So, I’m not a scientist, right? Not by any means…. But I do have common sense – sometimes anyway. I decided today is a good day as any to talk to you about selfies and portraits and our brain. Yeah, that last part is where you might expect a scientist of some sort to chime in but you’re out of luck there. But hear me out…

Mirrors, selfies and the truth about portraits

How often do people complain about how they look in photos? All. The. Time. That can obviously have to do with many things like the person not liking themselves in the first place or an unflattering angle or someone just doesn’t know how to take a decent portrait.

But… why is it that even a beautiful portrait gets dismissed? Because that photo is not what they look like. It is – but not their eyes.

To check what we look like before we leave the house, we look in the mirror. But have you ever really considered that that’s a “mirrored” image of ourselves? As in, it’s opposite to how anybody standing across from you sees you. It’s “the wrong way around”. So… mirrored, for a lack of a better word.

And that’s why people prefer selfies over portraits – because the camera in your phone shows the same mirrored image that you see in your actual mirror (Note: some phones now automatically flip a selfie when saving to your camera roll. I approve of that!). A portrait taken by a different person however, is a representation of how that person (or their camera) sees you. So when someone sees a portrait and screams “This is not what I usually look like”, it’s not just vanity. It’s the truth. To them anyway. It’s all relative…

You remember how Claire in “Clueless” said she wouldn’t trust mirrors and instead made her friend Dionne take polaroids of her in her outfit choices instead of looking at the mirror? I mean, it’s a bit wasteful and expensive but the point is that she put herself in the shoes of her date – who we all know turned out to be gay but that’s a different story. He (and everybody else) does not see her mirrored image, they see her straight on. So her mirror-self would not be an accurate representation of how he would see her. Clever girl!

I explained this to a client of mine the other day when she said that she’s uncomfortable in front of the camera because photos of herself make her cringe. I could hear the penny drop!

So what’s the take-away from this?

1. Well, firstly, be kinder to others when they don’t like their photo because they don’t recognise themselves.

2. Also, take fewer selfies, let others take your portrait instead. And get used to what that looks like because this is how the world sees you. Nobody notices all (or any) of the flaws that your eye instantly finds in a picture. I promise nobody will judge you by your imperfections! Nobody who matters anyway… Try to appreciate the pictures taken and be thankful for others documenting your face, your smile and your life.

3. And lastly… don’t trust your mirror (or the selfie you took on your phone) 😉


If this article made you change your mind about having pictures taken by someone else rather than trying to perfect your selfies, get in touch with me and see what I can do for you!

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