I have a confession to make: I’m a total sucker for real-life weight loss stories. I love reading the backstories, I love poring over the struggles and triumphs, and I’m always interested to read about how people’s lives have changed since losing the weight. But the number one thing I scan the page for first? The before and after photos. Those photos are an instant and powerful visual marker that’s so much more real than the number of pounds they’ve dropped.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s extremely useful to track things like measurements, body composition, and fitness levels – we need a complete overview of how we’re progressing – but most of us aren’t really interested in reaching an arbitrary figure on the scales. What we really want is to look slimmer, fitter and more toned – and there are only two ways we can measure that: by receiving compliments, and by taking progress photos.
Now, I can’t help you with the first one (although, may I say, you’re looking particularly fine today), but I can certainly offer some advice on how to take clear, consistent progress photos that will help you easily track the changes you’re making to your body, whether you’re losing 14lbs or 140lbs.
Consistency is key to taking great progress photos, so make sure you can replicate the same conditions every time – the only difference should be you!
Even wearing a different color or neckline can distract you from the real detail, so always wear the same style and color clothes for best results. Underwear or a swimwear is best, swiftly followed by snug-fitting activewear – anything that shows the contours of your body. Personally, I prefer to be able to see as much skin as possible, but go with whatever level of coverage you’re happy with.
Try and find a light-coloured, plain background as your default location and remove whatever you can from the frame, even if you just push everything to one side (like I do).
It’s conventional wisdom to weigh ourselves first thing in the morning – that’s because it’s a lot easier to track weight loss if you don’t have to factor in undigested food or drink. It makes sense to stick to the same schedule for progress photos too – not only will it allow you to compare apples to apples, but it means you’re more likely to stick with it if it’s part of your wider tracking routine.
Indoor lighting can throw distorting shadows and give your photos an unnatural and grainy look, so try to find a room that lets in plenty of natural light.
OK, so you’ve scouted your location and chosen your outfit – now it’s time to take the shot.
Are you taking your photos in a full-length mirror? Will someone be taking your pics for you? Or will you be propping up your phone/camera and using a time delay to get into position?
Where you stand in relation to the camera matters. If you’re standing close to it for one pic, then further away for another, it makes it harder to compare the two because your brain is too busy making sense of the perspective.
To make sure your before and after photos are consistent, try standing level with a certain piece of furniture, or always aim to plant your feet an inch or two away from the wall. Likewise, if you use a mirror, or someone else takes the pics for you, try to think of some visual markers you can use that will allow you to replicate the same pics over and over.
Take one photo of your front, one of you facing sideways and one of your back. As you progress you’ll be amazed at how one angle might not show any changes, but definite results show in another. Our bodies are unique and complex things and there’s no real way of telling where you’re going to lose body fat from (regardless of those misleading articles promising how to ‘shed belly fat’ or spot reduce thighs).
Monitoring three different angles will allow you to spot progress more easily.
If you stick with these techniques you should soon build up a really useful and motivating set of photos that showcase your progress in a visually meaningful way. There are just a couple more things to remember:
Most people just focus on the before and after photos, but it’s the shots in between that keep you motivated and on track. In fact, is there ever a really a true ‘after’ photo? Being fit and healthy is a lifelong endeavor, so keep taking the photos and you’ll always have an objective record of where you are.
Set a daily, weekly or monthly reminder so you can capture photos at regular intervals.
To get a fully rounded view of your progress, it’s a good idea to track your weight and body measurements too, as well as non-scale victories like looser fitting clothing or improvements in your fitness.
It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey or how good the photos are – most us never want our photos to see the light of day. No one wants kids, friends or (heaven forbid) colleagues accidentally swiping onto our progress pics.
Make sure you save your photos somewhere safe or use an app like Progress, which hides photos behind an extra layer of security using either a pin code or fingerprint Touch ID.
Once you have a few weeks’ worth of photos under your belt you can really start to dig into your progress and see how you’re coming along. Look at your progress shots side by side and see how far you’ve come – there’s nothing more motivating than when you can see the changes you’re making to your body!
Please don’t despair if you don’t see results right away! It can take anything from four to eight weeks to see noticeable changes in appearance – sometimes more, sometimes less. Just keep making healthy choices and taking regular photos and you WILL see a difference eventually.
iPhone users: If you’re ready to start seeing results with awesome before and after photos, why not check out the Progress weight loss tracking app? It has a bunch of integrated tools that make the process super easy!
Next: Learn how to calculate body fat percentage
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