Whether you want to track your results in the gym for personal reasons or you have to complete regular check-ins with a coach, taking progress photos can ensure you’re on the right path toward your goals.
As simple as it sounds, getting a good progress photo can be tricky, and bad progress photos make it difficult to see how much your body changes over time.
Eight tips for taking good progress photos are:
- Use the same lighting
- Make sure you can see your whole body
- Wear the same clothes
- Stand in front of a plain background
- Take them at the same time of day
- Take them from multiple angles
- Pose the same way
- Take them at least once every two weeks
In this article, I’ll discuss the reasons why you should take progress photos to track your results, how to take good progress photos, and whether or not it’s possible to take progress photos yourself. I’ll also provide five other ways besides photos that you can track your progress.
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Why Should You Take Progress Photos To Track Results?
You should take progress photos to track your results because visible changes in your physique don’t always correspond to changes on the scale. It’s also difficult to see progress when you look at yourself in the mirror every day. Taking and comparing progress photos can help you see changes that aren’t immediately noticeable.
Most people who want to lose weight focus only on the number on the scale. However, doing this doesn’t always show an accurate reflection of the progress you’re making.
Your scale weight doesn’t consider your body fat and lean mass percentages. It can also fluctuate by several pounds based on sodium and carb consumption, hydration levels, stress levels, inflammation from training, where you are in your menstrual cycle, and even how much sleep you got the night before.
On the other hand, how you look typically doesn’t change much from one day to the next. Sure, you may look bloated after you eat Chinese food, but your body measurements (the inches around areas like your hips, waist, chest, arms, and thighs) won’t fluctuate from day to day as much as your weight can.
Furthermore, as you build muscle and lose fat mass, the number on the scale may only change a little or not at all. This can cause you to (incorrectly) assume you’re a failure or that your fitness and nutrition routine isn’t working.
Taking progress photos can give you a more accurate depiction of how your body is responding to your workout regimen and diet and help you see changes in your physique that aren’t evident just by looking in the mirror.
- Related Article: How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle (Science Backed)
8 Tips for Taking Progress Photos
1. Use the Same Lighting
Keeping the lighting as consistent as possible will allow you to track your progress more easily. If you take a before photo in a poorly-lit room and then take a progress photo in a bright room two weeks later, you won’t be able to tell if your body looks better or if the brighter light is just more flattering.
Natural daylight is best because it accurately reflects how your body looks out in the real world every day. If you can’t take your photos during the day, make sure the room you’re in is well-lit and the light isn’t casting shadows that can hide or distort your body.
2. Make Sure You Can See Your Whole Body
It’s important to take photos of your entire body from your feet to the top of your head. Weight will come off different parts of your body at different rates, and getting photos of your entire body will allow you to see the whole picture when you’re trying to gauge your progress.
Similarly, you should wear clothes that show your bare arms, thighs, and midsection. It’ll be harder to pick up on any changes in your physique if you’re covered up, especially if you’re wearing baggy clothes that hide your shape.
For women, a sports bra and a pair of shorts or bathing suit bottoms work well. For men, going shirtless and wearing any pair of gym shorts or a bathing suit is sufficient.
If you’re comfortable doing so, know you can keep your photos protected, and don’t plan on sharing them publicly, you can even wear underwear.
3. Wear the Same Clothes
Regardless of what you choose to wear for your progress photos, you should make sure you wear the same outfit each time you take them.
Different pairs of sports bras and shorts will fit your body differently (some sports bras may sit lower on your torso or cover more of your back than others, for example). Depending on how different pieces of clothing fit your body, they can give off the illusion of a slimmer or larger figure or highlight areas of your body in different ways.
Wearing the same clothes every time you take progress photos will give you the reassurance that the changes in your body are due to your hard work and not because of a more flattering outfit.
If you can’t wear the same outfit (perhaps it’s in the laundry on the day you take updated photos, for example), try to wear similar articles of clothing that show a similar amount of skin.
4. Stand in Front of a Plain Background
For progress photos, it’s best to stand in front of a plain background, preferably against a wall that’s painted a neutral color.
Having too much clutter behind you can distract from the main focus of the photo (you!), and certain items or colors can blend in with your skin or clothing. This can make it difficult to see just how much progress you’re making.
5. Take Them at the Same Time of Day
Even though your progress photos will likely be spaced days apart, taking them at the same time of day is important. It helps ensure your lighting remains consistent and that things like what you’ve eaten throughout the day don’t affect your appearance.
Even things like the temperature can alter your appearance. If your face and joints swell in warm weather, taking a photo of yourself during the hottest time of day can make you look puffy. If you compare that photo to one from two weeks ago that was taken when you weren’t swollen, you may incorrectly think you’re gaining weight.
