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With the explosion of social media over the past decade, there are a lot of products being developed to make you look prettier and thinner exclusively in digital photos. For instance, the new HP Photosmart R927 camera has a built-in feature that makes you look 5 to 15 pounds thinner with the click of a button. (Oh, if only it were that easy in real life!)
That got me thinking. If we are spending so much time on Facebook that we are buying products designed only to look better digitally, surely there are other tricks to looking hot on-camera. So, for this piece, I consulted with local make-up artists, researched celebrities, and read some scientific literature to figure out exactly what looks universally beautiful in photos- and what does not.
The Perfect Face: Beauty as Mathematics
Before we can discover how to look better, we have to know what makes someone look beautiful in the first place. It turns out that beauty is less in the eye of the beholder than we thought. Sometime around 300 B.C., the Greek mathematician Euclid identified the “Golden Proportion,” an ideal face two-thirds as wide as it is tall, with a nose no longer than the distance between the eyes. Many celebrities fit this proportion, including Jessica Simpson, Megan Fox, and Angelina Jolie.
Other ideal proportions exist as well. In 1997, a group of researchers at UCLA developed the Marquardt Mask, a system of 42 golden decagon matrices that are superimposed on the face. The important part of this is that the ideal is to have lips 1.618 times wider than your nose; the width of your eye at its widest 1.618 times wider than the tip of your nose; and the length from your nose to your ears horizontally is 1.618 times wider than your nose. Even more complicated, the measurement from the top of your head to your chin divided by the width of your head, and the measurement from the top of your head to your pupil divided by the measurement from your pupil to your lip should also be 1.618. (For a complete list of ratios, visit the University of Chicago “The Perfect Face” website.) It is these proportions, amongst others, that make a face universally accepted as beautiful. Interestingly enough, e, the popular model Agyness Deyn almost perfectly fits all of the desired proportions, according to Elle.
Yet, if you’re out there measuring and getting 1.4’s or 6.8’s, don’t fret. (Well, maybe fret a little if you’re getting a few 6.8’s, but that’s beside the point). According to research presented by the American Psychological Association in 2002, beauty also correlates to familiarness. That is, the more often subjects were exposed to a subject, the more they started to perceive it as beautiful. Assuming you don’t have the personality of a rock (or a famous Housewife of New Jersey), this means updating your Facebook photos more often will cause your Facebook friends to perceive you as more attractive over time. Always a plus.
10 Easy Ways to Make Your Face More Beautiful on Facebook
Of course, knowledge without action gives you nothing more than wrinkles on your brain. So, with that said, here are ten tips to achieving the perfect ratio with your cosmetics, camera, and lighting:
- 1. Make your eyes and lips fuller. With few exceptions, most women fall short of the 1.618 eyes or lips-to-nose width ratio. Luckily, making your eyes and lips appear bigger are two of the easiest tasks to accomplish with accomplish. YouTube vlogger extraordinaire Michelle Phan has a video tutorial on how to make your eyes look bigger, while professional cosmetologist Davina Burket demonstrates in this video how to make your lips look fuller.
- 2. Use “diva lighting”. I refer to “diva lighting” as a large number of lamps, each set to a low power (up to 60W each). The key here is that soft lighting doesn’t wash you out like brightness, but isn’t harsh and aging darkness. Arranging the lamps strategically is also important, and you can play around to see which arrangements are most favorable to your look. (It may sound like overkill, but let’s face it, this project is like anything else: the more time and effort you put into it, the better it’s going to turn out.)
According to wikiHow, dim lighting can be accomplished with your camera as well: Set the flash at a weaker level than the primary light source, as with fill flashes; or use multiple lights at varying power, such as with slave flashes. These settings can be found on more advanced digital cameras.
