Paul McCartney - face asymmetry

Symmetry of face is one of those few objective attributes of percieved human beauty (so I hear) and thus is a desirable quality to any facial photo aiming fot the beauty (not for the beast).

First three images Google Image Search gave me for Paul McCartney (see above) strike me as photos of the same man yet with very varying face symmetry - the rightmost image showing the most asymmetric face.

The only thing I can see in these three photos having an effect is hairstyle - twe left and middle photos showing hairline styled following the line of asymmetrical brow, the right photo quite against it.

My question is whether there are standard techniques a photographer can employ to bring facial symmetry where it is lacking (apart from styling or make-up), or what do you do when taking portraits with special regard to facial asymmetry (if at all).

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you look closely, there's a very slight head tilt to the first two photos that brings the eyes closer to level (more so in the second one). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 22:00

3 Answers 3


It is true, you would never suspect facial symmetry is a thing, and even though the ones of Sir Paul (McCartney) are close to symmetrical, they're not perfect, take the image below. Please note. This is the 'cheating way'

enter image description here

Now according to psychology (I'm not a psychologist, it's just what I've been told!) your brain should prefer the image on the right because it's perfectly symmetrical.

Now no face is going to be perfectly symmetrical, so how was this done?

Part camera, mostly editing.

The left image is the original unedited image (if it wasn't obvious), so how do you go about making it look symmetrical?

First of, and this is the really hard part you need to take the picture perfectly, so dead on centre, no head tilt to the side, the light needs to be perfectly even as well or otherwise the brain can pull up on the subtle differences that the image has been altered.

Secondly, (crop and rulers/guides in photoshop are a big help here), you need to cut the image in half and mirror the side so the picture is a mirror image of itself down the nose. At this point you will find that one side of the face is better. (It can get complicated as you get things correct due to any irregularities if the photo wasn't done correctly).

Thirdly, the image will look weird as a mirror image of it self, so you have to bring things like the hair and body parts BACK from the original half of the image.

A litle tip if you fancy trying this yourself, layer masks are you friend.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The interesting question to me is: is the image on the right a portrait anymore? \$\endgroup\$
    – user50888
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 20:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @benrudgers the subjective-ness of photography! \$\endgroup\$
    – Crazy Dino
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Although not stated, I had mainly photographic means in mind. Your answer nicely points out that photography today has shifted from camera material economy to postprocessing services economy:) \$\endgroup\$
    – Pavel
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 8:12

Symmetric faces like McCartney's are less common. Generally, portrait photographers usually deal with facial asymmetry and use oblique poses rather than full face. Oblique portraiture is where the phrase, "picture of my good side" comes from. This tutorial by Chuck Gardner illustrates the three basic portraiture poses: oblique, full face, and profile.

This tutorial in the Strobist's Lighting 101 series also has some good basic information on portraits.

I am not a portrait photographer, and so I've found that a little bit of technique [e.g. broad lit oblique view] can a long way toward improving the portraits I take of asymmetric faces.

Picture of my ugly mug

Hard to believe that's the good side, but I have a scar on my right lip and chin from a motorcycle wreck that the shadow and pose work to deemphasize. Ideally, the camera would be a little higher to show less of my nostrils.


There is no gene that guarantees symmetry of anything about the human body. Ask any human biologist or surgeon, particularly plastic surgeons. My suggestion is to accept asymmetry as part of normal life. The belief that beauty inheres in symmetry is just another ruse to part you from hard-earned dosh.


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