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How is Photography Affecting Us?

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In the past two decades, most people went from not carrying a camera to always having a smartphone camera with them at all times. With millions upon millions of photos shot (and shared) every single day, how is this explosion in photography affecting us? Here’s a 10-minute video by WIRED that explores that question.

To find out how photos are affecting our eyes, brains, and bodies, WIRED Senior Editor Peter Rubin looks into how selfies distort our self-perception, shoots with a professional photographer, and examines how photos impact moods and memory.

A study published in 2018 found that selfies captured at a distance of 1 foot away make your nose look 30% bigger than an ordinary portrait captured from a farther distance. This can change how we see ourselves and even our behavior: a study also found that people who shoot selfies felt worse than those who don’t, and the desire to look better in selfies is also growing as a motivation for certain plastic surgery procedures.

There’s also the question of whether incessant photo-taking enhances or detracts from our enjoyment of experiences. While obsessing over shooting photos for social media can negatively impact experiences, shooting for oneself (and worrying about sharing later) can positively affect enjoyment.

Finally, using eye-tracking systems, Rubin compared how he looks at the world and photos with how professional photographer Chris Burkard does. What he found is that Burkard is more deliberate in seeing the details of things while Rubin’s untrained eye appears to be much less focused.

“None of [this] may make you a better picture-taker, but it might just help you understand what a camera can do to your mind and your emotions,” Rubin writes. “No selfie stick required.”

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