You’ve no doubt seen progress photos used in marketing at some point. It’s everywhere over social media. Perhaps you’ve even taken some yourself? I’ve even posted some photos of my clients’ progress from time to time! But there are a few things that you want to be aware of whenever you see these photos. A few of which I’ll mention below!
Before going into these reasons it’s worth noting that I don’t always use progress photos as methods of measuring progress. Not all clients are comfortable with taking photos, not all of them want them shared on social media (I would always ask for their consent before doing so) and not all of them even need to take photos. You should never be coerced or persuaded into taking progress photos if you really don’t want to. And if you take them, take them for yourself. Now, let’s get into some of the reasons why progress photos don’t always show progress.
They don’t show how the result was achieved
You’ll often see progress photos shared in order to sell coaching or a programme. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with showing social proof and showing how you helped a client achieve an amazing result. I sometimes do the same to advertise my online coaching after all! However, you’ll very often see these types of “transformations” posted without any real context. You’ll often see the result itself and rarely HOW that result was achieved.
Yes, it can look amazing seeing how an “8-week shred” can help these people see great results but you don’t tend to hear what this person had to do. And very often it tends to be a generic, restrictive meal plan alongside multiple cardio sessions every week. Super regimented, super strict and super unsustainable. Yet it sucks people in!
Whenever I post a progress photo of a client I’ll describe what their individual goal was (which often goes beyond just “losing weight”), the challenges they faced and how we worked together to overcome those challenges. You have to be transparent and explain that these results don’t always come easy. Yet you very rarely hear people who sell meals plans and quick-fixes talk about how difficult this person found sticking to their diet or training plan.
When looking at a progress photo just read the caption and see if they give any insight into HOW that result was achieved. Any personal trainer or online coach worth their salt will happily give away a few details on how they helped this person. If it just says ”they worked hard” and doesn’t give any insight into what this hard work involved, run for the hills!
They don’t show how sustainable the results are
A photo is just a snapshot of a moment in time (this got deep very quickly, eh?). It shows how that person looked at the time it was taken in relation to how they looked when another previous photo was taken. And while this can be very useful for comparing results and seeing what changes were made over a certain time period, it doesn’t show whether or not the individual kept their results.
As a personal trainer and online coach, my main goal is to make sure clients keep their results for the rest of their lives. A progress photo can be a very motivational tool for them, but the mindset and the habits that they build matter far more. We don’t want them to be in shape for one photo, we want them to be in shape for every photo that’s taken for them long after they finish coaching with me.
But progress photos that are used to sell short-term programmes can be deceptive. Yes, that person may be got a great result for 8 weeks, but did they keep them after those 8 weeks? How did they look a few weeks, months or years later? Did they build the correct habits and lifestyle changes that help them keep those results? It’s great seeing people get leaner and more confident but it’s even better checking in on them months later and seeing that they’re still doing well and keeping up the habits that got them there in the first place!
It’s important to always think about the “long game” in your fitness journey but even more so when you see these photos. But sadly, the way in which photos are used can often leas to unrealistic expectations. This leads on to the final point…
They can give people unrealistic expectations of progress
Many people struggle with motivation enough as it is and sometimes seeing photos can only demotivate them further. Think about it this way, how many times have you tried your hardest for 8 weeks and seen a progress photo for an 8-week crash diet and been even the slightest bit tempted to sign up for it? How demotivated have you been when you’ve tried your hardest for 8 weeks and see someone else doing better?
Transformation pictures promising results in 8 weeks should always be met with slight suspicion when they refuse to state how these results came about or how they plan on building on this progress further. Otherwise, people are led to believe that they only need to work hard for 8 weeks then do nothing else afterwards. Comparing yourself to other people will only demotivate you further, even more so when the photos may not be accurate!
And it’s well known by now that there are loads of ways you can tweak a progress photo. You could use different lighting, get the person to flex or pose differently or you could take the “after” photo after a workout when they’ve got a sweat on. And this is all before photoshopping even takes place. Like anything you see on social media, take it with a pinch of salt. Or maybe I’m just naturally sceptical!
The main takeaway is this: You do not have to take progress photos for anyone but yourself and if you don’t feel comfortable taking them, don’t do it. They can be very useful methods of measuring progress if used correctly but there are other methods of measuring progress too. And if you see a progress photo posted and there’s no insight into how it was achieved, then run for the hills!