Finding the Best Cosmetic Surgery Before & After Photos

Michelle - Patient Education & Patient Care Coordinator

Looking at Cosmetic Surgeon’s Before and After Photos: Tips and Tricks

In order to find the best Plastic Surgeon, you’ll no doubt be looking at Cosmetic Surgery Photos and “before and after” results. But what should you be looking for? And how can you properly compare the results of different Cosmetic Surgeons?

Top 12 Tips for Comparing Before and After Cosmetic Surgery Images.

1. Camera distances and poses should be similar

  • Comparing Cosmetic Surgery result photographs is easier when camera distances are equal
  • Patients’ facial expressions (smiling vs frowning) and chin angles should be the same in the BEFORE and AFTER; so should hip widths, shoulder widths and body stances
  • Watch out for different angle photography tricks or very different body-to-background ratios
    • If patient-to-camera distances vary in the photos, cropping out extra background colours is acceptable –
    • But only if the relative dimensions remain identical, and the cropping simply reveals more EQUAL amounts of the treated areas
    • Protecting privacy by covering eyes or part of faces may be acceptable, but additional photo manipulation is against the guidelines

Solution: Look for even hip bone widths as described above. Compare background-to-body (or face) ratios. Colour corrections are not best practice for clinic photography.  That noted, adjusting colour typically won’t impact results.


Spot the fakes. It is AGAINST guidelines to edit or manipulate cosmetic surgery images that mislead patients on outcomes. Be wary of photos taken from very different angles, distances and perspectives.  Watch out for fake photos, where the hip-width looks a lot smaller in the after photo –  this can indicate the photo’s been manipulated in terms of height x width dimensions. Surgery can change body shape, but it can’t change bone hip-width!

2. Lighting should be similar

  • Patients often attend post-op photo sessions at different times of the day
  • Photos may also be taken in different rooms by different team members
  • Shadows and lighting differences can make direct comparisons more challenging

Solution: special photography equipment and standard camera-distance-to-patient protocols give the best photographic results

3: Posture counts – look for identical angles

  • Ideally, your Surgeon’s photos should have the SAME stance and photo composition
  • This allows for a more realistic comparison of before-and-after cosmetic surgery results
  • Look for arm positions, torso angles, foot distance and shoulder levels to MATCH

Solution:  Look for similar stances, positions, angles and camera distances.  Beware of a slouching posture compared to one where the patient is standing up, or a smiling vs a frowning face for a facial procedure or injectables photo. Check for nearly-identical composition ratios (meaning the BODY/FACE-to-background colour ratio).

Example of equal widths and camera distance: You can see dramatic skin reduction changes in the tummy tuck and liposuction AFTER photo, however, the hip widths and background composition are fairly similar. Note that results vary and all surgery has risks.

Tummy Tuck - Abdominoplasty Before & After Photo

4: Surgery results vary

  • Even if you feel you look similar to a before image, don’t expect identical results
  • That’s because every patient is unique – your AFTER photo won’t be identical to someone else’s result
  • Patients have important differences you might not notice in a photo, and their procedure might not be the one that suits you best

Solution: Keep your expectations in check. A good COSMETIC SURGEON will have you a VARIETY of patient types and still get good results. Be realistic about what Surgery can accomplish, and ask your Surgeon what to realistically expect.

5: Look for a variety of results and patient types

  • Are you seeing only dramatic cosmetic surgery results on a Surgeon’s website?
  • If YES, that Surgeon may ONLY be posting their very BEST RESULTS
  • These Surgeons may be unwilling to REVEAL the variety of surgery outcomes that occur

Solution: Look for VARIETY in results AND inpatient types. Avoid Surgeons who show photos ONLY of nearly-identical types of body types or surgery results. IMAGES will normally contain mild-to-moderate changes after surgery, PLUS a few photos with more dramatic results.


See Real Patient Before and After Photos from our Specialist Plastic Surgeons

6. Only one side of the surgery result is shown

  • Showing ONLY one side (or partial surgery results) of the body or face should raise your suspicions
  • It might indicate an unwillingness to reveal the full surgery result(s)
  • It may also indicate asymmetry issues (some asymmetry is normal, but it shouldn’t be excessive)

Solution: Look for multiple photos of the same patients. They should be seen from different angles (side, front, and 3/4 views are standard). If only ONE side of the surgery result is SHOWN – be wary.


Download the “7 Steps to Successful Surgery” Guide

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7. Image quality and contrast

  • Good Surgeons often use quality camera imaging systems and consistent room lighting
  • Otherwise, photos could be very low resolution and lacking in image clarity
  • The occasional blurry or low-resolution photos is okay, as no photography system is perfect; but if ALL images look to be low-res, or a bit ‘too clean’ or ‘too contrasted’ in terms of skin imperfections and scars, tread cautiously

Solution: The photography systems of your Surgeon are an integral part of getting good BEFORE & AFTER PHOTOS of their surgery results. If your SURGEON doesn’t have a good photography system or a variety of high-resolution photos to show you, ask why.

