This Is Why You Look Unflattering In Pictures But Hot In The Mirror

Why are we more comfortable with how we look in the mirror than in pictures?

By Nicole Dominique2 min read
Pexels/Irina Kaminskaya

Every girl can relate to this: You spend time doing your makeup, styling your hair, and putting on your best dress, feeling hot as you admire yourself in the mirror. But then, when you see the photos taken of you that same night, you suddenly feel ugly.

This experience is so universal that it's become a meme on social media, and countless people have recreated the scenario. The question is, why does this happen? And which one is more accurate in showing the way we really look?

Why You Look Hotter in the Mirror

The mere exposure effect may influence our preference for our mirrored image. This is when people show an increased liking for certain stimuli because they are more exposed to them. In short, we prefer the familiar. We all look in the mirror every day when we're getting ready, so it makes sense why we're so used to the reflected version of ourselves. And because we've looked at the mirror our entire lives, our brain has believed it to be our true image.

This is why it can be quite unsettling to see the unreversed version of yourself in a photograph – you're simply not used to it!

Getty/Theo Wargo
Getty/Theo Wargo

Let's not forget that a mirror also gives us a 3D reflection, which allows us to see ourselves in a way that closely resembles how we perceive everything in real life. Meanwhile, a photograph flattens images into 2D, lacking the depth and familiarity that a mirror provides.

Another reason a photo can look unflattering is due to angles, lighting, and the distortion that a camera lens can add to your appearance. According to ZME Science, when a photo is taken using a short focal length (zoomed out) with the person close to the camera, it creates a fisheye lens effect that distorts the portrait, exaggerating the size of the nose and forehead.

On TikTok, it has become a trend to use the back camera and zoomed-out filter to see the most "accurate" version of yourself. This method can provide a somewhat accurate depiction of your appearance compared to a selfie since it can capture a wider perspective, reduce distortion, and, more importantly, does not flip your image. Give it a try!

There's a reason why digital cameras are so popular these days. The latest phone models have better cameras that result in high-definition photos, revealing our "imperfections" that aren't as pronounced in the mirror, like skin texture and pores. Most people also like to turn off the flash option because it can make us look shinier and washed out.

Is the Mirror or Camera More Accurate?

Now for the million-dollar question: Which is more accurate in depicting how we look, the camera or the mirror? This is not an easy answer. On one hand, a good mirror can provide real-time and accurate feedback compared to a camera as it reflects the light that hits its surface. On the other hand, when an image is captured from an optimal distance with good lighting, it does a great job of representing how others perceive us. Both cameras and mirrors can distort your appearance, so the accuracy depends on their quality.

Want to look hotter in your pictures? Check out our tips for achieving flattering angles here.

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