While trying to understand the term 'photogenic' better, I came across this Wikipedia page which mentions the expression 'the camera adds ten pounds'.

With a camera, the subject is viewed through a single lens, and thus much of the three dimensional qualities of the face are lost, and the face may appear to be fuller than it actually is in real life(which is the reason for the expression that "the camera adds ten pounds")...

Does this expression refer to people looking 'bigger' in their photographs than they actually are or to refer to people looking 'better' in them? Since adding pounds usually refers to putting on weight, I would think the expression suggests that people look heavier in the photographs. But is that photogenic?

  • 2
    You've got it right; it means that you look roughly 10 pounds heavier depicted in two dimensions.
    – J.R.
    Jan 25, 2013 at 16:37
  • But is looking ten pounds heavier 'photogenic'?
    – user32480
    Jan 25, 2013 at 16:38
  • Photogenic refers to how well you take pictures. For most people, adding 10 pounds would make them less photogenic, but, for someone who is very thin, it might have the opposite effect. I'm no expert on this matter, but I believe this is why so many models (or those trying to break into a career in modeling) can be so thin – sometimes dangerously so.
    – J.R.
    Jan 25, 2013 at 16:41
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    @J.R. - doesn't photogenic means how well a person looks in photographs in general rather than referring to his photo taking capabilities?!
    – Mohit
    Jan 25, 2013 at 16:46
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    @Mohit: Yes, and I'm using that expression to mean exactly what you say. "That person photographs well" can apply to either end of the camera - it can mean that person snaps good pictures (like photographer Ansel Adams) or it can mean that person looks good in pictures (like supermodel Gisele Bundchen). It's a phrasal use of the word, noted in this dictionary.
    – J.R.
    Jan 25, 2013 at 16:57

3 Answers 3


"The camera adds ten pounds" is just an expression which is used with regard to photographs. It doesn't always carry a negative connotation as it may seem at first instance. As mentioned by you in the question, it basically refers to the fact that people look heavier or bigger in photographs.

Now, is that a good thing or is that photogenic? It depends upon the eyes of the beholder.


It's generally considered to be a bad thing. The expression seems to be used most often when a person dislikes how they look in a photograph or in a film, as a way to console them: "You're not really that large, the camera adds ten pounds."

  • But the article I have referred tries to explain what 'photogenic' is through the expression or at least that's how I've understood it.
    – user32480
    Jan 25, 2013 at 16:40
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    @InglishTeeture I believe that parenthetical aside is unrelated to the topic of 'photogenic'. Wikipedia sometimes does that, unfortunately. Jan 25, 2013 at 16:48
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    @InglishTeeture: I believe the article is referring to the expression in terms of how it affects the photogenic nature of the subject. Typically, the apparent adding of weight will have an adverse affect on the photogenic qualities of the subject, because most people (that I know anyway) don't want to look 10 pounds heavier than they really are.
    – Steven
    Jan 25, 2013 at 16:49

Since it's often taken in our culture that having more weight makes you less attractive, to be photogenic would mean either you weren't affected by the "adds then pounds" phenomenon, or if you were, that it didn't have much effect upon how attractive you were considered.

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