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Why Do I Look Bad in Photos?

So you wake up, you get ready to hit it outside with your friends, and before you leave the house you see yourself looking good in the mirror, you basically look like a 10.

Next thing a friend of you captures a group picture or just a picture of you and that ten downgrades to a 3, you find yourself looking quite “awful”

In today’s article, I will elaborate on why you look bad in photos. Also, I will mention some key factors that have a huge role in this matter!

Let’s hit it off.

Why Do I Look Better in Mirror?

Before telling you the main reasons why we look bad in pictures, let’s dive into the “Mirror”.

Back in 1968 a great psychologist, Robert Zajonc made a study or say social experiment, that explains our hatred towards cameras so well.

Long story short, his conclusions came that we as human beings prefer things that we are familiar with and tend to encounter more often.

Think of it this way, there’s not a single day that goes without us checking how we look in the mirror, the first thing we do when we wake up is to go to the bathroom and wash our face, in front of us we have a mirror, right?

And we have been doing that our whole lives. 

Simply put, what I mean is that we are used to seeing ourselves in the mirror and we have accepted it as the best outcome. In general, familiarity brings liking, we like or even love things that we are familiar with, this phenomenon is also known as the mere exposure effect. Heck, when I think of it even mirror images look better in the mirror.

We can spot the mere exposure effect with our voice as well. I bet that not a single one of you guys like how they sound in a recording sample, while in your head you sound quite nice.

Or to go even further, have you noticed how you find something or someone unappealing and unattractive? After staring at it for a while you become familiar with it, and you start picking a liking and seeing the good.


Above we came to the conclusion that we are comfortable with how we look in the mirror right?

I hate to break it down, but that’s not how we actually look in real life. Mirror just shows us a reflection of ourselves.

In the real life, we come looking in an “inverted” way, the opposite.

And when the camera shows our reflected self, we tend to hate it and dislike what we see.

Don’t lose hope here though, don’t worry we didn’t conclude that you are “ugly” yet,

Let’s see how the camera plays the role.

Here’s an example of flipped version of the famous actor, Chris Hemsworth

Why Do I Look Bad In The Camera?

Let’s say you are creating an online profile, and when it comes to your Avatar, you have the chance to choose a picture from your gallery and an option to take a photo right away.

You never pick the second one I bet, Why is that?

Because, before we upload a picture we tend to take dozens of them until we find the right one. The camera limits our freedom, such as angle lighting and all that, unlike the mirror where we can move around and see ourselves in different aspects.

Until we get the right angle and other factors like facial expression,(not duck face, please not that one), and lighting, we won’t be satisfied.

Pictures tend to come in a 2D version, and they “mess” our face a lot, causing it to appear flat, depending on the camera lens, or even distort it, especially if it is a wide angle lenses.

However, a lot of people “abuse” this in a good way since it doesn’t show us fully how we are in 3D, they take advantage of this and show the camera only what they want to show, basically the beautiful features. Yes I know, the first thing that came to your mind was Thanos: “Reality Can Be Whatever I Want”.

Flash Light:

Why do celebrities hate paparazzi when their camera makes them look good?

What a celebrity doesn’t like is when the photographers flash on their faces.

While lighting plays a huge role in good photography quality, you don’t want the harsh light of the camera or phone on your face.

Let me take you through a Deja Vu moment, you are about to go to a nightclub with your friends, you look darn good in the mirror, sleek hairstyle, great clothing, and all that.

Once you are at the club, you and your friends snap a picture with flash on due to the dark background, and you sure hate what you see there.

Our human eye tends to neutralize shadows and light so well, while a camera lens will never be able to do that.

Hence not a single camera or lens can compete with the human eye, even with our current technology. Not only that but it is also worth mentioning that camera distortion indeed is a thing and it can really make you look awful, so yeah once again, it is not you who look fat or bad, it’s just the camera distortion.

Awkward Face Expression

Do you go in front of the mirror and tell yourself to smile, no you don’t (I am not talking when you are trying to get out of your depression zone though).

What I mean by this is that we are comfortable in the mirror and we have a neutral facial expression.

 As soon as you put a lens in front of us we get discomfort and we are forced to smile, which doesn’t come neutral at all but disturbing instead.

The best example would be the case of the popular meme “Hide the pain, Harold” 

Sudden Snaps

Pretty much the same thing as the above goes with instant photos. We all hate that friend who takes a sneaky picture of us right?

That’s because we really hate how we look at those pictures due to having weird facial expressions.

In front of the mirror or when you talk to someone, you don’t pay attention to their mimics or those sub-second face expression since your brain doesn’t register them.

However the camera captures those mimics and freezes them, making us look really awful and ugly, a sight we are not used to seeing in real life

Celebrity Lie

In this part, I will be elaborating on some self-thoughts.

We as humans tend to compare everything we see and not just our looks.

We are driving we see a billboard, or any ad on social media and TV, we see good-looking models, and celebrities and the first thing we do is try to compare ourselves to them.

What we do basically, is compare how we look to a fully photoshopped face.

Like no offense, I am not trying to say celebrities or professional models aren’t good-looking, but that’s their job, to look good; in order to do that they use any means, which is photoshop in this case.

Not only editing software, but professional models learn also how to “manipulate” their body shape and facial features to appear best on camera. It’s no surprise that they look quite different during off camera appearances.

We are so blinded by their false perfection that we don’t see their imperfections.

Final Words, Conclusion:

We came to the end, if you read the whole article, you probably got the answer, if not, I will tell you it right now.

No, you are not ugly.

I am not saying this so you can feel better, it’s all this is more of a psychological thing.

While I or someone else can’t really tell you how you look, we actually know how you look. Simply put, you don’t look like in the camera and sadly not like in the mirror either. You look like in between both worlds, only a person will know how you look (or identical twins can differ from each other easy, lol)

With all this being said, you don’t have to be harsh to yourself and hate how you look in photos, you will just end up messing up your mental and emotional states occasionally.

 Instead, you can try to get some tips from your photogenic friends and take more selfies so you can feel more comfortable with how you look in photos.

This is it guys, I hope this article put your mind at ease and you managed to learn something out of it.

As a farewell word, I can say that no one is perfect and we are all good-looking in our own ways.