The Secrets Of The Selfie: Why You Look So Different On Camera

You got ready this morning and you looked FAB! Then an hour later you snap a selfie with a friend and... WOAH! Who is that? WHAT is that? You think, "I look awful!" 10 minutes later you take a bathroom break and you catch your reflection and you look fine. Great even. So you come to one conclusion... your camera is a jerk!

But your camera is actually perfectly nice. There is just a lot at play here that makes you look "weird." 

The lighting in your bathroom is so very different than the lighting in your car... or worse, your office. Bathrooms often have lights on or around the mirror that shine more or less directly at you. This is less likely to cause unflattering shadows. Therefore you look pretty. The overhead fluorescents at work though... not your friends. Even the sun is overhead most of the day. In my above selfie (which I shot on location recently while waiting for the videographer to do his thing) I am laying on the ground so the sun is no longer overhead to cause bad shadows and contrast - but shining directly on my face which softens the look of my skin. This isn't the best or most typical selfie position but it worked for me that day. 

Camera lenses don't work quite the same as your eyeballs. This is all a bit sciency and math-y. I don't do math, so I will describe this the best I can. It's all about distortion. Distortion can be caused by a couple things. Your lens or the distance between you and the camera or a combo of both. The closer the camera is to your face the funnier you will look. And the wider the lens the weirder you will look. When you get a professional portrait taken, you are (at least a tiny bit) more likely to like the photos of yourself. This is because a good photographer knows when to use what lens and at what length that lens is flattering. Your phone camera is not the best lens for up close portraits. Hope you have long arms. 

Cameras often have this icky thing called a flash. It is rarely flattering and washes out your skin. Don't use it if you can avoid it. I am pretty anti-flash in general but especially phone flash. 

Mirrors are "live." You don't just stand still in front of the mirror and stare straight at yourself without moving. You are in 3D. You tilt your head, you look down at yourself, you fluff your hair. You don't see a flattened version in the mirror. You see yourself in real time. But when you look at a still image of yourself it is really easy to zero in on 'flaws'. 

Your perspective is flipped... you are a mirror image of what people see when they look at you. So when you are used to seeing the mirror image, the flip in a photo might be enough for you to feel like you look "wrong". Also, in a photo you are frozen in that captured moment. And the captured moment is not always the most flattering. Have you ever paused a movie and laughed at the funny expression caught on the actors paused face? Rarely if ever is that capture the best, most flattering shot of them. Think of your real life this way. ( Your life IS like a movie :) When you get "caught" on camera the shutter might not click at the most flattering moment. 

There is a reason this meme is so popular. 

I hope your selfie game is a bit stronger and you feel a little more confident taking your photo now that you understand all that goes into it. There is no shame in a self portrait, in my opinion. But then again... I'm kinda a narcissist.