- 3. Try WeightMirror.com. WeightMirror.com is a free website in which you can upload a photo of yourself and then visualize yourself up to 45 pounds thinner with the click of your mouse – probably the easiest way to lose weight in the world, even if it is only digitally! It’s similar to the technology used in the HP Photosmart R927 camera, but it’s completely free. An example from the folks at WeightMirror.com is shown below:
- 4. Tilt your head down, and look up into the camera. One reason why Elizabeth Taylor was considered by Hollywood directors to be so beautiful was that she did not have a bad angle. Now, for those of us who are less Elizabeth Taylor-esque, we have to keep in mind the Golden Ratio and remember our faces should optimally appear 1.6 times as long as they are wide. And in the land of Good and Plenty, we probably have a better shot at this if we turn our head down and away from the camera a bit, tilting at a slight angle.
- 5. Wear solid and neutral clothing (i.e., brown, beige, tan). I used to always think this was hogwash, but a recent study demonstrated that women who wear lighter colors are believed to be 5 to 10 years younger than when they wear black. (I couldn’t find the actual study online, but another blogger references it here.) Solids are also a better bet than prints since digital cameras can have difficulties with contrast, making your photograph appear fuzzy.
- 6. Consider purchasing a camera with a “slimming” feature. The HP Photosmart R927 camera works well, and enables you to visualize your “slimmed down” photo on the screen immediately after you take it.
- 7. Pro tip #1: Apply foundation one to two shades darker to the sides of your nose and face. The reason the camera makes you appear 10 pounds heavier is because it is converting a three-dimensional image into a two-dimensional one. This “flattening” of images tends to make monochromatic images seem wider. I learned this one from a friend who is a makeup artist: The key to negating this effect is to create some contrast so that light will reflect off certain areas of your face more than others. It’s best to use this effect to your advantage by making your nose and face appear thinner, as people generally have noses that are greater than 0.625 (1/1.6) times the width of their eyes. This is achieved by applying a slightly darker shade of foundation down the sides of your nose and face. One caveat: This is hard to replicate in a natural way at home. I say, save this trick for your really special photos, and consult a professional.
- 8. Pro tip #2: Apply a very thin, very light stripe of light powder down the middle vertical line of your face. Going in line with #7, the opposite also runs true: applying a thin line of light powder down the middle vertical line of your face reflects the light, drawing attention to your central features. The darkness of the other regions makes them appear smaller by contrast. Again, this can be difficult unless you are a professional, or have lots of practice. (I tried it at home, and had to redo my make-up for the day; yet, Paul at my local M.A.C. did it for me, and it was tres chic.)
- 9. Smile, and update your photos often. “Smile, and the world smiles with you.” “Turn that frown upside down!” Besides a bunch of cheesy quotes, smiling also inspires other people to think you are more attractive: A 1996 study in the journal Perception and Motor Skills found that subjects who smile are perceived as more attractive than when they are more serious, regardless of age, race, or attractiveness otherwise. Combine with this the aforementioned research that you get more attractive to others as they see you more often, and we’ve uncovered Kelly Ripa’s secret: Be ubiquitous. And be happy.
- 10. Get a haircut. Few of us are blessed with faces that are 1.6 times as long as they are wide, or cheeks 1.6 times the width of our chins – you get the idea. Yet, the right haircut can create the illusion of more desirable features – for instance, long bangs can make a small face appear longer, while extra volume can make your face appear thinner. My mother, a former hairstylist, always advises to ask women whose hair and general style you admire where they had their hair cut. I did that recently, and I found the Alberta Modern Hair salon in Pittsburgh. This isn’t a paid endorsement – don’t worry! – but I’ve never had a more manageable or stylish hair cut in my life. Do yourself a favor, and find the right hairstylist.
One inconvenience of the evolution of social media is the fact that your photo can be snapped and displayed publicly to the world anywhere, anytime. Yet it takes photographers dozens of takes before acing the perfect shot, even with seemingly perfect subjects, lighting, equipment, etc. The bottom line here is that it’s hard to look perfect in every photo on Facebook, even if you make the “untag” button your best friend. I suggest taking the above tips, but remembering to enjoy yourself in the process. After all, the point of living life is not to look good on Facebook, but to use social media platforms to share wonderful moments in your life…and if you happen to look extra great using the above tips along the way, well, that’s just an amazing bonus.
Have a tip for looking great in photos? Share it in Comments below!