Why do I look bad in photos?

“Why do I look different in pictures?” It’s a weird phenomenon that, thanks to selfies, is making people question their mirrors. Are pictures the “real” you, or is it your reflection? Have mirrors been lying to us this whole time? The answer to that is a bit tricky. The good news is that there’s a big chance that a Quasimodo-looking creature that stares back at you in your selfies isn’t an accurate depiction of the real you. But your mirror isn’t entirely truthful either. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

Myth: “The photo I used was just what I look like.”

You’ve been misled.

  • You’ve been told that the camera doesn’t lie. (Myth.)
  • Those photos show you just the way you are. (Myth.)
  • Those photos = proof. (Myth.)
  • Those bad pictures are the most “real.” (Myth.)

You could be a fitness model or look like the bottom of a garbage can. But most of us tend to fall somewhere near average. And, for us, the difference between a bad and good picture can be genuinely consequential to our professional and dating lives.

Camera distortion warps your proportions.

Ever suspect that your forehead or nose looked larger in a particular picture than in real life? More than likely, you were correct. Camera distortion is ubiquitous in social media pictures — especially selfies.

The most common cause of camera distortion is that the subject is too close to the lens. Most photographers say that the type of lens used also has a lot to do with it, and wide-angle lenses (like the ones in our camera phones) are big offenders.

Going from 3D to 2D creates optical illusions.

Real-life is 3D. The picture is 2D.

This difference can have significant implications. For instance, when you’re standing in front of someone, you get a 3D sense of their size. Without that extra dimension, in photos, a human arm can look way smaller or larger than it is. For this reason, professional models learn to manipulate their body shape by moving parts of themselves closer or farther from the lens.

Additionally, because a sharp bone structure doesn’t flatten out as much in the transition to 2D, angular faces are generally more photogenic than softer ones.

All in all, it’s helpful to understand that natural photogenicity is correlated with (but not the same as) attractiveness. Being attractive in person doesn’t automatically equal photogenic. And being naturally photogenic doesn’t automatically equal attractiveness in person.

Photographers have long been known to note the difference between the on-camera and off-camera appearances of famous models. Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?

Most pictures are disappointing because your brain is like Photoshop.

Why do I look bad in photos?

Our eyes (with help from our brain) automatically adjust to darkness and brightness. Our cameras are not as impressive. They can be adjusted to focus on highlights or shadows, but never both at once.

As a result, sometimes we get these dark, creepy, or washed-out pictures that cause us to question, “Was that what I looked like at the party?” The answer is no; it’s not.

Another quirk of how we see in real life is about focus. We automatically “edit out” unimportant, periphery details while zooming in on small windows of vision at a time. What results is that pictures look cluttered, distracting, and crappy compared to what we had seen through our own two eyes.

And, if we’re not careful to notice the difference, we’re apt to use pictures with details that are unflattering to us.

Movement matters a lot in person but not at all in photos.

Photos are static, and people are not.

Your personality, the sound of your voice, and yes, how you move your face and body act as a strong filter that heavily influence whether people find you attractive or not. But you miss all of this in photos.

Haven’t we all met someone for the first time after seeing them in a picture and thought, “That’s not at all what I expected”? Even when their physical features were presented accurately? It was the lack of movement at play.

Additionally, people often have awkward expressions in pictures that no one would have noticed in real life. That’s because we remember a cumulative average of facial expressions rather than each specific movement.

Consequently, sometimes we get photos of ourselves that are much worse than what we look like!

Each photo exaggerates a specific story.

Even more, ways we humans are not visually static:

  • We don’t stay in one setting 24/7
  • We wear different clothes in different situations
  • We behave differently at other times and in other situations
  • Our mental and emotional states change by the second

Given this, showing the truth of who you are — even in a strictly physical sense — is impossible to do in one picture. A “fair” description of what someone looks like might only be given after an extended in-person interaction.

When you’re choosing a picture to use for a profile, you’ve got to imagine what specific settings, poses, facial expressions, etc., might be communicating to a stranger about who you are — given that they know nothing else about you. Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here

The camera lens also plays a part. 

