Here's the simple trick to look your best in selfies from your smartphone

Have you ever taken a selfie, looked at it afterward, and thought, That’s not even what I look like!

The problem was likely wide-angle distortion, the property of smartphone lenses (and other superwide cameras) that renders their subjects a bit odd-looking and cartoonish.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way around the problem if you understand a bit about the optics of these devices.

Here’s what you need to know:

Here's the thing: Looking like a normal human being in photos is hard.

And smartphones don't make it easier.

Meghan McCarter

Manufacturers build them with super-wide-angle lenses that can stretch and distort your face in unflattering ways.

That's because every focal length of a camera lens (in effect, how zoomed in it is by default) changes the distortion of the object it's shooting. Wide-angle lenses render faces cartoonish. Ultra-long lenses make you look flat and compressed.

That's why headshot photographers tend to stick to the middle-ground 85 mm lens -- a much longer lens than you'd find on any smartphone.

Rafi Letzter/Business Insider

But you can still take smartphone photos of yourself (and other people) that don't make you look like a total goober.

The trick is to understand that much of that distortion lies near the edges of the frame and gets exaggerated by any body part projecting toward the camera. In this photo, her jaw looks much larger than it really is because it's pointing toward the device.

Rafi Letzter/Business Insider

Move a little farther away, move your head a little closer to the middle of the frame, and keep your chin and forehead equidistant from the camera. The result is a selfie that looks a lot more like how your face looks to other people.

Rafi Letzter/Business Insider

Smartphone photos in which the head is in the middle of the frame and a bit farther away than usual are much more flattering.

Get closer, and you're entering cartoon territory.

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