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Why do we look ugly in the photos? Science explains it

Why do we look ugly in the photos? Science explains it

June 12, 2024

Take a picture Look at the result Delete it immediately. It is a sequence that is repeated relatively frequently in most people at the time of being photographed.

The main reason they usually argue to repeat it several times is also known: we do not see each other well. Why does this happen? Why do we look ugly in the photos?

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The physical appearance and appearance

We live in a world where the image has great value in many aspects of life . To relate to others, get a job, get a partner ... the image of a person can indicate a lot of things about her, being judged socially. It is socially promoted that everyone tries to show their best in all aspects.


This also happens at the intrapsychic level, with the person trying to create a positive image and self-concept and acting so that his or her identity approaches their ideal. Physical attractiveness is one of the elements that are most easily visible from the outside, with what a lot of people cultivate it in order to feel better about themselves.

However, as we are, it is frequent that at the moment of taking a photo and seeing the result, a more or less profound dislike of the image it reflects appears. Sometimes we look attractive and we can feel more or less identified, but at other times we think that the image does not do us justice; We look weird, different and even "ugly". This sensation has different causes, such as the presence of a high self-demand, self-esteem or being accustomed to seeing oneself differently.


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Enforcing yourself too much

As we have said, we live in a competitive society that it requires us to demonstrate the best of ourselves in a constant way . Most people maintain sets goals, goals and demands more or less realistic and assumable according to their capabilities. However, in many cases the individual may need to do everything as well as possible, trying to achieve perfection and establishing objectives that can not be achieved.

The same can happen when taking into account the self-image : the person may want to have an excessively good image, regardless of their capacity and means to achieve it. This can cause that when you see in a photograph the reflected image is not considered sufficient, feeling ugly compared to the ideal that you would like to achieve.


The fault is with the camera!

The excuse that we usually use when we go wrong in the photos is not, at all, incorrect. And is that part of the reason that we can see strangers in photographs (and sometimes unattractive) has to do with the instrument through which we are portrayed. And is that the lenses of the cameras do not have the same shape as a human eye , which causes the final product to be different depending on what is observed.

As happens when we look in a concave or convex mirror, the lens used will make the image look slightly different from what we perceive through the human eye. Some lenses will make distant elements look much smaller than they actually are while others flatten the elements photographed , varying its size or apparent volume.

Also the luminosity, sharpness and perspective influence this fact, being able to exaggerate or hide aspects that do not seem so attractive to us.

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Matter of perspective

One of the aspects that can cause us to look ugly in photos is perspective. Normally people we are not able to observe our own face , so that the only reference we have of him is the image that reaches us through mirrors and reflective surfaces.

The point from which we observe the image tends to be always the same: a slightly elevated position that coincides with the height of our eyes and also relatively close. However, we do not usually see ourselves at a long distance, from below or from a height higher than that of our eyes. The image that returns to us camera and the vision that other people of us can have can be also different, seeing us from perspectives that we are not used to dealing with .

The habit and the effect of mere exposure

Besides that it does not correspond to the image to which we are accustomed, another aspect that participates in that we look weird or ugly in the photos has to do with being used to see us in a certain way.

On a psychological level, it has been observed that the human being shows a tendency to have preference for the things you know , increasing the positive evaluation of what surrounds us the more frequent the contact with him is. This effect is called the effect of mere exposure and is usually applied in social psychology to talk about the change in attitude towards stimuli, people or groups due to frequent contact, but it can also explain intrapsychic phenomena like this one.

Our reflected image is not our real image but its reflection or mirror image, which is an inverse image of reality, and it is to this that we tend to be accustomed. In this way, the image that the camera returns to us, which is also closer to our real image and to the perspective of those who observe us, would therefore be something different from the one we are used to seeing. While it is something seemingly insignificant, it can help that sometimes we perceive slightly strange in the photos.

Biases derived from self-esteem

Another of the main aspects when explaining why we look ugly in the photos it has to do with our self-esteem . Specifically, several studies and experiments have shown that the higher the individual's self-esteem, the worse is reflected in the photograph.

This is because the human being tries unconsciously to maintain an internal welfare state, causing us to try to identify ourselves with a positive self-image of ourselves to the point that this image is slightly superior to the real one. By observing the image of ourselves that gives us back the photograph, this unconsciously improved self-image is partly denied, causing us to consider that we have gone wrong in the capture . In other words, as a general rule people tend to consider themselves physically more attractive than they are.

This effect also applies to those people, objects or stimuli to which we are attached by affection. The fact of keeping in touch with something or someone we appreciate causes that the image that we have of him is subjectively embellished . However, in this case, sometimes the affect makes the image itself better perceived than it would be objective (since we see that person or object in a way very similar to that reflected by the camera).

Similarly, people with low self-esteem are often considered less attractive than they really are, so in pictures that really go wrong for different reasons can be more easily identified.

Bibliographic references:

  • Epley, N. & Whitchurch, E. (2008). Mirror, mirror on the wall: enhancement in self-recognition. Pers Soc Psychol Bull.34 (9): 1159-70.

Why You Look UGLY in Photos but Attractive in Real Life | EXPLAINED! (June 2024).


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