The Frozen Face Effect: Why You Look Worse in Photos than in Video

If you’ve always felt that you look more attractive in videos than you do in photographs, you’re not alone. A recent study done by researchers at UC Davis and Harvard has found that subjects generally find video footage of people more attractive than stills showing the same face. It turns out that looking attractive in photos is no easy feat due to what the researchers are calling the “frozen face effect.”

In the study, universities volunteers were asked to watch 20 video clips of various faces, after which they were given 20 stills pulled from the videos they had just watched. When they were then asked to rank the imagery based on attractiveness, the videos consistently ranked higher than the corresponding stills.

The researchers even tried giving the subjects a series of photos shown as a group, but regardless, the video ranked higher — apparently we humans like something about faces in motion. Of course we don’t know anything about the quality the photos they used, but it would be interesting to see how professionally shot video and professionally shot photos would fare against one another in a study like this.

Maybe a portrait photographer’s most prized skill has to do with bringing out the best in people, or maybe it has to do with Photoshop; but in reality it may just be the ability to overcome “the frozen face effect.”

(via Frontiers via CameraTechnica)

Image credit: Self Portrait by Severin Sadjina

  • Anthony Harden

    This is why there will always be professionals, and people with natural, and/or, earned, talent at capturing faces. It really isn’t easy.

  • John Cornicello

    Stills pulled from the video? That might be part of the video. As noted, compare video as video vs stills as stills. More valid. Interesting take on this earlier in the week from another blog:


  • SamanthaParrington

    people who photograph well have a certain geometry / plane to their faces – generally, their eyes/nose bridge are on the “planar” side, meaning, flat. I used to do makeup for fashion photography shoots, the good models all had it. In person not necessarily pretty, and on film – more than the sum of their parts.

  • Jenny

    they have symmetry, not geometry