” said Alessandro Uribe-Rheinbolt, 23, a Colombian photographer based in Detroit.

Mr. Uribe-Rheinbolt said he recently brought the wide angle from his portrait work – which had clients asking what a 0.5 selfie looked like – into his personal life, capturing his friends, his outfits and his everyday life.

“It gives it a more casual look,” he said. “There’s a lot more creativity with the way you angle it and how you bring it closer.”

A 0.5 unedited selfie is more organically playful than a front-facing selfie. Posting the selfies to Instagram, where the limbs are crunchy or the eyes are flawed, is meant to be silly and make it seem like the photographers are taking themselves – and social media – less seriously.

“Something about it breaks the fourth wall, because you acknowledge that you’re taking a picture to take a picture,” said Hannah Kaplon, 21, of Sacramento. “It’s trying to make Instagram casual again.”

Ms. Kaplon, a recent graduate of Duke University, said she now takes a 0.5 selfie for most occasions: a late-night study at the library, a dinner with 11 guests, a basketball game party.

“Pretty soon, wherever my friends and I were, I was like, ‘We’ve got to take a 0.5 selfie,'” she said. “The trend has developed a life of its own.”

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