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.
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.