Why do I always look worse in selfies than in real life?

Wondering why you always look worse in selfies than in real life? Here are 5 classic selfie mistakes, and how to easily fix them.

Facetune team
min read
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You went to the trouble of doing full hair and makeup, and choosing a bangin’ outfit. You snap a selfie to show off your look and … it's not great.

You felt confident before, but the selfie makes you look tired, sick, or even miserable. Snap after snap, the selfie just isn’t coming out how you want it. What’s the problem? Why are you looking worse in selfies than you do in real life? How do you ensure you take a good selfie every snap?

Why do I look bad in pictures but good in real life?

It starts with understanding why you look bad in pictures even when you know that you’re a 10 in real life.

Here’s the thing about selfies and beauty: It’s all about how you think you look. Chances are, your friends don’t see your selfies and tell you, “Wow, you look awful in this picture but you’re really pretty right now.”

(And if your friends do say stuff like that, get you some new friends.)


The image of yourself that you get from real life comes from mirrors, which aren’t technically a true representation of your looks. But that’s the best option we’ve got, so our self-image comes from what we see through the reflection of a mirror.

The tricky thing here is that mirrors flip images. It’s the reason why text flips when you look at yourself in the mirror. So yeah, when you gaze at your cute ensemble in the mirror before a night on the town, you’re seeing a distorted, flipped image of yourself.

So, the first half of the equation here is the mirror version of yourself. Phone cameras, on the other hand, don’t flip your image (unless you change their settings). When you snap a selfie, you’re seeing your face as other people see you in real life, not as you see yourself in the mirror.

Honestly, it can be kind of jarring. You’re used to seeing yourself one way, but then you look like a hot mess in your selfies! This is called the mere exposure effect, which happens when you prefer something because you see it all the time. So yeah, you’re going to prefer the "mirror you" instead of "camera you."

The good news is that "camera you" is how other people see you. Think about it: Your friends probably tell you you’re crazy when you don’t like your selfie because to them, that’s how you always look!

(Fun fact: If your friends saw you in the mirror, they would probably say you don’t look as good because that’s not how they’re used to seeing you. Food for thought.)

Why do I look worse on camera?

Mirrors aside, there are other reasons why you might look different on camera than you do in real life.

  • You aren’t taking care of yourself: I mean, if you partied all night, slammed six shots of vodka, and still expect to look like Olivia Rodrigo, it’s not going to happen. Get your beauty sleep, drink water, and moisturize, ‘kay?
  • Asymmetry: Nobody is perfectly symmetrical. When you see your image flipped in a selfie on your phone’s camera, your symmetry will look off.
  • Lens distortion: Yup, you can totally blame it on the camera. This happens with cheaper cameras or lower-quality cameras on old smartphones. A selfie captures your face in 2D, but in reality, you’re a 3D person. When you translate that into a selfie, your picture is going to look flatter than usual. The proportions will definitely change when you take a selfie versus real life. The good news is that nicer cameras don’t have this problem, so make sure you aren’t using your iPhone 6 to snap selfies.
  • Camera flash: I am not a fan of flash at all, especially because it makes everybody look bad. If you turn flash on when you take a selfie, it’s going to make your skin look shiny (in a bad way) and it might even give you an overexposed, sickly look. Wait for the right lighting before you snap a selfie to avoid problems with flash. You can always correct your lighting with Facetune2 after the fact, too.
  • Your facial expressions: Does your smile look weird or stiff? Practice your poses! You want to look as genuine and real in your selfies as possible, and that means nailing your poses, whether you go for a full-toothed grin or a smize.

5 fixes for when you look worse in selfies than in real life

Fortunately, you’re not alone! Selfies involve using your phone’s camera to take an awesome pic, but the camera doesn’t always play nice with us. Despite all your hard work, sometimes selfies just don’t come out right.

If you don’t like how your selfies are coming out, troubleshoot by reading up on these five common selfie problems — and learn how to fix them fast.

1 - Blame the lighting

Honestly, lighting is usually the problem with a bad selfie. If you’re trying to fix that by using the flash on your phone, think again — harsh camera flashes will almost always result in a worse photo.

So, the question now becomes: How do I fix bad selfie lighting?

Well, next time you’re in a selfie mood, step out onto your porch or balcony and snap a pic in natural light. It’s hard to substitute the glowing, natural rays of the sun.

But if you’re stuck inside, you can use FaceTune2 to add filters, remove glare, mattify shine, or play with the lighting levels on your selfie.

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2 - Photos reverse your image

Did you know that your phone shows the reverse of what you see in the mirror? All that careful posing and posturing goes out the window when your phone flips your pics.

Some apps and front-facing cameras will capture your face as other people will see it (not how it looks in the mirror). Because our faces aren’t 100% symmetrical, seeing the image flipped might feel weird.

Fortunately, this one’s easy to fix. Most phones come with a “flip” option in the picture editor. Just flip the image and fix it. Facetune2 lets you do this in your crop editing tools.

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3 - How close are you to the camera?

Unless you’re #extra and using a selfie stick, you’re probably close to the camera for your selfies.

That’s all well and good, but sometimes, being too close to the camera is a bad thing. The angle can distort or emphasize certain features, like your nose, that are closer to the camera and it’s not always flattering.

If you can’t change your proximity to your phone, use FaceTune2’s Face editing tool to emphasize or minimize certain features.

face editor for selfie face 3

4 - The camera captures just a small moment

Our eyes are used to seeing fluid images — nothing's perfectly still in real life. When a camera captures a millisecond of time, you can see every blotch and blemish in living color.

This is an easy fix, though, and it's one that doesn't require pricey concealer. Facetune2 lets you remove blemishes to seamlessly match your skin tone.

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5 - Watch your face

It happens to the best of us: Despite many tries to get a nice smile, your grin looks unnatural or just not like you. Yes, we’re all fake-smiling for the camera, and guess what? Fake smiles look fake.

When your face is tight from "photo-smiling," you get a deer-in-headlights sort of look. Everybody looks better with their natural smile, but capturing that on camera isn’t always easy.

Before selfie-ing, relax your jaw. Try thinking of something super hilarious to mimic your real-life smile for the selfie. Yeah, it’s a little hokey, but we promise it does the trick.

If you’re not happy with your smile after several tries, Facetune2 can help you morph an awkward grin into a winning smile.

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5 - Don’t compare

Comparison is the thief of joy. We’re used to seeing celebrity faces everywhere we go. When you look at your selfie, you might wish it looked more like someone else’s.

But you know what? We think you look great as yourself. Strut your selfie with confidence; followers want to see your content, not someone else’s.

Facetune2 will arm you with a few tools and tricks to bring out your best features — but it’s still all you, baby.

The bottom line for worse than real life selfies:

The point is, don’t stress about taking a less-than-awesome photo. We’re all our worst critics. Odds are, your followers are going to hit that "like" button so fast, you won’t know what hit you. So relax, enjoy yourself, and if you need a little help adjusting your look, there’s an app for that.

Facetune team
Experts in elevating your selfies and offering the latest beauty, lifestyle, and photo editing tips. Your go-to source for all things Facetune.

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