“The” Photo TikTok Trend, Explained

If you don’t have one, consider this your sign to take it.

by Kaitlyn Wylde
Screenshots of women posing for "the" photo challenge on TikTok.

The year is 2008. You’re getting ready to go out with your girls. Music is playing, eye liner is winging, hair is sizzling — you feel hot. Your friend snaps a picture of you on her Casio digital camera and upon review, exclaims “profile picture!” You all crowd around the image and agree it’s hot enough for Facebook. The next day, you upload it and wait for the likes to roll in — the newest, freshest version of yourself has arrived.

The nostalgic joy of finding a photo that best represents yourself has been re-imagined into a TikTok trend dubbed “the” photo, a hashtag that currently has over 663 million views.

On TikTok, what makes “the” photo the photo is in the eye of the beholder. Some users post glow ups, while others post pictures that most accurately portray their vibe, spirit, essence, which is sometimes a casual couch pic, or a messy, make up-free candid. Set to the tune of Gesaffelstein and The Weeknd’s “Lost in the Fire,” the photo and audio clip pairing stirs up an America’s Next Top Model vibe that feels very right. Part of the fun of the trend is seeing what photo people chose for themselves, as it’s not always an obvious choice. What’s more, users typically record themselves first in real time before throwing up their picture to create some contrast and suspense.

“My favorite thing about the photo trend is the hype — how other people talk each other up in the comments, and also the self-love aspect,” Brittany, 32, a baker in Burlington, Vermont, tells Bustle. “I love people saying ‘Hey, I look good here.’ It’s not conceited, it’s a healthy celebration and I’m here for it.”

Ready share your “the” photo? Here’s how.

Find Or Take “The” Photo

If you can’t find a photo of yourself that you love, use this photo challenge as an excuse to snap some new selfies. You’ll know you’ve found “the” photo if you feel so good about it, you’d use it as for your profile picture for a dating app or Facebook because you feel it represents you wholly.

Record An Intro

Though you don’t need to post a video of yourself if you’re feeling shy, a common take on the trend is to show what you look like when you’re posting the picture, to give viewers something to compare it to. This can be as simple as just looking at the camera with some text alluding that your “the” photo is coming up.

Add The Photo

To add a photo after your intro, tap Effects to the left of the record button, then tap Green Screen. Once you select a Green Screen format, find “the” photo in your camera roll and load it. Duck your head out of frame before recording to reveal the shot. Add a #thephoto hashtag if you want yours to become discoverable in the mix. You can also use Gesaffelstein and The Weeknd’s “Lost in the Fire” track, or your own original audio clip.