Models, television actors and movie actors tend to be very concerned about their weight. One reason for their obsession with their weight: they believe that the camera makes them look heavier than they are. They try to compensate for it by slimming down more than they would need to for health, alone. People who don’t turn out so well in their pictures tend to blame the camera, too — it adds 10 pounds, they say, to excuse their appearance. If you’ve ever wondered about this effect, here’s how it works.
Research done in Scotland proves it
Sponsored by the Independent Television Commission, a study done at the University of Liverpool (and later published in New Scientist) has investigated the ways in which regular televisions and 3-D televisions affect perceptions of the weight of subjects. Hundreds of test subjects comparing the images of people shown in 2-D and 3-D nearly always perceived people as heavier in regular, 2-D images.
In the process of turning three-dimensional objects into two-dimensional images, conventional photography spreads both people and objects out, making them appear fatter or heavier than they really are. In general, the camera tends to enhance the waist-to-hip ratio of a subject and also the neck area. Women end up with a jawline that is somewhat masculine. The effect shows up clearly with new movie and television actors. Often, they start out slightly heavy-looking, and quickly turn slim over the first year. Once these actors see themselves onscreen, they realize what the camera does and try to compensate for its fattening effect.
How the effect works
The optical illusion of the camera doesn’t always make subjects look heavier. A lot depends on where exactly the subject stands in the camera’s field of view. Wide-angle lenses make a person sending at the very center appear taller, and yet wider in the hip. Those who stand on the periphery end up looking shorter and wider.
The distance that a subject being photographed is placed at can make a difference, too. A subject who is farther than 5 feet away from the camera can appear heavier. This effect can actually be observed in any mirror. To try it out, you need to stand 6 inches from a mirror, observe exactly how you look and then gradually pulled back until you are 3 feet away. You’ll notice the optical illusion of added weight kick in.
The kind of lighting used can add to the weight-enhancing illusion, too. Flash photography and sharp stage lighting tend to flatten and spread images out. Soft lighting has the opposite effect.
To look skinny in your pictures, try these tips
The optical illusions that cameras bring with them can be worked around. Professional fashion photographers often even find ways to use them in their favor. These ideas below should help:
- Take pictures from above: Placing your camera a foot above the subject is a good way to compensate for the widening effect of the camera.
- The head should be placed forward: The angle of the subject’s head can make a difference to his or her perceived weight. When the head is pushed forward, it makes the jawline look thinner and more delicate.
- Not having the subject face the camera directly: A position where the subject sits angled away from the camera and twists around to face it is far better than one that has them facing the camera full-on. It can take away the illusion of heaviness.
These are the tricks that set expert photographers apart from less-experienced ones. It can take a good bit of practice to learn to use all the tricks that make for skinny pictures. The color of the subject’s clothing, their hairstyle and even the way they position their arms can make one look heavier or slimmer. It takes time and dedication to learn to make the camera tell the truth.