The Impact of an iPhone Camera on this Woman’s Arms

A woman was photographed standing in front of two mirrors with an iPhone camera, but the actual photo shows three completely different arm positions. The arms are in different locations in mirror number one, mirror number two and in actual real life. It’s not Photoshop, a glitch in the Matrix, or a trip inside Twin Peak’s black lodge. It’s a computational photography error, but it still makes for one unusual image.

Modern smartphone cameras process photos in an instant, resulting in a photo ready to post online. In this case, Apple’s software didn’t realize there was a mirror in the shot, so it treated each version of the subject as three different people. The woman was moving at the instant the photo was taken, so the algorithm stitched the photo together from multiple images, resulting in the unusual arm positions.

Smartphone camera software combines multiple images, adjusting for contrast, saturation, detail, and lack of blur. In most cases, this process works well, but occasionally the software gets confused. If it was actually three different people, instead of one with a mirror, each subject would have been properly represented.

This phenomenon can be recreated by anyone with an iPhone and some mirrors. In fact, there’s a TikTok trend in which folks make silly photos and videos by exploiting the algorithm’s difficulties when differentiating mirror images from actual people.