Thursday, June 20, 2013

Your Guide to Progress Pictures

One of the best ways to measure progress and to get an objective perspective is to take pictures. How many times have you heard someone say, "I had no idea I looked like that until I saw myself in a picture!"? (This could be a positive or a negative reaction.) Progress pictures are an important part of prep, and I recommend that every competitor take them when preparing for a show.
It's fun to see progress! These pictures are 8 weeks apart.
During prep, I take progress pictures every week. I follow these guidelines when taking the pictures:

  • Same time.
  • Same location.
  • Same lighting.
  • Same suit.
It doesn't really matter what time of day or where you take the pictures, as long as you take them at the SAME time and in the SAME location each week. This is important, because it'll be the most accurate indication of your conditioning - you will have the same amount of meals and water in you. I prefer to take pictures after morning cardio before my first meal on either Saturday or Sunday. I know other people who prefer to take them in the evening after they've trained and eaten a few meals. Time of day isn't important as long as it's consistent week to week.

Lighting is a really important aspect that's often overlooked or not taking into consideration. Lighting can mean the difference between looking conditioned and looking out of shape. The best lighting is from above, the worst is from below, and side lighting can wash out a side of your body. Pay attention to lighting and try to mimic the lighting from week to week.
The importance of lighting. These pictures were taken only minutes apart - the only difference is lighting.
What should a progress picture look like?

A progress picture should include your entire body (although you can crop the head if you'd like). The pictures should be of you in the same poses each week - competitors should have pictures in several different poses. Figure should include at least front, back, and model poses. Bikini should include at least 1-2 front poses and a back pose. Bodybuilding should include a few key mandatories such as front relaxed, back double-bi, or side chest.

What is NOT a progress picture?

The following things are NOT progress pictures:

  • Locker room "selfies" in workout attire. Clothes can disguise a lot! Lululemon pants can make EVERY butt look good, but that's no guarantee the butt will look good on stage in a little scrunch bottom.
  • Bathroom mirror "selfies" of just one body part - like abs or a flexed bicep. Everyone leans out differently. Some people have hard abs yet visible cellulite on their thighs. Or lean legs with a muffin top. The "selfie" will only highlight their best part, which is absolutely no indication of how the rest of their body looks or how they will look on stage.
  • A picture of a butt or boobs. See above. This is no indication of how the rest of the body will look on stage. Also? There's no such thing as weight exercises for boobs, nor are they judged on stage or need to be assessed for "progress."

Keep in mind that progress pictures do NOT measure self-worth. You are always beautiful, worthy, and empowered.

Progress pictures are merely a reflection of your conditioning and a good way to objectively measure progress during a time period. They're also good tools for online coaches to use to make any adjustments to diet, cardio, or training.

It's difficult to take progress pictures yourself, so I recommend enlisting someone's assistance. I've had some luck using a self-timer on my camera, but it's always much easier to just have someone else take the pictures. That person can also provide some pointers for posing or help you adjust the lighting.

I always think it's fun to look back at progress pictures and see how far I've come. They're a dose of reality in a world otherwise dominated by body dysmorphia.

Do you take progress pictures? Have you found the pictures to be helpful in objectively assessing your progress?

1 comment:

  1. Great information. I always forget the importance of taking progress pictures. Thanks for the reminder. I'll have to start doing this a.s.a.p. Thanks Kari.