Photo Myth Buster: the real reason you don’t like photos of yourself

Karina louise with camera in mirror

My clients all come from different backgrounds and have different comfort levels in front of the camera. But, regardless of whether they are using me as their social media photographer or they have come to me for corporate headshots to update their LinkedIn profile, some say they have never really liked photos of themselves: “Something just isn’t quite right.”

I recently found that what is happening is actually a scientific phenomenon called Mere-exposure Effect. Essentially the reason why you might not ever feel “quite right” in photos is because of your repeated exposure to looking at yourself in the mirror. You are used to this being the way that you look, but the camera inverts this image making every photo you take feel a bit off balance.

Don’t believe me? Try this:

Take your current profile photo and flip it. If you don’t have the right software, try Flip a Picture.

Do you like it better? I did it and at first it looked bizarre. Then, after a while, I liked it even better than the original. I hear quite often from my clients, ‘Is that what I look like?’ after seeing a few shots of themselves. Even though objectively the photo looks good, when you aren’t used to seeing photos of yourself  (and only seeing your reversed image in the mirror) it can be odd, and feel like it’s a stranger in the picture that sort of looks like you. Before you conclude that you’re just not photogenic, try looking at that same photo flipped.

After seeing Duncan Davidsons TED talk about this, it started to make sense to me why so many of my natural portrait clients say, “I just don’t look good in photos. I like the way I look in the mirror, but when I see a photo of myself I don’t like it at all.” To those people I say try flipping your photo. It might just feel more like YOU.

Of course, another even easier solution that is mentioned in the video is to just trust your friends when they tell you the photo looks good. Getting feedback from trusted sources is a great way to ease your troubled mind about your latest profile pic.

karina louise flipped profile photo