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Here's Why the Camera Adds 10 Pounds

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Smit Mistry
2019-02-08

When they say "The camera adds 10 pounds" they're not kidding. Here's the effect with different camera lenses

You probably don't even notice how your vision makes the objects in front of you slimmer than they are in pictures. If you took a physical photograph and bent the center away from you, objects in the center would appear narrower. That's exactly what happens with your vision.

Light, shadow, and perspective can certainly help create the illusion of depth in a photo, but it's not the real thing. And when something looks flatter, it looks wider, too — thus why carefully contoured makeup or a well-trimmed beard can instantly make your face look thinner. Flash amplifies the problem.

With a few posing tricks, you can use the camera's limitations to your advantage

 

  1. Angle everything. Photographer Peter Hurley recommends sticking your neck forward (like a strutting chicken) to sharpen your jawline. It might feel weird, but this video proves how much it can transform a headshot. You should also stand at an angle to the camera. Remember, flat means wide, so you want to create the illusion of depth as much as possible. Angles make that happen.
  2. Adjust your mouth. They say the best smile is your natural smile, but for those of us who have flashed the grin we were born with only to have the photographer assume we were joking (true story), some adjustments are in order. Relax your face and open your mouth slightly so your lower lip matches the curve of your upper teeth, then "squinch" your eyes. Stick your tongue to the roof of your mouth to tighten the area beneath your jaw. If you'd rather not show your teeth, do what the Victorians did: say "prunes!"
  3. If it bends, bend it. Put a soft bend in your elbows, bend the knee closest to the camera (or cross your ankles, if that's your thing), pop a hip back. This creates the impression of space and makes everything look narrower.
  4. Don't make yourself front and center. Objects closest to the lens look the largest. That means that in order to look your best in a group picture, you should avoid being the closest person to the camera. Stand slightly behind the person next to you, even if that means sacrificing your BFF to the wide-angle lens demons.
  5. Let someone else choose the photo. You might detest it, but think about it this way: If you want to choose a photo where you look good to other people, not just yourself, you should trust what other people think. And anyway, it's science: A 2017 study found that the pictures people think are the best of themselves rank the worst among strangers.

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