Science Questions

What makes someone photogenic?

Sun, 19th Dec 2010

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Shane Kerr asked:



Love the show!


Some people look good in pictures, and some people do not. Some very good looking people are not photogenic... I've noticed this when you look at the same people on video.


Has there been any scientific research into what makes one photogenic (or not)?






We posed this Question to Fhionna Moore from the University of Abertay, Dundee...

Fhionna -  I think the thing about being photogenic is that you could be the best looking person in the world and just take terrible photographs.  There are certain things people can do to make themselves more or less photogenic, but there are certain things that some people are lucky enough to have which means that they'll take a goodA large format photographic lens photo, and I think thatís got a lot to do with maybe bone structure, and probably as well, being able to smile naturally and look natural in front of the camera which doesnít seem to something that everybody can do, which I know from personal experience.  The kinds of things that people can do to make themselves look more photogenic are things like, for example, I read a study recently where camera angle can make people look more or less attractive, depending on whether they're male or female.  So a camera angle tilted looking down on a female face makes her look more feminine and therefore more attractive, whereas a camera angle sort of looking up at a male face makes them look more masculine.  There are things that women do, obviously like wearing makeup which tends to give you a healthier appearance, and we know that a healthy appearance is closely related to attractiveness.  So things like having a healthy skin colour and skin texture, things like having blood profusion in the skin, so someone that exercises regularly has a lot of blood circulation, makes them look healthier. Evidence recently from the perception lab at St. Andrew shows that these things are related to the diet you eat.  If you've got lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet, you've got better skin colour and you look healthier and therefore, more attractive.  So there are things that people can do to enhance how photogenic they are, but I think ultimately, it comes down to how naturally people behave in front of the camera and perhaps very basic things like bone structure.

Kat -   So the combination of genes, good health, cosmetics, and the skill of the photographer. But what makes a face attractive in the first place?

Fhionna -   There are things like having a symmetrical face, so not having too much asymmetry in the two halves of the face tends to be associated with attractiveness and I suppose that's just good luck and good genes.  We know that women with feminine facial features are treated as much more attractive, so thatís things like having bigger eyes, and a smaller jaw.  In men, it seems to be more complicated.  Having sort of a feminine male face is attractive and so, is having a masculine male face.  So, I think a lot of it is down to your good genes.


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Camera lenses produce distortions which can improve or worsen a persons appearance ...

also see "perspective distortion" ...

RD, Fri, 17th Dec 2010


Sorry I have to disagree with Mira on two points. First she doesn't look horrible in the photos I've seen of her and the ugliest car ever was the AMC Pacer. Not only is the car ugly but it has huge windows so everyone can see who's driving such an ugly car. mountaineirc1969, Sat, 18th Dec 2010

it's so unfair when u see photo after photo of friends who take great photos!
i'm not a bad looking chick, but the photos i take are usually horrible!
HELP! philliseh, Sat, 26th Feb 2011

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