A Hot Take on Before and After Photos
Hot Take: Before and after pictures are unnecessary and potentially harmful in bodywork sessions
Ok. So, I know I’m jumping in the shark tank here, but I wanted to hear what y’all think about this one!
I know these pictures can look flashy and may seem like a good way to show the power of your work. I would like to argue, however, that these photos actually don’t do justice to the full effects of your sessions. So many of the most profound changes that are made during a session cannot be seen in a static photograph. What these photos may (or may not) show is how you have brought your client closer to a posture that looks perfect, but the most important question is: Does the client feel better?
There is an interesting side effect to consider with these photos. By taking these photos and showing them to my clients or posting them on social media, I feel I would be expressing that only the changes that can be seen matter. It may look appealing if the client happens to look more symmetrical and balanced after the session. But symmetry and balance are not the goals of my work. As one of my mentors, Monica Caspari, so astutely said, “Happiness is more important than perfection”. My goal during my session is to help the client move more functionally and with less pain. Knowing whether I’ve achieved this in my sessions requires the client to be moving. Usually, I assess their gait in walking, or sometimes I may have them engage in whatever activity was causing them pain in the first place. Standing still is not always the culprit for my clients, so why would I use photographs of static standing posture as the universal measurement for success in my practice?
Now, there are two other reasons that I’m wary of these photos. First, so many variables exist when taking photos (lighting, proper equipment, angles, consistency, etc.). Simple shading changes from the first to the second photo can make one’s mood look COMPLETELY different even if nothing has changed intrinsically for the person being photographed. It’s so easy to accidentally create photos that are extremely misleading just because a variable one wasn’t intending to manipulate (like lighting) was manipulated.
Second, and more importantly, we bodyworkers have specifically trained eyes that see the human body in a way that is much different than most people. It can be heavily triggering for some clients to be photographed in this way or to see photos of their bodies. Just because we bodyworkers may see something positive about their structure, doesn’t mean any given client will be able see the same. Maybe they can only see how they stand exactly like their estranged father or they can only see that scar they are so ashamed of. They will experience their body in a much more personal and layered way than we could ever begin to be able to as someone who does not inhabit it.
I wanted to take a second to share this with you today because I think it is an important consideration to make. If you choose to take these photos in your sessions, take a second to ask yourself why. Who is benefitting from these photos? Are there other ways you can help your clients "see" the difference made by the work? Are they really accurately depicting the power of your work, or are they actually just highlighting a small portion of what you can really do for your clients?Remember, “Happiness is more important than perfection.”
P.S.- If you want to see the flow of my work and how I weave assessment throughout my sessions to help both myself and the client take note of the changes we've made, check out our MMASI Level 1 Course to see me in action!