Why Selfies Sometimes Look Weird to Their Subjects

Posted on April 12, 2014

Taking purposefully ugly selfies encourages photographers to seize control of their self-image by rejecting beauty standards and embracing the imperfect humanity of our faces. But what about earnest selfies that are just accidentally ugly?

Don’t blame your face. Blame your brain instead. Selfies sometimes look strange to their subjects because of how we see ourselves in the mirror, how we perceive our own attractiveness, and the technical details of how we take them on camera phones.

Whether or not a selfie is reversed after being shot is a major factor. If you've used multiple mobile apps to take pictures of yourself, you’ve probably noticed that some, like Snapchat, record your likeness as it would appear in a mirror; others, like group-messaging app GroupMe, flip the image horizontally and save your selfie the way others would see you - and this version can be jarring to look at.

Part of that is because our faces are asymmetrical. The left and right side of your face may not seem that different, but as photographer Julian Wolkenstein illustrates with his portraits, which duplicate each side of a face to create strikingly different versions of the same person, that's not the case. When what we see in the mirror is flipped, it looks alarming because we're seeing rearranged halves of what are two very different faces. Your features don't line up, curve, or tilt the way you're used to viewing them.

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Source material from The Atlantic

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