Learning to Take Better Selfies

Can I tell you a secret? I hate the way I look in almost every photo. Being in front of the camera is not enjoyable to me in the slightest… but years ago I realized that it’s the best way to document memories. After that I realized the best way to show up for my business was to literally show up on camera all the time. People like to work with people they can get to know, and by hiding behind the camera I wasn’t allowing people to get to know me. Being a one woman show, this meant learning to take better selfies.

One of the things I learned early on was to practice on Instagram stories, and never look back at what I recorded! It actually worked great, and I learned as an introvert talking to my iPhone camera was basically like talking to myself. I’ve become super comfortable talking on my Instagram stories over the years, and I love how much more it connects me to an amazing community I’ve found on that platform.

Here are a few reasons you look different in photos than real life, and some tips you can use when taking selfies:

Why You Look Different in Photos Than in Real Life

Ever wondered why you look different in photos than you do in the mirror? You’re not alone. Many people experience the jarring disconnect between their reflection and their photographic image. This phenomenon isn’t just about being overly critical of ourselves; it’s rooted in how cameras capture our images versus how our eyes see us. Let’s dive into why these differences exist and how one-dimensional photos alter our appearance.

The Mirror vs. The Camera

First, it’s important to note that when you look in a mirror, you’re seeing a reversed, three-dimensional image. This is the version of yourself you’re most familiar with; it’s the one you see every day. Cameras, however, capture a two-dimensional representation from a fixed point in space, which can distort how features are perceived. 

Here are several reasons behind the discrepancies:

1. Flatness and Depth Perception

Your three-dimensional features are flattened in a photograph. Cameras reduce the depth of your face, making certain features appear wider, larger, or smaller than they do in the mirror. Your nose may seem larger, or your forehead might look more prominent simply because the depth is compressed in a photo.

2. Focal Length and Distortion

Different camera lenses can significantly affect how your features are portrayed. Wide-angle lenses (common in smartphones) can cause noticeable distortion, especially when taken close-up. This can exaggerate features that are closer to the lens (like your nose) and shrink those that are further away (like your ears), creating a caricature-like effect. Conversely, lenses with longer focal lengths compress and flatten facial features, often resulting in more flattering images.

3. Lighting Conditions

In real life, the human eye perceives a scene with much more dynamic range and sensitivity to nuances of light and shadow than a camera can capture. Unflattering shadows or harsh lighting in photography can create features on your face that look very different from what you see in the naturally diffused light of your bathroom or bedroom mirror.

4. Perspective

When someone looks at you in person, they are constantly moving, subtly changing the angle and perspective from which they see you. A photo is a single, static perspective, and often not from the most flattering angle. Small changes in camera height, angle, or distance can dramatically alter how your proportions are viewed.

5. Psychological Factors

There’s also a psychological element—seeing oneself in photos can sometimes be unsettling simply because it’s different from the daily mirror image you’re used to. This difference can exaggerate any perceived flaws, making you more critical of your photographic image.

Tips for More Flattering Photos

1. Use a mid-range or portrait lens to minimize distortion 

These lenses often provide the most natural and flattering perspective.

2. Mind your lighting

Soft, natural light is universally flattering. Try to avoid harsh overhead or direct light that can cast strong shadows.

3. Experiment with angles

Sometimes, raising or lowering the camera, or taking the photo from a slight side angle, can be more flattering.

4. Relax and be natural

The more comfortable and natural you are, the better your photos will usually turn out!

Understanding why you look different in photos can help alleviate some of the stress and disappointment that might come from seeing your photographic self. With these insights, you can begin to take more control over how you are depicted in photos, leading to images that are truer to how you see yourself every day.

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