Pick a time of day to take your first progress photo, and then stick with it for every photo that follows. This will ensure things like food and temperature aren’t affecting your physique.
6. Take Them From Multiple Angles
Taking progress photos from multiple angles will allow you to see how your body looks from all sides. You should take a front, back, and side photo for the best results.
As I mentioned earlier, weight will come off certain parts of your body faster than others. You can miss those changes if you’re only focused on one area. For example, if you only take photos from the front, you may only notice how you’re not losing weight from your stomach and miss the fact that you’ve lost fat from your upper body.
To get a good understanding of where your weight loss is coming from, take photos from more than one angle so you don’t fixate on just one area of your body.
- Related Article: Best Fat Loss Workout Plan For Females (COMPLETE GUIDE)
7. Pose the Same Way
Since your posture and the way you pose for pictures can alter your appearance, you should pose the same way for each photo. How you pose can affect how your legs, tummy, and even your arms look, so do your best to stand the same way each time.
This means if you hold your arms straight out for the side photo one time (which I recommend doing so you can see easily see changes in your arms), you should do so for all the subsequent photos you take.
Also, don’t try to use unnatural poses to make yourself look better. It’s a popular trend amongst social media influencers, but most people can tell when you’re faking it.
Stand like you normally would if you were waiting in line for a cup of coffee or for the train because this is how people will see you out in the real world. There’s no need to twist your body into distorted angles to make yourself look better. Let your hard work be the result of how good you look in photos, not an awkward pose that you wouldn’t normally stand in.
8. Take Them at Least Every Two Weeks
Timing is another important element to consider when taking progress photos. If you take them too often, you may not notice any changes. If you don’t take them often enough, you may fail to see all of your hard work paying off and give up on your diet and workout routine.
Take one photo at the very beginning of your diet and/or workout program, and then take updated ones at least every two weeks. Spacing them out this way gives you enough time to see noticeable changes but doesn’t let so much time go by that you’ll be tempted to give up if you aren’t seeing progress in other ways.
Can You Take Progress Photos By Yourself?
You can take progress photos yourself by using the selfie mode on your camera and setting the camera’s timer so you can get into position for the photo. Just make sure the camera is set at a height that lets it photograph your whole body and is at a straight angle rather than pointing up or down (which can alter how you look).
The same rules I described above apply for self-taken progress photos as well. Standing in front of a plain background, using natural daylight, avoiding shadows, taking photos from multiple angles, and posing naturally will ensure you get good progress photos each time even if you take them by yourself.
Remember to also wear an outfit that shows your bare arms, legs, and torso and wear the same one (or a similar one) each time.
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Five Other Ways to Track Your Progress
Aside from taking progress photos regularly, there are several other ways you can track your gym results:
- The scale. I mentioned earlier that the scale isn’t the best tool for measuring progress, but that doesn’t mean you have to ditch it completely. Keeping track of your scale weight can provide insights into how your body responds to different foods and workouts. For women, the scale can also help you pick up on bodily trends surrounding your cycle. The only reason I’d recommend not weighing yourself at all is if you’re so emotionally attached to the number that it causes significant distress if it doesn’t change.
- Your body measurements. Use a soft measuring tape to measure your upper arms, upper thighs, waist, hips, and chest every week. Increases or decreases in inches in these areas can indicate how much progress you’re making toward your goal, whether it’s to lose fat or build muscle.
- How your clothes fit. Your clothes getting looser or tighter is a quick and obvious way to determine your progress. If they’re getting looser, you’re likely losing fat. If they’re getting tighter, you’re likely gaining muscle and/or fat.
- How you feel in the gym. Getting stronger in the gym is an indication that your diet and exercise routine is working for you. You should be tracking your workouts just like you track the changes in your physique so you can gauge how your fitness improves over time. If the routine you’re following isn’t working, try a program like Fitbod, which can help you build both strength and muscle mass at the same time.
- How you feel overall. If you are less tired throughout the day, have an easier time doing everyday tasks, or your moods are brighter, it’s a sign that your diet and workouts are positively impacting your quality of life.
Related Article: What To Do If You’re Gaining Muscle And Not Losing Fat
Taking progress photos is a great way to track your progress in the gym so you don’t have to rely so much on the scale, which can be inaccurate and doesn’t always paint an accurate picture of what’s going on with your body.
Using good lighting, taking your photo during the same time of the day, standing in front of a plain background, posing naturally, and making sure your whole body is in the picture are important for being able to track your progress.
You should also make sure to wear clothes that show your bare arms, legs, and stomach and wear a similar outfit (if not the same one) each time.
For best results, take your progress photos at least once every two weeks so you can give yourself enough time in between each one to see meaningful changes.
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.