You may or may not have heard, but lenses do more than just change the perspective of the scene you are looking at through your camera. That distortion and change in perspective also affects how a viewer will perceive the face of someone that you are taking an image of. This is true for selfies and it is true for regular portraits.
So what is the optimal distance for a lens to a subject to still maintain proper-looking faces and features? Well, that answer really depends on the lens, but a recent video by Koldunov Brothers over on YouTube demonstrates and analyzes this issue.
It’s called perspective distortion, and as you can clearly see in the demonstration of the video, it has a real effect on how you perceive the face of the subject in the images. Interestingly, this same concept is how Peter Jackson shot a lot of the the hobbit scenes in the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
In this video by the Koldunov Brothers, their first example shows the two brothers standing at different differences from each other. The camera takes a shot and then is moved back. In the first image, the brother standing closest to the camera looks tall and the brother in the rear looks much shorter. However, in the second shot after the camera is moved the brothers look much closer in size, and with more realistic proportions overall.
Later in the video, we see closeups on one brother’s face, with the camera slowly moved back after each shot. When played back you can actually see the effects of the distortion change as the camera gets farther and farther away from the subject’s face. The demonstration is quite eye opening.
So next time you flip that phone out for a selfie, hold it at arm’s length so you don’t distort your face.