Taking Photos of Yourself as a Style Evaluation Tool: Why Looking in the Mirror Isn’t as Effective

What’s wrong with using a mirror when we want to know if we look good?

Mirrors reflect back whatever is in front of them. Or do they? Why can I look at myself in the mirror one day and see a thin person and the next day look in the same mirror and see someone who needs to lose 10 pounds? Why can I look at the same haircut one day and think it looks boring and the next day think it looks chic? Has the object I’m looking at changed? Is the mirror broken? No.

Mirrors are so common and we’re so used to them that when we look in one we can’t look with fresh eyes. We’re looking at our reflections the same way we look at everything else—with judgement, or laziness, through a filter of denial, or sometimes simply without enough knowledge about what we’re looking at. The clutter in our heads gets in the way of actually seeing.

We need a better alternative to using a mirror, something that takes us out of ourselves and gives us a different perspective, because that is the only thing that will let us truly see. Taking photos of ourselves is a great tool for turning the tables on our usual way of seeing.

Taking photos of ourselves lets us see ourselves from another perspective. It wrenches us out of our heads, our normal ways of looking, and makes our image something fresh. This works because we are used to evaluating our outfits and looks in the mirror, and in photos that other people take of us, but most of us don’t take self-portrait photos on a regular basis, if at all.

Experiment with the two methods:

  • Look at yourself in the mirror.
  • Take a photo of yourself. The easiest way to do this is to aim the camera at the mirror (but turn off the flash or you will end up with a big light in your photo). Or you can set up a tripod and use a remote.

Do you see the same thing when you are looking in the mirror and at the photo?

I don’t. When I look at the photo I always get more insight. If I look at myself wearing a gray dress in the mirror, I’ll think “That looks good. It’s long enough and doesn’t make me look fat. I’ll wear it.” If I look at a photo of myself wearing the same thing I somehow get to another level of evaluation. It’s like my critical faculties aren’t very engaged with the mirror but they click on when looking at the photo.

I know sending outfit photos of ourselves to our friends is common, but I’m not talking about that. I think that can be helpful only if the friend is a stylist (lucky me!). Otherwise you are really just getting an opinion from someone who might or might not know more about style than you do. I’m talking only about looking at the photos ourselves.

This has been a great trick for me during my fall closet clean out. I had a bunch of stuff that I had had forever but couldn’t seem to get rid of because I thought I “might need it.” This time I took photos of myself wearing the outfits and then looked at them. I was shocked at the new perspective I got on many of the items of clothing I’d worn so many times I’d lost count. If you’re struggling with getting to the next level of style, try this trick.

I think it’s best to do a full-length mirror photo, but the ones I take like that aren’t good enough to publish. Guess I need some new lighting outside my closets huh. Well, at least this one told me that I’m not a fan of puffy sleeves.

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5 responses to “Taking Photos of Yourself as a Style Evaluation Tool: Why Looking in the Mirror Isn’t as Effective

  1. Thank you Jenny! 🙂 So true! Though I don’t take much pictures of myself, but I have a boyfriend who does it for me 🙂 Ha-ha, sometimes when I don’t even know. Once he made a picture of me
    in oversized pants and boy, oh boy…. that was scary. Pants went out of my life and my wardrobe that same day as I saw the picture 🙂

  2. I’d like to add one more thing. When we see ourselves in the mirror we are looking at a reverse image of what the world sees. When we take pictures of ourselves in the mirror…..same thing. But if we upload our pictures to our computers, most photo programs will allow us to ‘flip’ the picture. Now we are seeing what the rest of the world sees.

  3. Natalia, yes, sometimes I see myself in photos other people have taken and I realize how different something looks from what I thought it looked like. And usually it’s not looking better!

    Donna, that’s true. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Tiara suggests removing the mirror from the equation entirely with a tripod, which is a good idea, so if you do that you are also seeing what the world sees when you look at the picture.

  4. Pingback: The Mirror Treatment « Tods Blog/ today on Tod…….·

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