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Final Major Project: Distortion

“Selfies are typically shot at arm’s length, leading to visible distortions similar to the fisheye effect but with their own characteristics, most notably an enlarged nose.”

– (Fried et al 2016)

An article published today on Vox.com, has highlighted a growing trend for cosmetic nose surgery caused by our noses appearing 30% larger in a selfie (Selfie face distortion is driving people to get nose jobs 2018).

The reason for the apparent growth in our nose size is caused by selfies being taken at such close range.  The camera lens distorts our features, so a larger nose is seen.  This is simply a misrepresentation of our true face. Yet, there are people who readily accept the distortion as reality.

The distortion is a result of perspective.  In a selfie, the nose is the closest part of your face to the camera. The rest of the face is relatively further away. The nose becomes the dominant feature of the selfie in this case. If the image was taken from a further distance (setting the camera to self-timer), the face becomes flattened and the nose appears more in proportion to the rest of the face.

In addition to this, a selfie taken on a smartphone will also be the reverse of what you would see in a mirror. The mirror view is one that we are used to, so this reverse image appears unattractive to us. The focal length of an iPhone is 24mm and this adds to the unflattering appearance of the selfie. In figure 1, the selfie image on the right has a significantly larger nose than in the image taken with the 80mm lens mounted on my Nikon camera.

Figure 1: 80mm Nikon camera lens vs 24mm iPhone lens

Video 1: (Why selfies can make your nose look bigger 2018)

Photography has long been considered to represent reality in an objective manner. In the translation of Ludwig Wittengenstein’s book the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (first published in 1921), Wittgenstein et al (2001: 9) note that ‘we picture facts to ourselves’ and that ‘a picture is a model of reality’. Wittgenstein was referring to how we use language to help us access reality. These statements could also be used to describe how we view a photograph (or selfie) of ourselves. Photography has long been considered as a window to the world.

But there is often a disparity between how our face appears in a photograph (or selfie) and how it appears in real life. Lenses and the construction of the camera can distort the image of our face so that we see a representation (or misrepresentation) of ourselves. This viewed image may differ from what we perceive to be socially acceptable and it can lead to us wanting to surgically change our appearance.

Using the RePose software created by Princeton as part of their study into “Perspective-aware Manipulation of Portrait Photos”, I was able to alter the perspective of my face by varying the distance from the camera. I uploaded a self-portrait of myself and adjusted the different settings in order to observe the distortions.

Figure 2: Original Photograph

Figure 3: Manipulated Images (RePose: Edit (Beta) 2018)

Screenshots below:-

The software modifies the pose and distance between the camera and subject using just a  single image. The result is that large noses seen in selfies can be ‘corrected’ so that appear in proportion to the rest of the face.

Software running:-

So the camera never lies but just distorts the truth.


Fried, O., Shechtman, E., Goldman, D.B. and Finkelstein, A. 2016. “Perspective-aware Manipulation of Portrait Photos”. Ohadf.com [online]. Available at: http://www.ohadf.com/papers/FriedShechtmanGoldmanFinkelstein_SIGGRAPH2016.pdf [accessed 21 June 2018].

Perspective-aware Manipulation of Portrait Photos. 2018. Faces.cs.princeton.edu[online]. Available at: http://faces.cs.princeton.edu [accessed 21 June 2018].

RePose: Edit (Beta). 2018. Faces.cs.princeton.edu [online]. Available at: http://faces.cs.princeton.edu/live/demo.html?id=9a286bdfa2e8c07e0fa0080f1418e33f&type=jpg [accessed 21 June 2018].

Selfie face distortion is driving people to get nose jobs. 2018. Vox [online]. Available at: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/3/1/17059566/plastic-surgery-selfie-distortion [accessed 21 Jun 2018].

Wittgenstein, L., Pears, D.F., McGuinness, B.F. and Russell, B. (2001) Tractatus logico-philosophicus. London: Routledge.


Why selfies can make your nose look bigger. 2018. YouTube [online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&time_continue=13&v=9zumV39nm60 [accessed 21 June 2018].


Figure 3: RePose: Edit (Beta). 2018. Faces.cs.princeton.edu [online]. Available at: http://faces.cs.princeton.edu/live/demo.html?id=9a286bdfa2e8c07e0fa0080f1418e33f&type=jpg [accessed 21 June 2018].

#FracturedIdentities #June2018

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