A quick look at the Instagram accounts of many top influencers might lead you to believe they can’t take a bad photo. While these seemingly perfect posts often accumulate thousands of ‘likes,’ the truth is there are a myriad of tricks that can make someone look thinner, curvier, and more toned. And we’re not just talking about the filters used to smooth over “imperfections” or the obvious Photoshop that still occurs. Rather, something as simple as a strategic pose, the clothes you wear or even the angle of your camera can make make you look dramatically different in photos.
Reality isn’t always reflected online and there is obviously no such thing as perfect, which is why a number of body positive influencers are calling out exactly how Instagram images can be misleading with “5-second transformation” shots. As Noelle Downing puts it, it’s easy to make a photo look a certain way. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the many body positive stars reminding their followers to keep perspective when scrolling through the ‘gram. Because we all know how it easy it can be to fall into the comparison trap.
Noelle Downing is known for her body positive social media presence, challenging unrealistic beauty standards, and even calling out Instagram for its gross double standards. In a recent post, she makes a powerful PSA about how misleading Instagram photos can be. “Yes—these photos were taken about 3 seconds apart,” Downing wrote on Instagram alongside two photos showing her posing in a sports bra and legging set. In the first photo, Downing has her leggings pulled up over her belly button, and in the second, they sit just below her waist.
She continued: “No—it’s not a before and after. I wanted to share to show y’all how easy it is to make a photo look a certain way. How posing, the placement of your pants, and angles can change how you look. Remember—social media is all a filter and it’s usually our highlight real (which is ok!) but just remember to be kind to yourself ❤️ there’s so many different perspectives.”
It’s hard not to be inspired by model Sonny Turner’s instagram account. The body positive activist oozes confidence and she regularly reminds her followers that perfect does not exist. “Just here with your daily reminder that you don’t have to look ‘perfect’ all of the time. As much as I am the person in the first image, I am also the person on the right and I am not ashamed of her at all,” she wrote recently, pointing out how angles and poses can dramatically change your look.
The post features two photos of Turner in the same bikini: The first shows her leaning back and seemingly sucking in while the second show her sitting more relaxed. “Screw body shaming. Screw nit picking parts of your body that need ‘fixing.’ Screw bodily comparisons and judgements. Remember that posing, breathing in, sitting down, slouching, leaning back and filters all play a part in how your body will look. Cheers to loving our bodies regardless of which angle we’re photographed in.”
Influencer Sara Puhto opened up to followers after a recent vacation, sharing how she fell into the comparison trap and started disliking how her body looked in swimsuit photos. Posting two shots of herself in the same bikini, one “Instagram” and one “reality,” she then shared an important message about misleading Instagram photos. “Don’t allow social media, or anything, or anyone else make you think you aren’t good enough,” Puhto wrote in the caption. “You shouldn’t have to suck in your tummy and make your body look a certain way to be happy with a photo. You shouldn’t feel the need to delete a photo of you having fun and making memories because your brain convinced you that you don’t look good enough.”
She goes onto explain: “I can make my body look smaller from certain angles, by sucking in and flexing ridiculous amounts. But that’s not how I really look 99% of the time. Society has convinced us that this is “aesthetic.” But we need to realize there is beauty in everyone and in being human…Don’t hate and punish yourself for things that are completely normal and human. Don’t think that your body needs to look any particular way, because its amazing the way it is now.”
After losing over 110 pounds, Dena Shahani become committed to motivating and uplifting others on social media. Not only does she post food and fitness advice, but she also explains the misconceptions about weight loss, shares her emotional struggles, and tips for self-love. Her pages is full of unedited photos, and in a few, she calls out the deception of social media perfection.
“A gust of wind and I look like a different person. But that’s real life,” she wrote in the caption of one “Instagram vs. reality” photo, adding, “I’d probably never post the picture on the right or show it to anyone. This is because we carefully curate our lives to show our highlights but life isn’t always perfect and people look different all the time.”
She finished with a friendly reminder for her followers: “Don’t compare yourself to every perfect picture you see, everyone has bad angles, bad lighting and bad luck sometimes.”
Alaina Blackwell uses Instagram to openly share about her struggles with disordered eating and mental health. She recently shared a set of side-by-side photos of herself in front of a mirror, using the opportunity to remind her followers to love their bodies. In the photo on the left, she is standing to the side with her leg bent slightly — a pose that is often deemed “flattering” and “slimming” — and in the photo on the right, she is sitting more relaxed.
“It’s easy to post the photo on the left. Posed, twisting, and stretching my body to look a certain way. I look tall (5’3 checking in 🙋🏻♀️). I seem confident. But I don’t walk around looking like that at all times. Heck, I never realistically look like that,” she wrote in the caption. “The photo on the right is much more accurate to how I walk around day to day (unfortunately maybe not in just a bra and panties but you know).”
“This is a reminder of why you cannot compare your body to other bodies on social media, television, or magazines,” she continued. “I’m not saying that it’s wrong to pose and take photos that make you feel sexy because obviously that’s what we all prefer posting. What I’m saying is this: Don’t forget to embrace your real body. Don’t forget to love your body in its true form. Your body is sexy all the time.”