I have often wondered why I don’t look the same in pictures compared to what I look like in the mirror at home. OK, I’ll be completely honest … my pictures rarely look as good as I think they should, even when I’m pleased after glancing in the mirror before heading out the door to hang out with friends or family.
So why am I usually disappointed when I look at my pictures compared to how I look in the mirror? This mystery turns out to be pretty simple, according to an article published by the Website Distractify.
Mirrors Are Just Reflections
Your reflection in the mirror is not the real you. It actually shows what you look like in reverse. And because you are used to seeing yourself in reverse in the mirror, seeing a picture of yourself can be startling.
This is called the “mere-exposure” effect. Basically, in this case, this means that you are so familiar with your mirror image that when you look at a picture of yourself and see a slightly different image, you are unhappy with the differences you see.
So, you may feel like you look better in the mirror because you’re used to your mirror reflection and because you see it every day. And when you see something else in pictures, you’re automatically surprised.
“We see ourselves in the mirror all the time — you brush your teeth, you shave, you put on makeup,” Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Center, told The Atlantic. “Looking at yourself in the mirror becomes a firm impression. You have that familiarity. Familiarity breeds liking. You’ve established a preference for that look of your face.”
The Camera Lens Matters
While angles, lighting, and facial expressions can really affect how you look in pictures, lens distortion can dramatically affect your pictures. For example, if your face is too close to the camera, it can be distorted when the picture is taken.
“Telephoto lenses are usually seen as more flattering, giving the impression that the subject is flattened, and slightly compressing the width of your foremost features, like your nose or breasts,” said Gizmodo writer John Herrman.
Also keep in mind that a camera only captures your 2D image, not 3D. So, depending on your features, such as if you have a round face, your pictured image could be further distorted as the camera flattens out your features.
The Camera Flash Makes a Difference
Flashes that are too bright, such as some smartphone flashes, can make your pictures look harsher. And if a picture is taken in a dark room with a bright flash, it can actually make you look older or shinier. So, pictures taken of you in outdoor or natural lighting usually look better.
Did You Smile?
The expression on your face can significantly impact how you look in your photo. Sporting a natural, relaxed smile is the best way to ensure you’re pleased with your photos. If you feel awkward or self-conscious when you take photos, it’s probably going to come across in the picture.
But don’t get too depressed just yet about how you look in pictures, because the more photos you take, the more you’ll get used to your image in pictures.
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“People who take a lot of selfies end up feeling a lot more comfortable in their own skin because they have a continuum of images of themselves, and they’re more in control of the image,” Pamela Rutledge said. “Flipped or not flipped, the ability to see themselves in all these different ways will just make them generally more comfortable.”