Why You Don't Look Like Yourself in Photos – And What to Do

Have you ever wondered why your pictures don’t really look like you thought you looked in the studio or on stage? Have you ever been in a photoshoot with a pro or a friend, looked at the screen on the phone, the back of the camera or on the computer and thought ‘wow that’s not what it felt like’ or ‘no, I thought I was better than that’?

99% of you reading that comment are smiling a little, nodding your head and saying ‘yes!!’ or ‘I thought that was just me’.

Ok, let’s get into it!

Reason 1: The Mirror Effect

You are used to looking at yourself in the mirror… backwards. No one’s body/face is symmetrical, so what your brain identifies as normal does not look the same to you in pictures. Try parting  your hair to one side. Take a picture of it… then look from the mirror back at the picture.  What is real and what is not??

Reason 2: Brain Trickery

Only 10% of the information you are experiencing at any given moment in time is coming through your eyes. The rest is coming in through your other senses and a huge portion of it is through your own ‘rose colored glasses’ or rather, your store of previous information on how something should look or feel or be. Because of the way our brains function, we are often using old information to project and fill in the blanks that our eyes aren’t seeing. I’m a little bit of a Nat Geo ‘Brain Games’ junkie… check the show out for more insight like this, it’s really wonderful.

rachel neville tips for better dance photos

Reason 3: The Other Dimension

You are used to looking at and perceiving your body and other people’s bodies in 3D. Unfortunately, a picture or screen is not three dimensional, but flat. So, often you are not just seeing one side of your leg, for example, but really 3/4s of it.  On screen, it appears as if it is one. Different lighting conditions and backgrounds can help or accentuate this.

Reason 4: Bad Angle

You were just at the wrong angle. I have said time and time again to my clients: 1 – 2 degrees of turn can make all the difference in the world. When we run tests on dancers’ angles with each particular pose or movement, they are often, dancers in my photography studio are always surprised at what a huge difference the smallest adjustments can make.

Reason 5: Selfie Distortion

Cell phone cameras are wide angle lenses. The angle that you shoot at will make a big difference.  This is why it’s so hard to get a selfie that actually looks good and doesn’t distort your head. Most people hold phones up close to their heads, causing the perspective of the top of your body to be bigger (closer to the lens) than your feet.

Now, what to do about it?

Some tips for getting your dance photos to look the way you want to look, and avoid that feeling of not looking the way you think you look in your professional dance photos.

1) Try to work for more lines that are in conjunction with the flat lines of a screen.  Always keep in mind what the screen will be showing. The more ‘twist’ you have in your body, the more likely you are to look better in your dance photos.

angles for better dance photos rachel neville

2) Remember that really small changes make a big difference in photos. Try your movement or pose from several angles and adjust in small increments. Don’t assume the first or second angle is going to be the best one, even if you think the shot looks pretty good.

3) If you must use a cellphone camera, be aware of the angle that you are shooting at. Lowering the phone to your waist level is really the best place to start, then experiment with different heights.

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