Why selfies look wrong

Selfies make us look strange, lopsided, comical. Why? Because a cellphone camera sits inches from our faces, whereas our brains are used to a mirror-image seen from several feet away. [The Atlantic] Stop worrying about how pretty you are and embrace imperfection and character.

Notable Replies

  1. Someone just needs to start offering plastic surgery that is designed to make selfies look normal...

  2. That and the wide angle lens fitted to most phonecams.

  3. He's really talking (mostly indirectly) about the importance of proximity to the subject—you need to keep some distance so as not to get unpleasant perspective distortion of facial features, and it's this that makes a 50mm too short for anything closer than a three quarter length portrait. When he said the crop doesn't matter, he was talking specifically about the 1.5/1.6 factor crops typically found on Nikon and Canon consumer DSLRs which don't make that significant a difference to the perceived focal length of a 50mm when compared to the 160mm focal length he took the "good" example on. In other words, 80mm (equivalent) is still too short (many would disagree on that point). He wasn't talking about the more extreme crop factors of typical compact cameras—if you had a superzoom with a crop factor of 5, zoomed it out to 32mm (160mm equivalent), positioned the camera the same distance from the model as he did with his "good" example and took a shot, the overall look of the picture would be about the same in terms of framing and perspective flattening. It's the proximity that makes the difference, and choice of focal length is about framing. Knowing his ideal proximity to subject would have actually been more helpful than focal length... wink

    Either way, he seems to agree (implied) that a 35mm equivalent smartphone lens is too wide for a decent portrait shot. smiley

  4. Focal length only affects field of view, and not perspective. A picture taken from arm's length will have the same amount of perspective distortion regardless of whether it is taken with a (35mm-equivalent) 24mm lens, 35mm lens, 50mm lens, etc. The only difference is how wide the field of view will be.

    I see you address this in later posts, but @pixelshifter's suggestion that it's the wide-angle nature of smartphone cameras—and not the arm's length perspective—that makes selfies look weird is wrong.

    The guy's an idiot. By his reckoning, an 85mm lens can't be a portrait lens, either, because on MF an 80mm lens is normal and 35mm is just a cropped format relative to MF. And then your 150mm MF lens isn't really a portrait lens, either, because it's a wide angle on an 8x10 LF camera, and MF is just a crop of that format.

    The only thing that matters is perspective, which is how far away you are from the camera. Pick your preferred portrait perspective (working distance). Then pick a focal length that gets you the framing you want. That's your portrait lens for the format you're using. It could be 5mm on a cell phone, or 600mm for an 8x10 view camera.

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