Do Phone Cameras Distort Your Face?

4 reasons why phone cameras distort your face

You would certainly recognize yourself in this situation. You are getting ready for a night out or for a simple stroll along the city. You look in the mirror and you really do like what you see! In fact, you like your reflection so much that you decide to ask someone to take a photo of you in the street or you immediately attempt to get the perfect selfie.

But as soon as you see your face on the actual picture…

Why? Why do you always look better in the mirror and then the camera turns you into an ugly duckling? And then you wonder whether the people around see you the way you see yourself in the mirror or whether they have to face the ugly duckling?

Don’t panic!

You better ask yourself the ultimate question: do phone cameras distort your face? The answer is yes, the phone cameras do distort the way our face looks. You do look a little different in real life than how you happen to appear on the camera of your phone. Our nose, for example, usually looks a lot bigger when we take selfies because the camera is placed too close to our face. That is more due to the position in which we hold our phone while we are taking photos. The closer the phone the more noticeable the distortion will be.

Moreover, we all know that we see our reflection in the mirror, right? But it’s not the reflection that a camera captures and that’s exactly why the majority of photos fail to meet our expectations. By the way, there is also a psychological twist about the way we perceive ourselves in real life and in photos… We are simply more used to our ‘comfortable’ poses that we usually ‘try out’ in front of the mirror.

Let’s have a closer look at every issue mentioned above and (hopefully) we will finally be able to get rid of our prejudice about the way we look in the pictures taken by a phone camera.

Related: How To Take Good Photos With Phone

The Technical Moments That Make Our Face Look Different in Photos


1. You Are Too Close to the Lens

Too Close to the Lens

This is the most common problem. Especially, when we attempt to take a selfie. Humans are not born with incredibly long arms. That’s why when we take a photo of ourselves (or ask someone to take a pic in a small place), we end up having our face too close to the camera.

The parts of your face that are closer to the camera will appear to be bigger than they are in real life. Your nose or your forehead, for example. In fact, you might end up getting a totally different nose on a selfie and that certainly does affect the way your overall face looks.

Now, here is an important number that you would want to remember. In case, you are willing to take a picture with a phone camera that is not going to distort your face – the camera has to be placed at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) away from you.


2. The Type of Lens Matters

The Type of Lens Matters

Of course, the type of lens will be playing an important role in the way your face is going to turn out in a photo. Usually, phone cameras have wide-angle lenses. And that is not flattering for your face. As such lenses will make you look wider and all-in-all bigger.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Some Phone Cameras Are Better Than A DSLR Camera

I also suggest reading our list of the top 10 best smartphone cameras in 2019.


3. Remember That We Are Talking About Turning a 3D World into a 2D One

Turning a 3D World into a 2D One

When you see a person (or yourself ) in real life, you immediately get a basic understanding of the size of the object. Mainly, because there are a lot of other things around that you can compare the size to.

When it comes to taking pictures, we don’t always have enough things in the frame to be able to perceive the size of the object in the right way. That’s why the same hand can look really big or tiny in different pictures. Moreover, even if we do have other things in the frame, the distance from the actual phone camera matters. We will still have a damaged perception of the size of the things that are in the photo. And that’s exactly what can happen to your body and face whenever you get a photo taken.


4. Our Eyes Adjust to Darkness or Brightness (Unlike a Lot of Cameras)

Our Eyes Adjust to Darkness or Brightness

Yes, our eyes are amazing instruments. The world around us is a bright and colorful place. And even when night falls or when the sun rays are a bit too harsh, our eyes still manage to adjust to the changing conditions.

When it comes to cameras, of course, you can choose an ‘auto mode’ that will try to change the brightness of the shot, for example. But the results will simply never be the same. Even if you attempt to change the settings manually, the chances are high that you still won’t be able to get a final picture that looks exactly like real life.

The same implies to people and their faces. Not only our proportions matter but also the lighting conditions.


The Truth About Mirrors

The Truth About Mirrors

Of course, we all understand that the mirror shows our reflection. But the chances are high that you haven’t really taken into consideration the fact that when we’re taking a shot, the picture shows as the reverse of what we would usually see in the mirror.

When you take a selfie, for example, you capture your face the way other people see it (when it comes to the sides). And when you look in the mirror, always remember that if you draw a dot on your left cheek, it will look like you have drawn a dot on the right cheek in the mirror.

In real life, when we see ourselves in reverse, it might be really strange at first. And that’s mainly because our faces are not symmetrical. If the two parts would have been identical, we wouldn’t even pay attention to this issue. But the left side of your face is different from the right part.

We form the perception of our bodies and faces by looking in the mirror and it might seem weird to realize that it’s not exactly the way other people see us. The only thing we can recommend is taking more pictures of yourself and asking other people to do that. Then you will be able to develop a more adequate perception of your own appearance.

Related: 3 Reasons Why You Look Better In The Mirror Than In Pictures


The Psychological Aspect (‘Familiar Faces’)

The Psychological Aspect

In a photo, it is pretty much impossible to show movement. And that’s an extremely important thing when it comes to understanding what our faces really do look like. You might like watching videos or movies. Sometimes you end up pausing the film. And what do you see? The chances are high that the frozen image of the prettiest actress is not beautiful at all. But when you press play and she continues moving and talking, the real beauty comes back.

The trick here is that we perceive people together with their movements. But once you decide to snap a picture, the human turns into someone unfamiliar and maybe even weird. That’s also a reason why not all people that are good-looking in real life are photogenic and have the power to turn out well in the pictures. Another thing – when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we immediately strike a pose that we feel compliments our face the most. We are used to a certain angle and a particular expression.

Related: Is Being Photogenic A Gift Or A Skill?

However, we don’t always get a chance to control all these things in photographs. So, we end up failing to pull out that ‘familiar face’ that we like. By the way, that does not necessarily mean that the pictures of you turn out bad. In fact, you might be insanely beautiful in them. But the truth is that you are simply not used to seeing your face and body in such a way. And you prefer your familiar ‘mirror’ look because, well, you have been with it for years and you feel comfortable seeing yourself in such a way.

Related: 6 Most Common Phone Camera Mistakes Everyone Does


Do phone cameras distort your face? Yes, they do. Moreover, we, as human beings, tend to create a perfect image of ourselves in our heads and get upset once a photograph does not depict our fantasies. You can always try taking more pictures. Find out what your best angles and poses are, find the light and get used to seeing your reversed image.

However, always bear in mind that a photograph is just a picture. It is not a clear representation of who you really are. An image can tell a story. But it can never show your whole story. The way people perceive you in real life together with your voice and gestures is totally different from one single image.

Remember that. And don’t take the ‘bad’ pictures too close to your heart.

Related: 10 Tips On How To Take A Good Selfie If You Are Not Photogenic

Do you have a problem when you take a smartphone selfie? Have you noticed that you look better in the mirror than in the pictures? You probably are wondering: Do phone cameras distort your face? Yes, they do. In this article, you can find out more about the technical moments that make our face look different in photos, the truth about mirrors and some psychological aspects related to camera selfie and photos. #phonecamera #phonephotography #phonephotos #photographyknowledge

Nermin Grahovic

Nermin Grahovic is a photography enthusiast and photography blogger based in Europe. His images are fun, creative and exciting and his love for travel makes its way into most of his images. Some of his favorite photography genres are portraits, street, landscape, and industrial photography.