How (and Why) to Track Your Progress Using Photos - Reboot Fitness Coaching

How (and Why) to Track Your Progress Using Photos

I sometimes get asked by my clients (and those thinking about becoming clients), why it is that I suggest they take progress photos. Some don’t like it because they don’t like the way they look in the mirror and certainly don’t like being stood in front of a camera.

In this post I’ll briefly explain why I feel you need to do it, and how to do it effectively…

Mirror Image

Us humans are self-aware…

We are aware of our own thoughts; we are aware of our own feelings; we are aware of our own appearance.

Unlike the vast majority of animals we recognise ourselves in the mirror….

Perfect excuse for a cute puppy video if ever there was one!

Awwwwwww!!!!

Any way…because of this ability to recognise ourselves in the mirror, we look at ourselves regularly.

The majority of people will check their appearance before they leave the house in the morning (although some clearly don’t).

From there, depending on your levels of vanity/insecurity you might check several more times throughout the day, in whatever reflective surfaces you come across.

This all adds up. Over the course of a week, you might see yourself hundreds of times; over the course of a month it might be well into the thousands; and over the course of a year…. well, you get the picture…

You’d think, because of this, we’d know every inch of our bodies so intimately that we’d be able to tell every slight change that it underwent.

In actuality, it has the opposite affect, as we fall victim to something called: “change blindness”.


Change Blindness

Change Blindness is something that occurs when you are unable to notice changes in your visual environment.

If I asked you, you’d probably back yourself to notice any kind of change that went on in front of you. As long as it’s in your line of vision, you’ll spot it right…?!

Lets see. Watch the video below…

Could you spot the changes? I’m guessing not, and if you could, I bet it took you a few watches…

And this phenomenon doesn’t just include small changes. Seemingly obvious changes go completely unnoticed too, like the one in this next video…

Crazy right?!

This happens because your brain isn’t able to gather all the info that’s fed to it at any one time and instead concentrates on the important stuff.

Now let’s get back to looking at ourselves in the mirror…

Because you look at yourself in the mirror often, you’ve probably got it down to a fine art:

Hair looking good…? Check!

Shirt on the right way round…? check!

Make up perfect…? No but I’ll finish it off in the car! (How you ladies manage that I’ll never know!)

The point being that you only ever focus on a few key areas when you do look in the mirror, and even if you were super focused, your brain would only be able to process a finite amount of information, allowing other stuff to be missed or filtered out.

So any changes to your body shape will likely go unnoticed because the day to day change is so small, you miss it!

The Role of Progress Photos

Ever had someone you’ve not seen for a while mention that they think you’ve lost/put on weight; or they compliment you on what you’ve done to your hair even though, to you, it’s been that way for ages?

This is because they are comparing the snapshot they have of you in their head from the last time they saw you, to what stands in front of them now.

And to them, any changes are glaringly obvious!

This is essentially what you are doing when you take progress photos. You’re creating a physical/digital snapshot rather than a mental one, which you can then make comparisons to down the road.

Now you could just compare random photos, from when you were at that wedding, to the thousand selfies you and your girlfriends took prior to your last night out.

But unless you’re an A* poser (like yours truly…), chances are, every one of those photos shows you at a slightly different angle, in a slightly different light, thus making comparison nigh on impossible!

So here are my recommendations for taking progress photos:

  • Find an area of your house with a plain wall, and regular lighting (by regular I mean the lighting won’t be different every time you take the picture).
  • Either have a family member/trusted friend take the progress photos for you, OR set the camera up on a tripod.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for your goals. If your ultimate goal is to look better whilst strutting down the beach, you should probably take the photos in a bikini or in your underwear.
  • Turn the flash off on the camera so as not to cast shadows behind you.
  • Take one photo from the front; one from the back; and one from the side.
  • For best comparisons, it’s important to replicate as many things as possible every time you take progress photos, so make a note (mental or physical) of all the conditions you’ve created for the photo i.e. where you are in the house; your distance from the camera; the height and angle of the camera; etc.

I suggest you take progress photos every month, just to build up a bit of a timeline throughout the year and to make sure you are still working towards your goals. A month also gives enough time to potentially see a difference.

However, you can take more or less, it’s up to you. But what ever you do, make sure you are constantly tracking your progress in a meaningful and useful way.

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About the Author Alvin Nurse

Alvin runs Reboot Fitness Coaching and has been a Fitness Coach since 2010. When not helping awesome people in their 30s rejuvenate their bodies, you'll find him listening to music, chasing a ball, or avoiding runny yolks...

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