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I started weightlifting three months ago, aiming to bulk up. So far I've just been monitoring my weight to make sure that I'm putting on weight, but this is of course a poor statistic. I'm also monitoring which weights I lift, but that just shows I'm getting stronger -- not looking better.

So I've decided that progress pictures would be a good idea, but I realise my looks vary a lot depending on time of day, lightning, pose, muscles flexed, et c. What would be some good guidelines for making sure my progress pictures are consistent and useful?

I suppose weekly photos would be sufficient.

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Weekly photos in the same place should be sufficient. I recommend the morning (it's more flattering to your abs :), plus it diminishes the effect of what you'll eat that day). Don't flex. –  VPeric Feb 5 '12 at 8:30
    
Thanks for the hints. Which pose would you use? Arms relaxed, unflexed biceps pose, arms parallel with the floor, ...? Is one anterior and one posterior photo enough to see everything, or am I forgetting something that I'll want pictures of later? –  Mark Feb 5 '12 at 9:56
    
Arms relaxed, nothing flexed. Front, back and maybe side should be enough as far as angles are concerned. I've never actually cared enough to give it much thought (at one point, being stronger just felt more important than how I look), but I doubt you'll need more angles. You don't flex in any way because that introduces variance you cannot possibly account for. In the end, the best measurement will be when random acquaintances start mentioning that you look better (bigger). :) –  VPeric Feb 6 '12 at 21:19
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2 Answers 2

I also advocate using a tape measure for weekly measurements. However, monthly progress pictures are useful. The key is to be consistent with the progress pictures to help really determine if you are improving or your picture taking is improving.

  • Have a consistent place where you take the progress pictures. It should have a plain background without any visual distractions. It helps if the background contrasts with your skin tone. If you are dark skinned, choose a lighter background, and vice versa.
  • Use consistent lighting. Higher contrast lighting like you get from your flash is good when you want to see the definition in your muscle. However, it's best to have the flash hit you at an angle if you can swing it. Head on and the light fills in the places where there should be shadow.
  • Take a picture without flexing. This is the baseline you that everyone sees every day.
  • Take a picture or three while flexing. This is will show the work you've put in more readily.

It's a good idea to plan ahead. You might want to have closeups of arms, legs, abs, and back in addition to a full body view. The baseline no-flex picture should be a simple full body view. It's also a good idea to get someone else to take the picture for you. It's hard to flex and take a picture at the same time. Either that, or invest in a remote for your camera.

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I would rely on the good old fashioned tape measure rather than weekly photos. As you said there are too many significant factors that could influence the outcome.

A tape measure, however cannot lie.

Set yourself small targets. An inch more on your arms and calves, chest and thighs. An inch or two less on your waist and you know you will be looking better and you'll be able to chart your progress quite easily.

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