Personal Growth

Selfies Really Do Make Your Nose Look Big

Click. Click. Click. Ever been in this moment? You're snapping selfie after selfie, and just feeling more and more self-conscious. Has your nose always been that big? Why hasn't anyone ever told you? You've got to make an appointment with a rhinoplastiologist, or whatever they're called. Except — wait. Calm down. Your nose isn't as big as it looks. It's just a matter of perspective.

Do You Know Your Own Nose?

Sometimes, exciting information comes out of scientific studies because the researchers didn't know what they'd find going in. But other times, a study is designed to prove an important point that the professionals already grasp. Before he even began, Dr. Boris Paskhover from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School's Department of Otolaryngology knew his patients' habits were making them self-conscious about their noses. But he needed lab data to prove the point.

Working with Ohad Fried from Stanford's Department of Computer Science, he developed the Rutgers-Stanford model, a mathematical model to prove that everybody is carrying around what Paskhover calls "a portable funhouse mirror." They developed a set of measurements for the shape of the average face and head based on those of a broad selection of racially and ethnically diverse participants. The model showed that when photographed from 12 inches (30 centimeters) away — your average selfie distance — the nasal base would appear 30 percent wider and the nasal tip would appear 7 percent wider than if the same face was viewed from five feet (1.5 meters) away.


So science says that selfies make you think your nose is way bigger than it really is. But let's be honest — nobody's going to stop taking selfies anytime soon. The good news is that science has weighed in on that problem too, and research has developed a method for taking selfies that are quantifiably better. Here are the three ingredients:

  • Don't shoot from such a close distance. Look at that, number one on the list goes hand-in-hand with Dr. Paskhover's findings. Daniel Vogel from the University of Waterloo told Refinery29 that the ideal distance is actually a couple of inches farther than you might be used to. Selfie stick, anyone?
  • Check your lighting. Extreme, dramatic lighting might be good for German expressionist cinema, but for your perfect selfie, you'll want to bathe your face in even light. Hence, phone cases ringed in LED lights.
  • Stick to the center. Contrary to conventional wisdom about how to compose a shot, selfies are ranked higher when their subject is right smack in the middle of the picture. (That's probably because the camera distorts the edges of the shot to get more in the frame). But if you're trying to get a shot of yourself with something else, standing to the side might be a better option.

How'd they arrive at these conclusions? Believe it or not, with computer-generated images of simulated people. Unlike Paskhover's work, which kept to the realm of mathematical models, this study was based almost entirely on people's responses to digital illustrations. If that sounds a little fishy to you, just remember — even if the results were based on simulated selfies, applying the method to their own selfies earned the participants 26 percent higher ratings.

In this article, we linked to a few accessories that should boost your selfie game. If you choose to make a purchase through those links, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

The Science Behind a Selfie

Why Is it So Hard to Look Good in Photos?

Written by Reuben Westmaas April 20, 2018

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