Andrew Biss holding up 2 books

Seeing yourself: Flopping mirrors

In yesterday’s post I suggested you work with your webcam on. But what, exactly, do you see? Well, we have a lifetime’s experience of seeing ourselves in a mirror, which is very different from how others see us.

Normally we don’t care; it is only when we see ourselves on screen that we wonder why we look so strange?

Andrew Biss holding up 2 books
Andrew Biss holds up books to show what we see in a mirror. The book held in the right hand is on the right, but the text is all messed up. This is how we’re used to seeing ourselves.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Everyday mirrors show flopped images, reversed on the vertical axis (A flipped image is reversed on the horizontal axis.) You can see flopping in the above image, captured from my webcam with mirroring mode on.

I am holding 2 books: Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds in my right hand and slide:ology by Nancy Duarte in my left. Glance at the image quickly: “R” is on the right and “L” the left, as expected.

Without the book titles it would be a lot more difficult to tell. This is why flopped images still creep into feature films.

That looks a little strange

Andrew Biss holding up 2 books
Andrew Biss holds up books marked to show which hand they are being held in. With mirror mode turned off the text is readable, but right is now left and vice-versa. This is how other people see us in real life.

Turn mirror mode off and we see how others see us. The titles are OK, but “R” is on the left and “L” the right…

Photos were the main way we saw ourselves as others do. While many are uneasy with photos, video is worse; right and left are in the wrong place.

Our whole lives we have seen our flopped image; non-mirrored naturally looks strange. It conflicts with our internal understanding of how we look.

Look in the mirror and make that change

The solution is easy; get used to seeing yourself on screen as the camera sees you and not as you look in your bathroom mirror.

Work with your webcam turned on and mirror mode off. You will soon relax and get used to seeing yourself as others do. A small thing, perhaps, but one of the secrets to being comfortable on video.