Does the Camera Really Add Ten Pounds?

You might have heard people say that the camera
adds ten pounds, or around four and a half kilograms if you want to get metric about
it. And sure, it’s a cliché, but it also holds
a bit of truth about the way cameras don’t quite capture the world the way our eyes see
it. A lot goes into taking a picture, but there
are two main things that might make you /think/ you look a little wider on camera. The first is the fact that most cameras are
cyclopses: the lens is their only eye. Most of us perceive the world through two
eyes, where one can see a bit behind things that are directly in front of the other. Our brains stitch together the two images
to give us a sense of depth. But a camera usually doesn’t have a second
“eye” to see around something in front of it, like a face. So, compared to your normal eyesight, your
brain might think a face in a photo or video is wider, since it covers up more of what’s
behind it than you’re used to. And secondly, you might /think/ you look one
way, but cameras have a different perspective. You’re probably used to seeing your face
relatively close-up in a mirror, with your ears a couple centimeters back, and your nose
a couple centimeters closer. Since a few centimeters is a big fraction
of that face-mirror distance, your face appears slightly longer and thinner. But cameras can be much farther away, making
your face appear a little wider or flatter. Not to mention, each camera lens has something
called focal length, which can influence how you and the background look. A camera lens focuses incoming light rays
so that they meet at a point, and form a sharp, clear image. Focal length describes the distance between
the spot inside the camera where the light rays meet and where the sensor detects the
image. And it’s usually measured in millimeters. Shorter focal lengths mean you get a wider
view of a scene. They can make closer things appear relatively
bigger, and farther things appear relatively smaller, which leads to that same face-narrowing
effect. On the other hand, longer focal lengths capture
a more zoomed-in image, which you can use to take a photo from farther away, or focus
on a smaller part of a scene. And if your subject is a person, they might
look a little flatter or stretched-out. So sometimes, the camera can /seem/ like it
adds ten pounds. But don’t sweat it – that selfie probably
came out fine! Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to
all of our patrons on Patreon who keep these answers coming. If you’d like to submit questions to be
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56 thoughts on “Does the Camera Really Add Ten Pounds?

  1. The people who say the camera adds 10 pounds are usually very overweight. It's not the camera's fault you appear overweight. It can only work with what you give it.

  2. not related to this video, but please keep making videos about the environment and climate change given what has happened the past few days it's really important to keep people informed.

  3. 1:33 Oh! My! God! I used this picture in my research paper about photography like 10 years ago 😀 internet truly doesnt forget. Geez.

  4. You hear all the time nowadays that animals face extinction. and that for example there are just 5000 left of a species. But how many of one kind of animal should be out there to have a regular population size? It's diffucult to compare it with something, because we are with so many. We as humans are also maybe in a different level on the eco-pyramide. (i hope i use the right word) Do you know the answer SciShow?

  5. And yet, whenever I mention that cellphone cameras make you look thinner than you actually are, I get downvoted for it…

  6. Great.. you just made these fatass people walk right pass the gym while taking a selfie smiling with caption " Great workout today "

  7. if different species have different ways of seeing things such as access to different parts of the spectrum, how do we know what things "really" look like? or is that a little too philosophical? just something ive been wondering.

  8. I've heard the thing about the focal length being to blame numerous times and I expected this video to just regurgitate that, but the part about the binocular disparity made a ton of sense and I've never heard that explanation before!

  9. The lens does not affect the perspective, only the distance from the subject does that. Take a picture of a subject from the same distance with different lens and the perspective will be the same.

  10. This is a terrible video for several reasons. Firstly, you say you look thinner with two eyes because you can "see around" the subject a bit. Then you argue that you look thinner close up in a mirror. Hello? The further you stand from somebody, the MORE you can see around the edge of them, that applies for one eye or two, simply because of the geometry. So make up your mind, do you look fatter by seeing around the edge or not, because you can't have it both ways on this. Secondly, lens length has absolutely NOTHING to do with how you look, except in so far as a long lens encourages you to move further away from the subject. If you take a photo of someone standing 10 metres away with a 200mm lens, then you take a photo with a 20mm lens without moving and you crop it down with scissors, how fat you look is EXACTLY THE SAME. Shot will be grainier from cropping, but shape of the subject NO DIFFERENT. So all this waffling on about lens length is totally misleading except as a footnote to the real issue: PHOTOGRAPHER to SUBJECT DISTANCE. I might add that fashion photographers tend to shoot their models with super long lenses so they can get far away, so your implication that you look better close up in a mirror I call nonsense on also.

  11. It isn't the focal length of a lens that affects how the scene looks, it's the distance between the camera and the subject. A 20mm lens and a 200mm lens will show the same distortion if you don't move the camera back.

  12. Additionally, your eyes are up higher, so looking into any mirror will show you a higher view of your face, removing any chin you may have. Cameras can be at any angle, often lower.

  13. Tired of seeing this myth perpetuated. A camera focal length does NOT change anything about the image, apart from its zoom. If you stand a long way from someone and take their photo with a wide lens, guess what? You will look EXACTLY THE SAME as with a long lens, other than you being really really small. If you crop the photo so you are the same size as the long lens the perspective will be THE SAME. COMPLETELY THE SAME. Now of course, if you crop that much, the quality will be crap because of film/sensor limitations, but the actual perspective is no different AT ALL. So let's all abandon the mythology that lens length changes perspective. People only think that because short lenses encourage you to stand closer and long lenses encourage you to stand further away and that act of moving closer or further away IS WHAT CHANGES THE PERSPECTIVE.


  15. The problem I have is that I am overweight, but whenever I look in the mirror I actually really like what I see, including my body. I am completely fine with it. But when I see a picture someone took of me at a family party or a group photo I look terrible. It's like my face and cheeks puffed up 10x bigger and so did my gut. I wanted to know which one is the real me, slightly slimmer mirror me, or extremely fat picture me?

  16. Focal length does not have any effect on distorting features. Distance to subject does.
    All focal length does is make an image bigger or smaller in the frame at any given distance– wide angle lenses appear to stretch out your nose if and only if you're very close to them. Close enough that a longer focal length would not capture enough of your face to actually see the effect that close distance would have on perspective– unless the image circle projected is large enough to use a larger sensor or film.

    Stand far away from a mirror. The perspective distortion from standing too close is now gone, and you've "added 10 pounds" the same way a long-focus lens would have. That's what you look like to the rest of the world. ("Telephoto" just means the lens is designed to be physically shorter than the focal length.)

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