Many of us have had the experience of considering our reflection in the mirror to be better than the image of ourselves in a photo. Worrying too much about this may be vanity, but wanting our photos to look as good as possible isn’t such a bad thing.
But why does our reflection seem better than a still photo?
One obvious answer is that we are used to seeing ourselves in reverse. Nobody is perfectly symmetrical, and after we are used to seeing the mirror reverse reflection of ourselves the ph0to version does not seem quite right. It is a little jarring to realize that the photo version is the correct one! That is how others see us.
This can be observed in a group wedding photo. Many individuals think that all the other people in the group look fine, it is only themselves who look a little odd, because we are more familiar with ourselves in reverse.
Another factor is instant feedback.We do this quite unconsciously. We might also quite consciously fix our hair. This means we tend to get the best result given the circumstances, and we tend to remember ourselves this way.
An overlooked factor is that we are always looking at a reflection from the same height and same ‘front on’ view. Photos can show us form the side or above, which is not something we are entirely used to.
Other factors include lighting and camera lenses. Diffuse lighting, reflected from white walls, will be flattering for the face, hiding unevenness and reflections. Bathroom mirrors may benefit from this.
Camera lenses and focal length will change how a face looks. A picture taken close up with a small diameter lens will emphasise the middle of the face, probably making the nose look too large. A distant shot with a larger lens (50mm is a good option) will look more balanced, and closer to our expectations. Mirror reflections do not suffer this type of distortion.
The best wedding photographer will know how to get a flattering image, both for individual portraits using diffuse light with longer focal length lenses, and for group wedding photos. The results of the wedding album speak for themselves.