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A selfie stick is used to take photographs or video by positioning a digital camera device, typically a smartphone, beyond the normal range of the arm. This allows for shots to be taken at angles and distances that would not have been possible with the human arm by itself. The sticks are typically extensible, with a handle on one end and an adjustable clamp on the other end to hold the device in place. As their name suggests, they are most commonly used for taking selfies with camera phones.

Some are connected to a smartphone via its jack plug, while others are tethered using Bluetooth controls. The connection between the device and the selfie stick lets the user decide when to take the picture or start recording a video by clicking a button located on the handle. Models designed for compact cameras have a mirror behind the viewscreen so that the shot can be lined up.

In contrast to a monopod for stabilising a camera on the ground, a selfie stick's arm is thickest and strongest at the opposite end from the camera in order to provide better grip and balance when held aloft. Safety concerns and the inconvenience the product causes to others have resulted in them being banned at many venues, including all Disney Parks as well as both Universal Orlando Resort and Hollywood.

One is able to attach their device to the end of the selfie stick and then extend it beyond the normal reach of the arm. Different models of stick are triggered in various ways, such as pressing a button on the stick handle which is connected to the device (usually using the jack plug), pressing a button on a wireless remote (often via Bluetooth), using the camera's built-in timer, or making a sound the device can detect to start recording a video or taking a picture.

The smartphone's physical means of triggering the camera, such as the sound volume controls or the touchscreen camera button of the device, are replicated on headphones with on-cord controls. When selfie sticks are plugged into the jack plug, they are seen by the device as headphones.

The selfie stick gives more practical use in situations that require assistance for taking photos/videos at difficult angles that need to be taken from an extended, elevated distance beyond the arm's reach. It allows the user to take photos and videos in otherwise dangerous or impossible situations, such as recording footage inside a very deep hole, over a cliff, or simply at an angle that is too far away from the user.

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