What Lets Us See Our Real Selves: Photos or the Mirror?

Psychological aspect

We tend to look in the mirror the most when we are at home — an environment where we feel at our freest and most relaxed. As for photographs, we usually end up in the frame while on “foreign turf,” which means that we naturally look more tense and unprepared. That is why, sometimes, when glancing in the mirror before going off to a party we see an irresistibly good-looking individual. And then the next day, looking at ourselves in the party photos, we suddenly notice quite the opposite.

Angle

The simple fact is that our faces are not symmetrical. This is true for absolutely everyone — more so for some, less for others. And there lies the cause of all the confusion. Every morning, as we look in the mirror, we stand in the same spot, seeing ourselves from a familiar perspective. As a result, we get used to observing our face from one particular angle. But when it comes to photographs, you don’t always receive prior warning regarding how, when, and from which direction the picture will be taken. Unless, of course, you are a star of the likes of Audrey Hepburn, who was almost always photographed from her best angle.

White balance

Every type of lighting has its own temperature. But when we look in the mirror, we do not register this temperature diversity. This is because our brain — being the “supercomputer“ that it is — automatically evens out all the differences and ”shows” us the complexion to which we are accustomed. On the other hand, a photograph captures the lighting as it really is with all the offsets and differences of temperature. When we look in the mirror — even if the lighting comes from a ragtag variety of sources, with multiple colors and shadows dancing across our face — we still see our usual selves. Whereas a photo can cause resentment by making us see our features in an objective lighting environment.

Focusing on individual objects

Do not forget that when we look in the mirror we usually focus on some particular part of our reflection and don’t see the overall picture. But when we look at a photograph, we perceive everything holistically and notice things that previously appeared insignificant (for instance, bad posture, awkwardly positioned hands, etc).

Mirroring

In a reflection, we always see a “mirrored” version of ourselves, and that ultimately shapes our perception of what we look like. Photographs, on the other hand, portray us the way we are viewed by others — an unusual perspective that can cause quite a surprise.

From all this we can conclude that only photographs can give us objective information about our appearance. But even if you don’t always look good in pictures, that’s by no means a reason to despair! Perhaps you were snapped at a bad moment, or when overstressed, or you simply didn’t have time to pull your stomach in. 🙂