How To Take a Good “Before” Picture

Several years ago, my mother decided to sort all of her photographs and give them to her four children. She asked for my thoughts, suggestions and help. So, I purchased four decorative photo boxes and together we began the task of sorting the pictures. As we sat in the midst of photo albums, I realized there were plenty of pictures of every child except me. I noticed that in the late junior high years, the photos became scarce. This made me somewhat sad and resentful towards myself. I knew that it was about the time that I started to gain weight, and as a result I dodged the cameras, not wanting my photo to be taken. There were about fifteen years of my life that only a few pictures exist.

Perhaps you can relate because you too have been a picture dodger. Most often, as a person notices weight gain, his/her self esteem starts to decrease. Feelings of shame arise because of one’s appearance, and the last thing anyone wants is a visual aid to prove that there are pounds that need to be lost! At first, the attitude is, “I’m going to lose some weight, THEN let them take my picture when I look better!” Years pass and the weight wasn’t lost, or perhaps more weight was gained. Many photo opportunities were missed, and the events which you held so dear were not captured on film. Instead, the memories are preserved only in the minds of those who attended.

You should get out your photo albums, or maybe ask your parents, siblings to view theirs. See just how many pictures there are of you, and try to determine the period of time when the picture taking dropped off. More than likely, it was when you gained some weight. It’s only natural that when you feel poorly about yourself, you don’t want a photo op as it serves as a reminder to you. Is it also possible that you felt just a little embarrassed for others to see pictures of you while overweight?

My first post-op picture was taken two months after my weight loss surgery. I attended my gastric surgeon’s Christmas party and dressed up specifically for the occasion. A few weeks later, I showed my dear friend, Jan, my official before and the Christmas party pictures. I remember a hot embarrassment came across my face, and I could hardly breathe. For the first time, I realized how big I had gotten before my gastric bypass, and I felt ashamed to have let myself get in that condition! But as the weight was shed, that before picture became my beacon, theme, anthem, banner… Here are a few of my pictures through my weight loss journey (left, taken May 2006. Right, taken May 2009)


I have a homework assignment for you. You may not like this idea because it deals with pictures. But in order to have an accurate reflection of where you have been, where you currently are and where you want to be on your journey, you need to have pictures taken on a consistent basis. If you are about to start your weight loss efforts, it is important to have a “before” picture taken. Then as each month passes, you can have a new picture to gauge your progress. You can lay the “before” and current picture down beside one another so that you can see the difference with your own two eyes. Now, it is possible that for the first few months, you will not be able to see that much of a difference. This is because the weight is coming off of EVERY area and its not as noticeable (in other words, you won’t see your spare tire disappear completely even though that’s the area you wanted to dissolve!). But other people will definitely say “wow, yes there is a big difference!” It’s hard for each of us to see ourselves as we really are; sometimes it takes someone else to provide some inspiration.

1. Choose your favorite outfit, one that you will keep throughout your weight loss journey. After you’ve taken your official “before” photo, put this outfit into a box inside your closet for safe keeping. The outfit should be one that fits properly and shows your real shape. This outfit should not be really loose or tight fitting. Try to get an outfit that is pretty accurate to your size. Many overweight people tend to wear clothes that are too big so that they appear smaller (when really, it doesn’t work).

2. Have several pose shots taken. There are four that work best: (a)front view; (b)side view; (c)front/side view which is about a 45 degree angle and (d)back.

3. Try to reproduce the same environment for every photo. Every month, have the picture taken in the same room, from the same distance away from the camera. This will prevent any skewed images.

4. Stand up straight, don’t slouch. You want to create a photo that is true to life and shows your real shape so that in the future, you will be able to see how much you have lost. Slouching can make your stomach appear larger. Don’t “suck” it in or hold your breath, but have a natural stance. I’m sure you’ve seen diet pill ads where the individual has on a bathing suit, and you can tell that they are pushing their stomach out in the “before”. Then the picture right next to it looks exactly the same, wearing the same bathing suit, only they have a flat stomach and look as if they are holding their breath and sucking their tummy in. This does not help you see the REAL results. Besides, if many of us could go around sucking our guts in all the time, we would! But that is not a very comfortable way to live.

5. Make sure there is good lighting. While the picture does not have to be taken by a professional by any means, you will want this to be a clear picture. You will hold this photo near and dear for many years to come, possibly even showing it to many people once your goals are met.

6. Take pictures every month during your journey. That way you can look back on your progress.

7 Carry your before and current pictures with you. Keep it in your purse, a notebook, binder, some sort of calendar, or wallet. This will help you when times of discouragement come. When you begin to feel that you haven’t accomplished very much, just pull out your trusty pictures and it will encourage you! And, you never know when you will be asked by someone if you have a before picture with you.

I still have my driver’s license from when I was overweight, and at times clerks have asked, “Is this really you?” And I respond, “Yes.” They want to know HOW I changed so much. I sometimes pull out my official before/after photos and it amazes and inspires them. Of course, I also hand out my business cards to drum up some website hits!

Until next time,

Melinda Richardson

Visit my website: Recovering Fatty

One Response for How To Take a Good “Before” Picture



    June 17, 2010 9:59 am

    hi all,that is very useful! keep on the good work