I was asked to edit a translation and I noticed that the original English sentence is:

Selfie (only) - You will only need to upload a selfie photo.

The context is the process of uploading documents to verify an account on a trading web application. Let's call it high-level financial business.

Now, I am not a native English speaker but this really sounds "wrong" to me. Rather than wrong, not something to write in this kind of context. I don't know how to say, it doesn't sound "serious".

Am I wrong? Is it actually a perfectly fine and professional-sounding word? My guess is no. Moreover, I think that the word selfie is also too generic for what I believe is the purpose of the picture in question. A selfie could be anything (expression, posture, background, etc) as long as it's self-taken.

In case I'm right, what would be a better alternative? Self portrait? Headshot? Passport photo?

Thank you.

  • 9
    Unless they specifically want a "selfie" — one of those goony, grinning self-taken souvenir snaps recorded in front of a place or person — the term is not appropriate for a neutral register. Absent context, I'd suggest headshot or even just "a recent photo of yourself."
    – Robusto
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 2:38
  • 1
    Thank you @Robusto, that's was my impression as well. May I know why you say "absent context"? I thought I specified the context quite clearly. Please let me know if and what kind of extra information you need.
    – Tommy
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 2:40
  • 1
    There is no "formal" synonym or alternative to selfie, so you will have to use it where you mean it. OTOH, it seems to me that the context does not necessarily need the word selfie but "photo (of self)", which is different. Finally, selfie is a complete idea in itself, so it's not correct to say "selfie photo". HTH.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 6:09
  • 1
    It's not just selfie that's wrong in that sentence. You will only need to is awkward. Without more context, I would say It should be you need to upload a photo of yourself or you will need a photo of yourself. But if a specific type of photo is required, that should be specified. Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 6:56
  • 3
    I would suggest a 'passport photograph' or 'passport-style photograph' in order to make it clear that it is a matter of I.D. Asking for selfies is going to invite pics of people snapping themselves upside down on the Eiffel Tower, and covered in pigeon droppings in Trafalgar Square.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 11:49

2 Answers 2


Merriam-Webster offers this definition of selfie: "An image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks."

Technically what is being described in your question is NOT a selfie since it doesn't need to be taken by oneself.

The word "headshot" would be more accurate but not everyone may be familiar with exactly what a headshot is. It's most commonly used among actors and artist types, I think.

In the end there are many options of how to approach the sentence you are trying to write. One example of saying it without using the word selfie: "Please include a clear photograph of yourself from the shoulders up."

  • Thank you for the answer. However, that’s exactly the point. No, unless I wasn’t clear, a selfie is not what I describe in my question: it is no where specified that it must be self-taken (which I think is a key point in the definition of selfie). For the purpose of the picture, any photo clearly showing the face of the person is question (in this case who is uploading the documents) is fine. It could be very well taken by someone else. Therefore, if you consider this, the word selfie becomes “restrictive”.
    – Tommy
    Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 3:48
  • Good point @tommy -- I have updated my answer to reflect the fact that it doesn't need to be self-taken. Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 13:30

I would say it is 'formal' enough for 99% of readers to understand its meaning.

But if in doubt, look here: https://www.powerthesaurus.org/selfie/synonyms

thanks for formally asking.

  • 1
    Formality of an expression is independent of what percentage of readers will understand it.
    – jsw29
    Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 16:59
  • Of course not. I'm borrowing the word used in the question to—and I'm using quotation marks around it—to make a point, which is that selfie is understood in any context (formal or otherwise). So it is a 'received' word. (Or then give me a better option). Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 14:57

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