8. Photos are actually from a different Surgeon than the one being advertised

  • Surgeons sometimes advertise cheap cosmetic surgery offers because they are NEW and/or not RACS recognised
  • Junior Surgeons or non-RACS sometimes post colleagues’ photos as examples, because they lack their own BEFORE and AFTER photos
  • If so, these SHOULD include a DISCLAIMER that the BEFORE & AFTER SURGERY IMAGES are not their ACTUAL patients; but this may be intentionally down-played on certain types of websites

Solution: Read the FINE PRINT on photographs. Look for copyright stamps. Check the photos to see if they are results of the Surgeon being advertised. Be sure you read the fine print and search for online reviews and comments from prior patients

Check their registration with AHRPA (be sure you drill down to speciality areas)

TIP: Ask to see numerous patient surgery examples of the surgery you have in mind.  NOT ALL patients WILL consent to show their surgery photographs on websites; however, long-experienced Surgeons will have a lot of example photos to show you during a consultation or event.

9.  Photos with ‘make-up’ vs ‘no make-up’ Tricks

  • Facial makeup HIGHLIGHTS features and REDUCES flaws (this includes mascara, eyelid makeup, foundation and bronzing powder)
  • Makeup use may even CHANGE AFTER plastic surgery, because of boosted appearance confidence
  • Images WITH properly-applied makeup will nearly always LOOK BETTER than ones without makeup (as seen in Celebrity images), so it’s BEST if photos match

Solution:  Look for photos where makeup use is similar or matched. E.g., (a) makeup on BOTH images or (b) NO makeup on either image.  One set with no makeup and a before-and-after set with makeup is even better!

10:  Tanning differences may also have an effect on comparing surgery results photos

  • Patients often wear more revealing clothing – and spend more time at the beach – AFTER having cosmetic surgery (especially after a Breast Augmentation, Reduction or Tummy Tuck)
  • Patients do need to AVOID TANNING scars after breast augmentation or a tummy tuck and reduce sun damage and melanoma risks
  • But they often have more sun exposure in their after photographs than in their BEFORE images, especially when surgery is performed in springtime or over summer.

Solution:  Tanning from sun exposure seems to be an inevitable part of Australian living. Good photos are those taken the same time of year, so that tanning differences are less extreme in the before and after pics.

11: “Look-at-me” Social Media Posts on Instagram and Facebook are taken too soon after surgery

  • People often post social media PHOTOS shortly AFTER having a cosmetic procedure
  • The trouble is that photos taken JUST after surgery DON’T tend to reveal HOW LONG those great results might last
  • Patients MIGHT be happy for the first few weeks, months or few years, then find their results (or filler injections) deteriorate more quickly than expected – so if you’re INVESTING in filler injections or cosmetic surgery, you want to be sure the cost is worth it

Solution:  Don’t rely solely on Instagram photos of “fresh” results. Look for PHOTOS taken a few years or decades after the original procedure. A series of photos, up to five (5) years after surgery, would be ideal.

TIP: You can investigate your Cosmetic Surgeon’s online REVIEWS on sites such as GOOGLE –  or forum sites NOT controlled by your Surgeon – to get a better sense of what patients are saying about how long their surgery results have lasted.

WATCH ABC’s Four Corners VIDEO about low-cost boob jobs once promoted on Instagram.

12: Cosmetic Surgeries get popular on Social Media before they’re tried and tested

  • Avoid falling for BANDWAGON photo-sharing of new procedures, such as large-volume buttocks augmentation with fat injections
  • Trendy surgeries with HIGH LEVELS of PHOTO SHARING, such as fat injections to buttocks, ended up being DANGEROUS to patients
  • Many thread lifts, low-cost boob jobs, overseas procedures or cheap filler substances also ended up having SHORTER lifespans than strategically performed cosmetic surgery from an expert Plastic Surgeon

Solution:  Choose a Surgeon with experience and don’t let social media lure you into having untested types of procedures.  A good Surgeon is one with a sense of strong reserve about “giving new treatments a try” and will wait until there’s more data on patient safety, surgery risks AND longevity of results.

Cosmetic Patient Forums also discuss values of procedures and how long they lasted.


Review the before and after photos of Melbourne Plastic Surgeons


Unsure about the Plastic Surgery and procedure best for you?

Our Specialist Plastic Surgeons located in Melbourne will be able to assess your desired goals and suggest the best options for your chosen surgery.

Please contact a Patient Care Team at Cosmetic Surgery for Women & Men today to book your consultation.

Phone (03) 8849 1444 or Email us at


Last updated: 11/02/2020
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Michelle Staughton
Michelle Staughton is a Patient Education Interviewer and Patient Care Coordinator for several top Plastic Surgeons in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. With over 4 years’ experience helping plastic surgery patients at Coco Ruby Plastic Surgery, after having been a patient herself, Michelle offers a wealth of knowledge to help surgical patients with cosmetic and plastic surgery planning and recovery tips.