Levi Major Photography
Why Don’t I Look Good In Professional Photos?
I’ve been taking professional photographs for many years. Ever since I started, I’ve heard a constant comment. It is always said something like “I just don’t take good pictures” or “the camera just doesn’t like me.” Almost invariably, when this statement is uttered, everyone within earshot gives a chuckle, or immediately starts assuring the speaker that they really do look good. Sometimes it’s true, but often it’s not. Some people do not photograph well it’s that simple.
If you’ve looked at enough photographs, and seen enough TV and movies, you’ve been struck by one or two anomalies. Someone who is frightfully unattractive looks great in a photograph, or, someone who is stunningly attractive looks horrible. What causes this? Is it the photographers fault? Bad lighting, perhaps? Did the subject not get enough rest the night before? Of course these things could be true, but there’s actually a very real, constant explanation for this phenomenon: dimensions.
We humans live in a world of three dimensions: front/back left/right up/down. Since we have stereo vision, we can see all three of these dimensions. Using geometry, we can see how the dimensions are arrived at. A straight line is one dimension: front back. To create the second dimension, make a line at a right angle to the first line, and do so until you have a square. This is two dimensional. Now, make squares at right angles to the first square until you have a cube that’s three dimensional. Voila!
One of the problems we have in understanding geometry is simply this: a two dimensional object, such as a square, has absolutely NO depth (thickness) at all. This means that it is completely invisible when looked at from the side view. But what’s this all got to do with why you don’t look good in photographs? Simple: people are three dimensional, and photographs are only two dimensional.
Anytime that you lose a dimension, your view is penalized, per se. If I take a head-on photograph of a cube, it appears as a square. I can do some ‘tricks’ to fool the viewer, such as make sure there is a shadow showing that the square is actually a cube, or taking the photo at an angle which shows at least one other side of the cube. But no matter what I do, the picture will always be a two dimensional view of a three dimensional object. Needless to say, there is a substantial difference between a square and a cube. And there is a substantial difference between seeing someone and seeing a picture of that same someone.