Skip to Content
What does physics have to do with the perfect pic? Everything.

What does physics have to do with the perfect pic? Everything.

September 26, 2019 at 2:00pm

The debate is on about whether the new slow-motion selfie ("slofie") feature on the iPhone 11 will take the internet by storm. But, one thing is guaranteed: Selfies aren’t going anywhere.

And if anyone at FIU knows the secret behind getting the perfect picture, selfie or — yes, even the perfect ‘slofie’ — it’s Fiorella Terenzi.

While she was studying physics at the University of Milan, she was also modeling. On the catwalk or at photoshoots for Cosmopolitan Italy or Vogue, Terenzi realized something. When she reached the end of the runway and took a spin — that was physics. When she stood on her tiptoes to create an interesting angle with her body — that was physics. When she stretched her neck and lifted her face to the light — physics.

“Posing is all physics,” Terenzi said.

The FIU astrophysicist may no longer professionally model, but whenever a camera turns in her direction, Terenzi effortlessly strikes a pose. The camera loves her.

 She says that if you can figure out how to manipulate the laws of physics, the camera will love you, too.

Terenzi modeling in Milan. 


The law of inertia has no place in your poses.

The first lesson Terenzi learned as a young model was to never follow the Law of Inertia, which says that an object at rest will remain at rest.

Models are masters of interesting poses. They twist and twirl, lean to the side, tilt their heads, stand on tiptoe. They always look like they are in the middle of a tango or salsa. One thing they never do: Stand stick straight with their arms stuck to their sides.

The goal is to create angles and shapes with the body. For example, when a hand is placed on the hip, it creates a triangle of empty space. It also makes arms appear longer and leaner.

Terenzi also suggests using a move called "the lever." Instead of standing with both feet flat, stand on tiptoe and bend the knees to create an arch in the body. This breaks up the straight vertical line of the body.

Just keep moving. 

A model on the runway is a body in motion. Acceleration is key.

F = ma (or force is equal to mass times acceleration)

But not just any acceleration. A good pose relies on angular acceleration. This is what models do when they reach the end of the runway. They place a hand on their hip. They turn to the side. They spin. The clothing comes alive in these movements.

A physics theory called torque can help achieve this. It’s as easy as standing to the side and rotating the upper body toward the camera, while the bottom half faces away. When testing out Apple’s new ‘slofie’ feature, be sure to give this a try.  

Chase the light. 

Photography is capturing light. In physics, it’s a phenomenon that has a special duality, because it’s both a wave and a particle.

Terenzi says every good pose starts with a search for the light.

Light particles should be filling your face. For example, if sunlight is coming from a certain window, make sure as much of the light is falling on your face as possible.

Love it or hate it, the "slofie" does one thing well: It uncovers the physics behind every pose. It reveals a living, breathing moment — the tilt, the motion and the light.