Before and After Pictures: How to Photograph Your Progress
Numbers on a scale and screen shots of your fitness apps are great, but when it comes to truly showing off your progress, nothing beats a good before and after picture.
The concept seems simple enough — point your smartphone camera at the mirror and snap away — but there are tips and techniques that can help you maximize the impact of your before and after shots while minimizing the stress of posing for the camera.
How to Shoot Your Before and After Picture
Keep time of day consistent
Uniformity is key for comparison, so you want unchanging conditions each time you shoot. Morning shots will capture you at your best, while evening shots — after a day of work and food — can minimize gains. Capturing both is great if you always remember to do it.
It’s tempting to snap your photos after the gym, when your muscles are pumped and veins are raging. But that introduces a lot of irregularity. By all means, snap those pumped-up pics, but keep them separate from your progress pics.
Pick a suitable setting
You’re not scouting for a Vanity Fair photo shoot, but choosing the right spot for your before and after pictures is crucial to their success. Here are the considerations.
Availability: You want to pick an environment that you can visit 1. Repeatedly and 2. Reliably so you can shoot pics when — and however often — you want over the course of your transformation.
Surroundings: You also want to give consideration to the variables in that environment. These pictures are about you and your body, so minimize elements like background details and lighting to keep the focus where it belongs.
Mirror: A full-length mirror is very handy because it shows all of you. That will reflect not only changes to body composition, but also changes in posture or stance, things that often change when you’re putting in work.
Lighting: While it’s tempting to pick a spot with flattering natural window light, artificial light sources like the fixtures in your bathroom or even your bedroom are more reliable, ensuring consistency between your first and last photo.
It’s also worth considering the direction of that light source. If it’s coming from directly overhead, it will cast shadows on every lump, bump, ab, or other miscellaneous protuberance on your body. Move around in front of the mirror and watch how the light alters your appearance. Pick a memorable spot and stand there every time.
Wear the right outfit
There’s a direct relationship between nakedness and anxiety when it comes to having your picture taken. But these photos aren’t about beauty: they’re a living document, and you’ll want to see how your body has changed. A pair of form-fitting shorts and a sports bra (if you wear bras) is a good place to start.
Wearing the same thing throughout the course of your progress pictures will give you another point of reference for your weight loss, so pick something you plan on keeping around.
And while it’s tempting to cheat by pulling your shorts up over unsightly folds or dimples, it defeats the purpose of the whole endeavor.
Frame your shot
Now isn’t the time to get fancy. You want as complete a picture of your body as possible. Shoot vertically and keep your phone slightly off to the side so it doesn’t block your body. Try to keep your phone as parallel to the mirror as possible so as not to create any distortion due to angle.
Before you take your before and after pictures, it’s also a good idea to clean your lens, especially if you just finished up at the gym or your phone/camera has been in your pocket all day. All that cumulative grime can make things hazy and blurry, obscuring your progress.
Snap both a front shot and a side shot. Shooting your backside can be tough but doable with a little practice. Once you know where to hold the phone, the process should be pretty automatic.
Share on your terms
There are few feelings as satisfying as sharing a successful before and after weight loss pic. But the last thing you want is for your personal photos to leak out thanks to our old friend, the cloud. Keep your progress pictures in a specific folder and dump them from your phone regularly onto a folder on your computer if you’re concerned about privacy.
Jump right in
All of these tips are well and good, but the hardest part has nothing to do with composition or lighting. It’s getting over the hump of standing in front of a mirror and taking a picture when you’re feeling vulnerable.
It can help to remind yourself that this is a before picture. It’s raw material to help propel you on a journey to which you’ve already committed. Imagine yourself looking back at this photo and feeling proud. Because you can’t have a great “after” without the “before.”