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Say Cheese! Taking the perfect before and after photo.

Take a picture, just as you are.
Take the picture, just as you are.

If you've been thinking about getting in shape, but can't seem to get motivated enough to start I've got an assignment for you. Grab your phone and take a picture of yourself.

Whenever you have the urge to cheat on your diet, take a look at that picture. Whenever you want to skip a workout, look at that picture. Whenever you need encouragement to make healthy choices, look at that picture. That pic is going to be your constant reminder of what you want to change.

Here are some tips on how to take the perfect BEFORE shot.


  • Start with a plain background like a light-colored wall or door. When you frame the shot, look through the viewfinder and make sure it won't appear like a lamp or table leg is sprouting from your body.

  • Shoot the picture indoors. Bright sun can create deep facial shadows, wash your body out and cause you to squint. Inside you have far greater control of lighting.

  • Make sure you have enough light to see your body. Keep the background and foreground well lit. You can hide in the shadows after you've got the picture. If you're using a flash, make sure you're within the flash's range, or you will come out too dark. The typical flash range is 10-15 feet away. For the best shot, position yourself within about 10 feet of the camera.

  • Go vertical. Turn the camera sideways so you can see your entire body.

  • Take your shirt off. If you're embarrassed by the fat and flab, good! The reason you're doing this is to keep yourself motivated long enough to make a change.

  • Don't hide your legs under long pants. Wear shorts but avoid boxers, briefs, swimsuits and thongs. You want to show your body, but save the skimpy stuff for your AFTER shot. Make sure the color of your shorts is different than what you're standing in front of so you don't blend into the background.

  • Remove your jewelry. Take off any earrings, necklaces, nose or nipple rings. Nothing in the picture should take the focus off your body.

  • Keep everyone else out of the shot. Don't hold a pet; stand next to a friend or include your significant other. It's all about you and the changes you're going to make.

  • Don't strike a pose. This isn't about artistic expression; it's about the motivation to make a change. Stand tall, face the camera head-on and take the picture.

  • If you want to show when the picture was taken, a simple trick is to get the most recent newspaper. When you take the shot, take it holding the newspaper in one hand. Keep that picture for proof but remember to get several more where you aren't holding anything.

  • Take several shots from several angles, so you can compare all the places your body is going to change.

  • Once you're ready, snap away. Take lots of pictures until you get one you're happy with. You can always delete the ones that don't come out.

  • Put an alert on your phone to look at that pic every day. You want to remind yourself of what you need to change.

After three months, mark your progress. Use these suggestions for taking the perfect AFTER shot. Follow the same guidelines as the BEFORE pictures, with these added points.


  • Cut your hair and get a tan. The changes will emphasize the new you. You don't have to bake in the sun, but consider some self-tanners or visit a salon that performs spray-on tans.

  • Keep the oil off your body. You aren't posing for a bodybuilding contest. Nobody wants to see you shine.

  • Stand in the same position as your before shot. You want people to compare them side-by-side to see the differences.
When you're done, celebrate! Save both pictures to remind yourself how much you've accomplished.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

Updated 10/6/2015
Updated 3/24/18