Your nose isn’t really as big as it looks in selfies

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Your nose isn’t actually as big as it looks in selfies, says facial plastic surgeon Boris Paskhover. So maybe hold off on that nose job — at least, until you’ve seen a decent portrait photo of yourself.

Last year, more than half of plastic surgeons were approached by patients who wanted to look better in selfies, according to a survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. But selfies don’t actually reflect what people look like in the flesh, says Paskhover, who works at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “They take out their phone and they say, ‘Look at this picture, look how big my nose looks,’” he says. “I went out to prove why selfies don’t look like the real person, why they’re distorted.”

So he teamed up with a computer scientist to create a model of the average human head. The team calculated how much bigger the nose would appear in a photo taken at selfie distance 12 inches away, or regular portrait distance five feet away. They found that close-ups distort the nose, making it appear about 30 percent wider for men and 29 percent wider for women, according to a paper published today in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.

The Verge’s James Bareham and Sean O’Kane discuss which phones have the best portrait modes.

For photography pros, the results make sense. Most smartphone cameras have wide-angle lenses, says The Verge’s creative director James Bareham, and close-ups with wide-angle lenses cause distortion that makes objects closer to the camera — like, say, a nose — look larger. “It’s kind of one of the basics of photography: don’t shoot portraits on a wide-angle lens because you will look terrible,” Bareham says.

Longer lenses on a traditional camera flatten the image, which helps get rid of undesired beaky-ness. Some “portrait modes” on phones like iPhone X, the Pixel 2 XL, and the Galaxy Note 8 try to digitally improve the appearance of selfies, but the best bet is to just take the photo from farther away. But there’s a big limitation, Bareham says: arm length. “Theoretically, people with longer arms can take a more flattering selfie than people with shorter arms,” he says. “Of course, there’s always the selfie stick.”

So, don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. There are much less painful fixes. Get a selfie stick, a better camera, or a friend to take your photo. And, of course, there’s always the old standby: Photoshop.


Be nice to your nose.

So this is what gets articles these days, eh? The Verge, you’ve changed.

it’s just a bit of light hearted fun that you’re more than welcome to scroll past without having to comment on

"Longer lenses on a traditional camera flatten the image, which helps get rid of undesired beaky-ness."

While this is true, the effect is not always flattering. If you go too long (much more than say, 150mm on a full-frame camera), you look like you have a very wide face and thick neck, because your face is no longer as three-dimensional.

That’s where the expression "the camera adds 10 lbs" comes from. Using long lenses.

So pick a medium length lens (50-100mm FF equivalent is often nice) and be happy with looking normal, the way your eyes perceive you.

(for reference, smartphones are typically in the 24-30mm range, based on the photo above)

Right, then typical portraits you’d shoot with something in the 70-100mm range. A selfie stick isn’t going to help that no matter where you put it, but kinda neat to see what they can do with post-processing trickery.

The selfie stick will help. It is the relative distances of objects that counts (distance between the tip of your nose and the camera compared to the distance between your face and the camera). So, if you crop your face to fill the screen when the picture is taken with a selfie stick, it will look better than at arm’s length.

Let’s make it even more extreme!

The first one is the most realistic, right?

Nope, definitely the 5th lol

They are all realistic. If you stand 1 inch from someone’s nose then their face is twice as far from you as their nose. Stand further back and the relative distances converge. Each photo is true to its point of view.

OMG.. I was having this very issue last night when I was forced to take a photo of myself for a rent application. I guess I can put the 10k back in the bank a just get a better camera..

So, don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

This whole article was conceived of and written, just to include this sentence.

Google’s portrait mode is perhaps the weakest thing about the Pixel 2’s camera for this reason imo. The iPhone, Samsung S9/Note 8 etc all use the longer lenses which is far more natural and also makes the background look nicer.

We men are fine with this feature.

How very vapid… And yes mostly wanted to use the word vapid

It’s stupid when you think about it that every smartphone ships with a wide angle lens on the front for taking portraits, when there isn’t a photographer in the world who would use a wide angle lens on their camera for portraits. And some phones include an even wider angle lens to include more people in the shot, which further distorts the perspective.

Stupid is as stupid does. There isn’t a photographer in the world who would take a portrait from arms length (unless they are deliberately looking for that unflattering perspective). Selfie cameras are designed for taking photos from arms length.

If you take a picture of someone’s face from arm’s length then that is the perspective you will get. Perspective is determined by camera-subject distance, nothing else. Changing the focal length of the ‘selfie’ lens will only change the angle of view (how much of the scene is included), not the perspective, not the relative size of the subject’s nose.

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