Photographs versus Reflective Surfaces (Differences in Physical Appearance)

I was hoping my straight-dopers might answer a question of mine.

I just noticed that when taking a picture, the image that results can be very different from the one in the mirror. Why is that? Why do you(where you is a general you and not meant to accuse anyone of anything) sometimes look different in a mirror than in a photograph? Which one is more accurate?

Does face type have anything to do with it?

I await your answers,


Er… besides the obvious?

ETA Sorry, I didn’t mean that to sound snarky or anything, but I do think people tend to find themselves a bit odd-looking in photos because they’re used to seeing themselves in mirrors, with their features reversed.

I mean not to state the obvious in questioning your statement, but what you may perceive as obvious may not be obvious to others. I would love to hear what this obvious factor is. Please, if you would…:slight_smile:

ETA: Bah, I am too slow…

We may look like we’re perfectly bifurcated, and the same on both halves of our body, but in fact there are subtle differences. One eye may be more open than the other, our mouth may tilt, or there will be some subtle difference in each cheekbone. Not to mention the side we part our hair, and the uneven colouration.

Seeing our mirror image means the things we normally associate as the left side of our face is, in a photo, on the other side.

Try getting two mirrors at right angles to each other, and looking at yourself in the space where they meet. You will see yourself oriented as others see you, and you will probably then recognise the less familiar photographed you.

Also, if you have Photo Booth (and haven’t done this already – as if!), one of the special effects allows you to make your face perfectly even by mirroring half of it. Very uncanny.

I don’t think I used bifurcated correctly. I probably should’ve used symmetrical.

The image in a camera is taken from one lens. An image in a mirror is seen through two lenses (your eyes). Sometimes they are larger than a camera lens.

Another difference is, you don’t always look directly at the camera lens. But your image in a mirror is always looking directly at you.

Also there’s the fact that a photo is a still image, which can look very different from a moving image (real-life subject or video).

The big difference is that the camera is a machine. It only has so much capability to register the light, with much less subtlety than eyes can. Your eyes are amazing and see depth that the camera just can’t. The shadows in a photo are always deeper, the light is always more constrasty than in real life. Also, when you look at a photo of something you see a flat image of something that is not flat. Your brain has to think “oh yes, that’s not flat.” It’s why a camera adds 10 lbs. Because it sees you as flat. Your eyes see the dimension and depth of real life. That difference will always be glaring.

A few years back I had the chance to use a computer with a webcam for the first time. I took a couple photos of myself and was surprised by how great I looked. The photo quality wasn’t especially good, nor was the lighting, but for some reason I looked much better than I usually do in photos.

Then I realized that the poster on the wall behind me in the photo was backwards. The whole picture was a mirror-image. (I don’t know if that was just the setting on this particular computer or what, I now have a computer with a webcam and it doesn’t take mirror-image pictures.) I realized that was why I thought it looked so good, because it looked like what I saw in the mirror several times a day, not the way I look on the much less common occasions when I happen to be looking at a photo of myself! So the webcam photos must only have seemed like an improvement to me, anyone else who knew me probably would have thought they looked a bit “off”.

A wonderful contribution, as always Lamia! </favoritism>