A behind-the-scenes look at those perfectly-lit, suspiciously smudgeless mirror pics popping up on your Instagram feed
It’s no secret that not everything is as it seems in the world of Instagram influencers — private jets aren't really private jets, Facetune can transform your face in seconds, and fake fans can be bought for as little as a few cents. The latest influencer secret to spill out into IRL existence, though, centers on something slightly more low-key: the humble mirror selfie.
Or is it a mirror selfie? According to a recent TikTok post exposing the info that “bloggers don’t want you to know”, we might have been falling for fake mirror pics all along. “Here’s the secret,” says model and influencer Kara Del Toro. “There is no mirror. All you need is a second phone or a spare camera.”
The TikTok video goes on to show the setup behind one of the perfectly-lit, suspiciously smudgeless “mirror selfies” that are likely to have cropped up on your Insta feed sometime in the last few months.
Specifically, one phone is attached to a tripod, facing a carefully-curated backdrop. “Then you’re gonna use your other phone as prop,” Del Toro explains. “Then using self-timer, you’re gonna pose, and what you get is a very crisp-looking ‘mirror selfie’.”
The revelation that we haven’t been looking at true mirror selfies all along has come as a surprise to some people. “Ever since I found out influencers don’t actually use mirrors but just another camera when taking ‘mirror’ selfies, my life has not known peace,” reads a post that blew up on a subreddit dedicated to uncovering edited social media pics — aptly-titled r/InstagramReality — last week.
The reaction to that post also suggests that the explainer cleared up a considerable amount of confusion about how influencers’ mirror selfies have been looking so good. “I was always curious about how their mirrors were so clean,” reads one comment. Another adds: “So that’s how they always have a mirror in a flattering light.”
Naturally, people have also started trawling social media to catch the hyperreal mirror selfies in the wild. Ella Emhoff — the recently-signed model stepdaughter of Vice President Kamala Harris — and Danielle Bernstein, of WeWoreWhat, are among those being called out for dubiously pristine selfies.
Given the blurry lines between Instagram influencers and their followers, it’s not difficult to see how the fake mirror selfie has become a fave setup for the app’s elite. A careless selfie snapped at home because you stumbled into some cute lighting feels much more intimate than a staged photoshoot. The carelessness is part of the appeal — see: the recent resurgence of casual posting on the app.
Whether they’ll stick around for long now that the secret is out remains to be seen. Regardless, another slick social media trick is sure to come along to take their place — maybe it already has, and we just haven’t noticed it yet.