The Effect of Lighting and Photograph Exposure on Perceived Attractiveness

Kelsey A. Roelofs, Mahtash Esfandiari, Stefania B. Diniz, Liza M. Cohen, Samuel Baugh, Justin N. Karlin, Robert A. Goldberg, Daniel B. Rootman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To assess the effect of various lighting conditions and photograph exposures on perceived attractiveness. Methods: In the first experiment, 5 variably exposed photographs were taken of 10 subjects using a consistent lighting condition (45° superior box light). In the second experiment, 10 subjects were photographed under variable lighting conditions with consistent exposure: 1) 90° overhead box light, 2) ring light, 3) 45° superior box light, 4) built-in camera flash, 5) 2 straight on box lights, each 45° from midline, and 6) natural light. Participants were instructed to maintain a neutral expression, were placed in front of a standardized blue-gray background, and were photographed during a single session. Photographs were imported into an online survey platform (Qualtrics 2020) and displayed in random order. Volunteer survey respondents were instructed to rate the subject's attractiveness on a scale of 0 to 10. Between the two experiments, a total of 22,000 scored photographs were included in the analysis. Mixed ANOVA and pairwise comparisons with Bonferroni correction were used to compare between- and within-subject ratings. Results: Lighting condition had a significant impact on perceived attractiveness (p < 0.001), with the 90° overhead box light achieving lower scores and the 45° superior box light yielding greater scores of attractiveness relative to the other conditions. Photograph exposure did not have a significant impact on subjective attractiveness (p = 1.000). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that perceived attractiveness is enhanced when a 45° superior box light is used for illumination, and attractiveness is reduced when 90° overhead exposure is utilized. Exposure did not play a prominent role in perceived attractiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-363
Number of pages5
JournalOphthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Ophthalmology


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