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Selfie Distortion: Do cameras distort your face?

Selfie Distortion

Sadly, selfie distortion is real. Thanks to its wide-angle lens, your phone’s camera does distort your face. In fact, your phone’s front camera all but guarantees to enlarge your nose, shrink your ears and squash your head.

Fortunately, selfie distortion is predictable and avoidable. Here are a few tricks you can use to take better portraits with your smartphone. Jump to Conclusion


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Table of Contents

  1. Why your phone camera distorts your face
  2. Selfie Distortion Example
  3. How to avoid selfie distortion
    1. 1. Selfie Sticks
    2. 2. Use your phone’s rear camera
    3. 3. Buy a camera
  4. Conclusion

Why your phone camera distorts your face

It’s not just your phone camera that distorts your face. Any camera equipped with a wide-angle lens will distort your features. It’s for this reason why professional portrait photographers favor long-range telephoto lenses such as the 85mm pictured below. Read How Focal Length Affects your Photos.

Unfortunately, a high-magnification portrait lens would be useless since your phone’s front camera is usually operated at arms-length. As a result, a wide-angle lens is a practical necessity.

Wide-angle lenses are hugely useful when you need to squeeze a large scene, such as a landscape, into a photograph. They are also ideal when you have to work up-close with what you are photographing.

Wide-angle lenses work by rapidly shrinking distant objects. The more distant the object is, the smaller it will appear relative to closer objects.

Unfortunately, a wide-angle lens has the same effect on your face. The closest part of your face, your nose, will appear disproportionately large whilst your more distant features such as your eyes and ears will shrink at a rapid rate. Viewed as a whole, your head begins to resemble a Mellon.

Selfie Distortion Example

Below is a picture of me. Slide the bar left to right to compare a distorted shot taken with a wide-angle lens and another photo taken with a standard lens. Let me know in the comments which photo I look best in 🙂

How to avoid selfie distortion

1. Selfie Sticks

Whilst arguably more socially destructive than any ugly photo, they do work.

By putting distance between you and your phone’s wide-angle lens, you vastly reduce selfie distortion. As a result, your face will appear closer to its proper proportions.

2. Use your phone’s rear camera

Your phone’s main camera is usually equipped with a lens with a longer focal length. In fact, many modern smartphones, such as the Galaxy S21 feature multiple rear cameras, including one optimized for portraits.

Of course, switching to your phone’s rear camera produces a new problem. You can no longer see yourself on-screen. Also, you may find your rear lens’s magnification is too great for arms-length photography.

The most obvious way around this is to get someone else to take the photo. Alternatively, you can prop your phone up, set your camera’s timer, then take your position for the photo.

3. Buy a camera

If you are serious about taking good portraits, you should consider buying a decent camera. Not only will you get better image quality, but you can also attach a portrait-oriented, distortion-free lens that can blur your backgrounds. Read Best Cameras for Beginners.

Furthermore, many cameras feature a selfie-friendly rear screen that can be rotated towards you. In fact, you can go one better and buy a camera that can be remotely controlled using your smartphone. Read Phone vs Camera.

Conclusion

Selfie distortion is the result of combining a wide-angle lens with arms-length photography. To prevent your phone camera from distorting your face, you must either use a longer lens or increase the distance between you and the camera. And for best results, you should do both.

Of course, doing so is contrary to the entire selfie format. However, if you crave convenience above all else, selfie distortion is the price you must pay.

If you really want to take great self-portraits, a traditional camera becomes hugely advantageous. Many modern cameras now feature selfie-friendly reversible screens, and some can be operated remotely using your smartphone. Not to mention superior image quality and the ability to attach background-blurring portrait lenses.

But if you prefer to continue taking arms-length selfies with your phone’s front camera, do so with the confidence and knowledge that selfie distortion is real, unavoidable and that you look much, much better in real life.

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3 thoughts on “Selfie Distortion: Do cameras distort your face?”

  1. Thank you for answering me, even a real camera with a great non wide angle lens distorts faces if up too close to the face, but as you know this is even much worse with these typical wide angle smartphone lenses.

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