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The Rise of the 0.5 Selfie

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Julia Herzig, a 22-year-old from Larchmont, N.Y., has “an obsession.” It’s with taking a latest type of selfie — one which doesn’t exactly conform.

In a few of these selfies, Ms. Herzig’s brow bulges across half of the frame. Her eyes are half disks, peering up at something beyond the camera. Her nose juts out. Her mouth is invisible. These images are best once they have “ominous, creepy vibes,” she said.

Ms. Herzig began taking these pictures — called 0.5 selfies (pronounced “point five” selfies, and never “half” selfies) — when she upgraded to an iPhone 12 Pro last yr and discovered that its back camera had an ultra-wide-angle lens that might make her and her friends look “distorted and crazy.”

But what gave the impression of a joke was larger than Ms. Herzig, a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, thought. A number of months ago, after spring break, she opened Instagram to a feed filled with 0.5 selfies.

“Impulsively, at some point, everyone was taking 0.5 selfies,” she said.

Wherever Gen Z gathers nowadays, a 0.5 selfie is nearly sure to be taken, capturing the moment with random flattery — or comical lack thereof. The 0.5 selfies are showing up on Instagram, proliferating in group chats, becoming the talk of parties and infrequently being snapped to chronicle the minutiae of each day life.

Unlike a conventional selfie, which individuals can endlessly prepare and pose for, the 0.5 selfie — so named because users tap 0.5x on a smartphone camera to toggle to ultra-wide mode — has grow to be popular since it is removed from curated. Because the ultra-wide-angle lens is built into the back cameras of phones, people can’t watch themselves take a 0.5 selfie, creating random images that convey the whimsy of distortion.

“You actually don’t know the way it’s going to end up, so you only should trust the method and hope something good comes out of it,” said Callie Booth, 19, from Rustburg, Va., who added that an excellent 0.5 selfie was the “antithesis” of an excellent front-facing one.

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

The issue is that taking a 0.5 selfie is difficult. Due to the back camera, angling and physical maneuvering are a must. If selfie-takers need to fit everybody right into a frame, they should stretch their arms as far out and up as possible. In the event that they want to maximise how much a face distorts, they should perch their phone perpendicular to their brow and right at their hairline.

On top of those acrobatics, since the phone is flipped around, 0.5 selfie aficionados should press its volume button to snap the image, taking care to not mistake it for the facility button. Sometimes 0.5 selfies with large groups require using a self timer as well. Nothing is visible until the selfie is taken, which is half the fun.

“I just take it and I don’t actually take a look at it until later, so it becomes more about capturing the moment versus seeing what the whole lot looks like,” said Soul Park, 21, of Starkville, Miss.

Wide- and ultra-wide-angle lenses aren’t latest. First patented in 1862, the lenses are sometimes used to capture more of a scene with their wider sight view, particularly in architectural, landscape and street photography.

“It goes back so far as photography has been a thing,” said Grant Willing, a photographer who reviews cameras for the electronics superstore B&H Photo Video.

Selfies, popularized by celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, are a more modern innovation (though even this is typically in dispute). In 2013, Oxford Dictionaries added “selfie” to its online dictionary and designated it the Word of the 12 months.

The 0.5 selfie was birthed by the wide-angle lens’s convergence with the selfie, made possible when ultra-wide-angle lenses were added to Apple’s iPhone 11 and Samsung’s Galaxy S10 in 2019 and to newer models.

Due to the wide angle, subjects closer to a lens appear larger, while those farther away seem smaller. That shift warps subjects in a way that’s welcome in, for instance, architectural photography but traditionally discouraged in portraiture.

“Wide angle for portrait shoots was all the time really different since it just made it more distorted,” said Alessandro Uribe-Rheinbolt, 23, a Colombian photographer based in Detroit.

Mr. Uribe-Rheinbolt said he had recently brought the wide angle from his portrait work — where clients have asked for the look of a 0.5 selfie — to his personal life, using it to capture his friends, his outfits and his each day routine.

“It does give it a more casual look,” he said. “There’s rather a lot more creativity with the best way you angle and the best way that you just put it closer.”

An unedited 0.5 selfie is more organically playful than a front-facing selfie. Posting the selfies on Instagram, where limbs are noodly or eyes are buggy, is supposed to be silly, making it appear to be the photographers take themselves — and social media — less seriously.

“Something about it breaks the fourth wall since you’re acknowledging that you just’re taking an image for the sake of taking an image,” said Hannah Kaplon, 21, from Sacramento. “It’s attempting to make Instagram casual again.”

Ms. Kaplon, a recent graduate of Duke University, said she now took a 0.5 selfie for many occasions: a late night studying within the library, a dinner with 11 guests, a basketball game watch party.

“Pretty soon, wherever my friends and I were, I used to be like, ‘We’ve got to take a 0.5 selfie,’” she said. “The trend has taken on a lifetime of its own.”

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