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Healthy Photography: 5 Tips To Save Your Back

By Anthony Thurston on October 18th 2013

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Photography is not known as a hard job on your body to most people, but as anyone who has had to carry around gear for a day can attest – it wears on your body. It can creep up on you, things are going well and then you start to get small aches here and there. Next thing you know you have chronic back problems.

Staying healthy as a photographer is important so that you can continue to perform your duties to the best of your ability. Specifically relating to back health, if you are in pain from a bad back your are not going to be giving your clients the best experience they can get because you are going to be trying to push through the pain.

So what can you do to help “save your back” and insure that your body does not get in the way of your passion for photography? Here are 5 tips for staying healthy and keeping your back in good health.

5 Tips to Save Your Back

  1. Stretch Before You Shoot

    Stretches
    This one may seem like common sense to some of you, and silly to others. But the fact is that stretching should be an important part of your pre-shoot routine. It helps to loosen your muscles and prepare them for the work that is to come. Not stretching can lead to back problems.

  2. Ditch Your DSLR

    A7R SEL2470ZOk, this one may sound a bit extreme but it is still valid. In the past if you wanted the best pro setup you could get that meant a big and heavy DSLR to lug around. Now with the release of quality full frame mirrorless systems like the new Sony A7 and A7R you can get full frame results at a fraction of the weight.

  3. Carry Only What You Need

    black-rapid-strap-rs-4-review-0034
    Completely changing you camera system may not be an option for you, but at the very least you should carry around less gear. Ideally during a shoot you should only have your camera/lens combo that you are using at that time on your shoulders, maybe a small bag with an extra lens at the most.  I recommend the any of the BlackRapid Camera Straps for keeping the load on your shoulders down.

  4. If You Must Carry, Use Your Waist

    spider-holster-waist-shooter-male-730x541
    Get the weight of your gear off of your back and onto your waist. It has been proven that the waist is the best place for the body to support extra weight, so make use of that rather than hurting your back with extra weight. There are many great bag systems like the UNDFIND Waist Shooter or the Think Tank Modular Component System which put the weight of your gear on your waist rather than your back.

  5. Practice Your Posture

    Posture6
    Having good posture will go a long way towards keeping your back as healthy as it needs to be. As photographers we spend a lot of time crouched in front of a computer doing post-production which can be just as bad for your back as carrying too much weight. Make an effort to sit up straight, your back will thank you in the long run.

These are just 5 simple tips that you can try to help keep your back in good working order so that you can continue to shoot and practice the profession/hobby that you love. Stay tuned for future Healthy Photography posts for more great tips on being a healthy photographer.

What are your thoughts on today’s tips? Do you have any to add? Share your thoughts or tips in a comment below.

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

17 Comments

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  4. Stefano

    Recently I purchased a Sony Nex-6 CSC/mirrorless with two lenses (16-50 and 55-210) because I needed an alternative to my Nikon gear.

    I started shooting with Nex during my trips and for some portrait sessions just to get used to it.

    Last saturday I decided to shoot a protest/demonstration rally reportage using my Nex ONLY: a 16-210 equipment for a mere 1.6 Kg (including bag and three batteries).

    What a relief for my aging back! :D and also, I felt more comfortable because running with light equipment really helped me to get into the action quicker.

    I think that -apart from sports or serious nature shooters- CSC will be playing a serious role in photography future.

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  5. Kevin

    Thanks for all the tips Anthony!
    I love shooting with zooms + primes and Canon is not helping by having the 24-70 (the BRICK) and the 70-200 way TOO heavy.

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  6. Mossrocket

    A bit of strength and conditioning goes a long way too. Kettlebell swings, squats, lifts (consult a trainer for proper technique) give you core strength that will help you in all activities relating to a shoot.

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  7. Jesse James

    Great tips! I threw out my back 2 years ago getting a tripod out of my car of all things. Still been trying to recover, but exercise, paying attention to my posture while shooting, lightening the amount of equipment i carry and foam rolling my muscles before stretching have made a huge difference in my life!

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  8. Taylor

    be careful with the blackrapid strap. it is what threw my back out of alignment from prolonged same side use according to my chiropractor. Now I just carry my bag on one shoulder and set it down at my feet and no camera strap and it has made a WORLD of difference.

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    • Anthony T.

      I usually try and alternate shoulders that I have the strap on to limit this. That and I rarely let the camera just hang, I normally have a hand holding the camera and the strap just for piece of mind.

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  9. Elmer Escobar

    Yes, I find that keeping fit in general makes a big difference. When I’m not working out consistently, my back hurts by the end of the day. When I’m working out regularly, I feel a lot less beat.

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  10. Nick Viton

    I find that exercise works – not only for photography, but many other aspects in life.

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  11. Hanssie

    A good massuese and chiropractor are on my speed dial as well :)

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  12. tanya smith

    Switching to the black rapid strap really saved my neck. I love the one made specifically for women. Great tips Anthony!

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  13. Suzi

    Great tips, Anthony! My chiropractor recommended pretty much all of these tips to me last year and they’ve made such an improvement on the back and shoulder pain I used to get.

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    • Anthony T.

      The crazy thing is how simple they are to do. There is really no excuse to not take care of your back, no reason to be in pain when the issue can be fixed or resolved with steps as simple as these. Thanks for commenting!

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