So if your reflection isn’t the real you, does that mean your ugly selfies are your “true self”? Although mirrors show a flipped version of yourself that tones down your asymmetries’ harshness, the myth that “pictures never lie” isn’t true either. After all, most people take more than one selfie before they find their most flattering one, and usually, it takes a combination of angles, lighting, and duck lips before landing one that’s Instagram-worthy.

But the problem might not be your angles; it could be lens distortion. Because of your face’s proximity to the camera, the lens can distort certain features, making them look larger than they are in real life. Pictures also only provide a 2-D version of ourselves. Depending on your parts, if you have a soft, round face, photos can flatten your features and further distort the “real” you. 

For example, just changing the focal length of a camera can even change the width of your head. As Gizmodo writer John Herrman pens, the fancier the camera, the better you’ll look in the picture:

“Telephoto lenses are usually seen as more flattering, giving the impression that the subject is flattened and slightly compressing the width of your main features, like your nose or breasts. So you might want to think twice before fleeing the pesky paparazzi and their fancy zoom lenses; it’s the tourist with the pocket cam whose snaps will make you look fat on the Internet.”

And because cameras don’t show the 3-D version of you, it’s accessible to “trick” cameras to present a reality that’s not even true. Professional models have perfected this, which is why people can do photo sorcery by merely tweaking their angles.

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It’s also the camera flash.

Although good lighting is the key to all flattering photos, a harsh flash from your iPhone can make you look a lot worse, especially if it’s taken in a dark room. In fact, according to OkCupid, harsh camera flashes add seven years to your face. In addition to making you look shiny and greasy, cameras can’t adjust to lightness and darkness the ways our eyes naturally can. Cameras can only focus on highlights or shadows, and sometimes that can result in lighting that can be less than flattering. A good rule of thumb is to stick to natural or outdoor lighting instead.

Your smile could also be the culprit.

Everyone knows what it’s like to pose for an awkward photo, like a driver’s license or a passport. The pictures never turn out to look nice, and they hardly look like our natural smiles. When you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, you’re relaxed, confident, and more likely to smile and act naturally. If someone is shouting “Say cheese!” and it makes you feel self-conscious about your unphotogenic reputation. You’re going to tense up and have a photo that looks different and foreign from the version you see in the mirror. It’s best to relax when taking pictures and try to focus on something else. That tense, forced awkwardness will always translate to a bad photo.

You may be less attractive than you think.

But no matter how many factors you want to blame for your crappy pictures, it all boils down to psychology. Perhaps you look different in photos because the version of yourself you like best is a figment of your imagination.

According to a 2008 study, people tend to think they’re more attractive than they are. In the experiment, researchers photoshopped pictures of participants to make them look more beautiful and then mixed those with photos of strangers. Next, they asked the subjects to pick their print out of a line-up. People were quicker at picking pictures where they looked more attractive, concluding that “attractiveness” was the version of themselves they were most familiar with.

However, other experts have also said that people tend to think they’re less attractive than they are. Whatever the case, if you’re beating yourself up about why you look different in mirrors and pictures, there’s a good chance that all your fear and anxiety is just in your head. It’s sort of similar to how people hate the sound of their voice. Perhaps the key to looking better in pictures is taking as many selfies as possible to help familiarise yourself with both the “mirror” and “camera” version of yourself.

People who take a lot of selfies end up feeling a lot more comfortable in their skin because they have a continuum of images of themselves, and they’re more in control of the picture. Flipped or not flipped, the ability to see themselves in all these different ways will make them generally more comfortable. Or, you know, download FaceTune. You might as well fight science with science.

Reasons You Look Awful in Photos and How to Fix Them

Why do I look bad in photos?

Want to improve the way you look in portraits or enhance the images that you shoot? Here are common reasons people look awful in illustrations and tips on how to fix them. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.

The shooting angle is too low.

