A photographer will know exactly what lens distortion you’ll experience with a wide angle lens up close. Does the general public?
Why is 85mm considered a great portrait lens? We know that it compresses facial features, as well as the background. In general, we look more human when shot with a long lens – which is something you can’t promise from a smartphone held at arm's length. Apparently, this issue is enough to warrant plastic surgery for some.
In the above video, Christophe Haubursin cites the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. They found that 55% of patients in 2017 receiving facial plastic surgery, wanted to look better in their selfies. That’s apparently an increase of 13% from 2016. This is in line with a general increase in demand, where surely most patients feel they want to improve their looks anyway. For men, rhinoplasty is the top requested facial reconstruction. For women, it comes second to Botox.
Solutions (Other Than Surgery)
There are two fixes for the problem, for the amateur photographer. The first is the ever popular selfie stick. By throwing your smartphone a couple feet back, you’re eliminating a lot of that unwanted lens distortion.
The second fix is with software. Last year I tried out Princeton’s software solution to the problem, and honestly, I thought it did a pretty good job. The online tool takes note of your facial features and distorts the image to look like it was taken on a longer lens from further away. Using software is the best solution since the user will be retaining the appropriate framing too (unlike selfie sticks). I could absolutely see Adobe integrating this into Photoshop some day.
Perhaps it’s not the lens distortion that’s an issue, but a distortion of what we think we ought to look like. Besides, it goes both ways – sometimes a user wants parts of their body to look larger than normal.