Costing upwards of $40 per hour, these trained cameraphone operatives follow their clients wherever they go – to the nightclub, the beach or even the shopping mall – ready to be on hand to take a photo whenever a selfie is required.
“We’ve seen a huge rise in the popularity for selfie assistants across the GCC, where disposable income among teens and twentysomethings can be very high and where there is a highly competitive nature when it comes to looking your best on social media,” says Camilla Prague, a Dubai-based personal shopper, who admits to having used a selfie assistant on numerous occasions.
“They’re especially handy if you’re out and about and don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of taking a photo and uploading it to Facebook or your blog yourself.”
In response to the growing demand, several dedicated selfie assistant agencies have been set up across the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Lebanon.
“Our clients demand the finest quality selfies to post online; selfies that have been professionally taken by a fashion photographer, with specialist use of framing and lighting for full flattering effect,” said Maha Elamahzy, director of iSelfie, an agency in Doha that currently has 25 assistants on its books.
“But the key is making the photo appear to have been taken by the subject themselves, and for it to come with a highly personalised message, something our growing team of ‘selfie agents’ are expertly skilled at.”
Although iSelfie’s most expensive service is the ‘Full Platinum Selfie Experience’, in which an assistant follows a client from the moment they wake to the time they go to bed – something Elamahzy claims has been taken up by several ‘top-tier members’ – most customers choose a less extravagant option.
“I usually just hire an assistant for a few hours if I’m going out to a party or launch event,” said Reem Sowassy, a fashion blogger in Abu Dhabi. “Sometimes, if there’s a group of us, we’ll split the cost and get a couple.”
However, Sowassy did admit that sharing an assistant had, in the past, led to arguments when people wanted separate selfies taken at the same time.
“But on the other hand it can get quite chaotic if we bring one each. I went to an event last week where it seemed every other person there was an assistant. It’s about trying to find that balance so everyone’s happy, feeling fabulous and having their perfect selfies taken without getting in each other’s way.”