Getty Images / Deagreez

Have you ever felt that you looked really good, but then after taking a selfie, think, “Oh, my gosh. I look horrible. Please tell me I don’t really look like that.” Well, the good news is that you don’t. There are a lot of factors that are in play when it comes to selfies. The truth is that selfies can really distort your look. That said, people have actually hated their mirror image since the beginning of time, Psychology Today points out, but that’s not what’s happening here. So, no, you don’t really look like your selfies, and here’s why.

Before we get into the reasons, it’s safe to say we can blame the digital age. “Every digital camera uses algorithms to transform the different wavelengths of light that hit its sensor into an actual image,” The Atlantic explains. There’s an actual science about this that I’ll get into below. But, before we get into the fakeness of selfies, here are some tips on getting a good “selfie” that look at least more like you than what you’re used to getting with your camera phone.

My friend and coworker Kayla Morgan is all over TikTok, and she’s also noticed influencers talk about the selfie game. “I’ve seen many influencers on platforms like Instagram and TikTok share their ‘secrets’ to the perfect videos and selfies,” she says. So, what’s the secret? “That secret is using your back camera, not the front. It makes perfect sense! My back camera has three different lenses, while my front camera facing me only has one. You can definitely see the difference in my content as well as other influencers I follow on social media.” That’s a great tip. I’ve been shooting music videos for my band, Upon Wings, lately, and I’ve been using only the selfie camera. It’s not looking right, so I’m going to give that a try. Experiment with using the back camera and remember, no matter what, you don’t really look like that.

Now, read on for the science behind why you don’t really look like your selfies.

  • Lenses flatten us

    Lenses flatten our image. Photographer Nadia Meli spoke with Cosmopolitan.com about this reality. “Our bodies and faces do not look the same in the mirror, on a professional DSLR, on the phone camera, the front lens the back lens – all of these don’t show us how we actually look either!” she said via the magazine. “Lenses always flatten us, it’s just 2D, not 3D and doesn’t give an accurate representation of what we see when someone is in front of us IRL!” Crazy, right? She added that the camera actually fails to capture what’s really in front of it.

    A woman taking a selfie in the mirron.

    Getty Images / IRA EVVA

  • The lens distorts facial features

    Upworthy.com explains why selfie cameras are the absolute worst. They state, “Cellphone selfie cameras usually have an even smaller focal length than the 40 mm shown here (Winters points out that the iPhone 13 Pro Max selfie camera has the equivalent of a 23 mm focal length), so they distort facial features even more.” They add that other factors are how far away you are from the camera, because the closer you are, the more distorted your photos will be. Another reason the camera doesn’t capture what we look like in real life, aside from the lenses, is the 2D factor. You’re not going to look the same on a 2D photo as you will in real life. Lighting is also a huge issue. Lighting can make or break a photo.

    Young woman smiling happy make selfie by the smartphone at the beach.

    Getty Images / AaronAmat

  • They make your nose look big

    Selfies can make your nose look much bigger than it really is. “For years, I’ve heard patients and family members say, ‘Oh, look at my nose, it looks so big,’ when they show me a selfie,” Dr. Paskhover tells Yahoo. “I was always telling my patients, that’s not how you really look.” Selfies simply distort your nose shaped, due to the lens and your distance from it.

    Image of a woman's nose.

    Getty Images / Motortion

  • We're used to a mirror image

    “The image you see in the mirror is reversed compared to the image that others see face-to-face with you,” Psychology Today explains. “Your friends are familiar with your non-reversed image, while you are familiar with your reversed image in a regular mirror.” That totally makes sense.

    A young woman looking in the mirror.

    Getty Images / Mariia Vitkovska

  • The lens can make you look thinner or fatter

    The Huffington Post points out that, “Different camera lenses can change the way people look in photos.” They add that, “the shorter the lens, the wider it’s going to make your face.” So, make note if you don’t want your face to look super wide.

    Young fit woman making a selfie in gym after exercise

    Getty Images / Viktor Gladkov

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