Generally, the lens should be above your eye level for a more flattering photo. Either hold the camera a little higher (if it’s a selfie), ask the photographer to have the camera a little higher, find a taller friend to shoot the photo, or bend your knees slightly to even the odds. Also, tilt your chin down a little (but not too far) — no one wants to see what’s up to your nose.

You are too close or far.

Faces look different depending on the distance between the lens and the face. This is why sometimes people think they look great in a mirror but terrible in photos. To find your best range, have a friend use a camera with a zoom to take multiple shots of you looking at the camera with your face filling the frame each time — look through them and see which one you like best. You can usually narrow it down to close, medium, or quite far away. Once you know, ask the photographer to either back-off and zoom in or come closer and zoom out, so the distance between you is within your most flattering range.

Your eyes aren’t smiling.

You want to smile in photos, but the eyes are just as important as the mouth. To give a confident “eye smile”, try a technique called “squinching.” This involves squinting the lower eyelid while only allowing the top lid to come down slightly. Give it a try in the mirror now. See how much more confident and appealing you look?

Your body position is wrong.

Having a photo taken of your head and shoulders at a 90-degree position to the camera makes the image look a bit like a mugshot. Turn one of your shoulders slightly towards the lens to break away from that. Your shoulders should be at about a 30-degree angle to the lens. 

Doing this is also really flattering if you are a bit wider — it slims you. Also, push your shoulders back and down a little to lengthen your neck and improve your upper torso’s look. We don’t want hunched shoulders.

You smiled for too long, and it went weird.

Smiling for extended periods on command is challenging, as I’m sure you know. The longer you smile, the more fake it will generally look and sometimes, especially in a group photo, it takes a while for people to faff around and get ready. Ask the person taking the shot to count it down 3, 2, 1 so you can spend only a second or two smiling and posing.

You weren’t paying attention, or you weren’t ready.

When a photo is being taken, give it your full attention to avoid awkward mouth-open, crazy-eye shots. Don’t look away from the camera. Don’t take this moment to talk to or respond to someone talking to you. Try not to blink. Just do your thing and pose for these few seconds.

You pulled a face

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re going for a photo where you look like you don’t give a rat’s how you look, go for it. But generally, poking your tongue out, pulling a face, pouting etc., looks stupid and can make the difference between a shot you’ll be proud of and something you’ll look at once, chuckle, and never want to see again. Resist the urge, or if you can’t, ask the photographer to take two shots, one nice one and then one less serious. Compare them later and see which one you and your friends like best.

You only took one photo and didn’t check it.

Don’t be afraid to ask for another shot if you feel like you messed it up: you may only be in that situation once, and sometimes you blink or generally mess up. Ask to see the shot after it’s taken and do it over if you like. Get involved and interested in creating a nice image.

You’re generally ‘not into it.’

Some people don’t like having their photo taken, sure. But if you realise you are going to have to be in one, accept that. If you can’t avoid it, you might as well try to look your best, right? Often, people hate having their photo taken because they think they always look awful or have low self-esteem. If you put in zero effort, you will probably get a poor result, just like most things in life, right? Reading through and understanding these tips will help to change that and have better photos taken of you.

Bonus tip: You look good in your way

We are all different, and that’s what makes us remarkable, so don’t shy away from having your photo taken. Be a part of it and put your best face forward with a bit of positivity and a little knowledge. You are not as ugly as you think.

Remember: it’s a picture, not you as a person.

Why do I look different in pictures? What do I look like to others? Why do I look so bad in pictures? Why do I look ugly in pictures? No one picture can tell the whole story of who you are or even what you look like.

The way you look and the way you look in a particular picture are different matters.

When an average-looking guy’s photo receives fewer likes on his selfie post, that guy might wish he were more attractive. But the truth is he’s already much better-looking than that score in real life. He’s just taking nasty pics. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

It turns out, when someone swipes on your Tinder profile, they’re liking or rejecting the idea of you that they got from your pics. That’s not nearly the same as judging you in real life, as a new set of pics can easily result in 10x the matches.