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As many other professions. photographers tend to suffer of particular health issues, related to the way we use the first and most important piece of our equipment: our bodies.

Manufacturers are making great advances in this sense, but photo equipment can still be really weighty to be carried a whole day, especially when it includes wide aperture telephoto and zoom lenses. This daily muscular effort can cause arm tendonitis, shoulder girdle contracture, lumbar strain, torticollis, and similar affections. I can usually feel even my fingers strained after a whole day of work!

There's also health issues related to excessive use of the view, on which this answer sheds some light.

I simply try to carry the most of my equipment hanging from my belt or in a hip bag, rather than a backpack, avoid letting my camera hang from my neck, try to make a rest and stretch my muscles whenever I can, and keep regular physical exercise, but don't really know mucho about health and anatomy, so just go on my intuition and trainers'/doctors' general recommendations.

Are there more developed practices and/or exercises to help minimising negative effects of photography on our bodies?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You already know about my best recommendation, a hip/waist bag. If everything you need will fit in a hip/waist bag, go with it. After a long day, I sometimes move the strap onto my stomach for back support. I use a backpack when I need to carry more, like a big telephoto and/or travel tripod.. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mattman944
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 0:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ You kwnow what I'm talking about. When one needs to carry a tripod or a telephoto, problems start to happen! \$\endgroup\$
    – Lisan
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 0:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Questions about good practices in photography can be better answered by photographers than by medics, though their knowledge will be of course helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lisan
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 3:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is on topic, but I'm concerned that it's too big for the Q&A format. From the help "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much." — and I think that's where this really is. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 21:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ The easiest one, get a sherpa to carry your stuff... you won’t have any more photography health related issues. ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – abetancort
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 7:05

3 Answers 3

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Some good general health practices to consider:

  • If you have special health needs, consult an appropriate medical provider.

  • Use medical providers that follow standard medical guidelines. In the United States, the main guidelines are established by the US Preventative Services Taskforce. Recommendations are graded based on supporting evidence.

  • Limit your use of radioactive equipment. They may increase the risk of cataracts or cancer.

  • Use photography equipment properly.

    • Some of the conditions you list are not associated with camera equipment unless they are used improperly. You should not swing cameras and lenses around like golf clubs or tennis racquets.

    • Some of the conditions you list have no known cause. There is nothing you can do to prevent them.

To prevent some musculoskeletal problems associated with carrying equipment around:

  • Use bags and backpacks that are designed to carry heavy gear for long distances. They will have features that increase comfort and reduce strain, such as neoprene straps. Most camera bags are designed to be used only for fairly short distances.

  • Carry less and lighter equipment – a single camera and lens. Use the rest of the space in the backpack for something that weighs less than extra cameras and lenses, like extra batteries or memory cards. Some options, from lightest to heaviest:

    • Smartphone.
    • Compact camera.
    • Bridge camera.
    • Camera with walkabout lens or superzoom (18-135, 24-105, 18-200, etc).
    • Camera with "pro" superzoom (EF 28-300/3.5-5.6 L). I suspect most "pros" wouldn't be caught dead with this lens even though it is an "L" series lens.
  • Convince friends and family to carry some equipment for you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That leaves the question, when is carrying heavy gear a health risk and when is it exercise (which is supposed to be GOOD for your health!)? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 12:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ One might add "Read up on health best practices for working with computers" in many cases. Also, powerful flash gear might be an eye health hazard if used unsafely; so can optical instruments (DSLR finders!) be if they are accidentally pointed at the sun or other intense light sources at times. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 12:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rackandboneman The advice is endless. That's why the Q is too broad. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rackandboneman exercise is when overtime the load is increased progressively and accordingly to the subject fitness level at every point. If the subject try carry his weight in a backpack in day, given it has an average fitness, it can be considered negligent, because that actions will probably severely harm the subject health and can also be considered negligent because it can harm the health of others and cause property damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – abetancort
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 7:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ The best advice is to convince f&f to be your assistants carrying everything while you think in the photograph you want to make. \$\endgroup\$
    – abetancort
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 7:28
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Let's see what photography is similar to.... while deferring to existing advice.

  • Outdoor sport. Hiking especially. Advice for hikers should apply here. Some similarities to team sport too if we are talking about a hectic reportage situation (constantly in motion).

  • Stage/Rigging work - when doing hard core studio setups. Health and safety advice exists plenty for these professions. Advice for constrained spaces might also apply.

  • Screen/VDU/Computer work (when editing and handling results). Advice for professional computer users should apply here.

In addition, there are risks from:

  • Radiation. Not as much radioactive equipment, as very bright light (sun and UV exposure while outdoors, strong lighting equipment in studio setups). Probably also from frequent air travel.

  • Chemicals. Only applies to film darkroom work and DIY deep equipment maintenance, or when using old school flash technology (also see radiation). Also microbial risks from handling water-based solutions that are NOT inherently biocidal in nature.

  • Asbestos. When handling or maintaining very old lighting or projection equipment. Or when engaging in urbex.

  • Electricity. From complex, messy lighting and strobe equipment.

  • Violence. Valuable equipment might attract robbers, or somebody misunderstanding your intent might want to hurt you.

  • Professional stress

For all of these, qualified health and safety advice exists.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd forgotten about chemicals, even though I have a bunch under my sink... Good idea to read the MSDS for those. Memorize poison control phone number if there are children who may access them. etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 23:28
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I am not a professional photographer, nor I have a lot of equipment, but I have a bag that really helps in easily walking with quite some weight around.

This backpack can be carried like a normal backpack, with a strap around each shoulder. However, if it would be a 'normal' backpack, it is not really comfortable to make a picture, as you need to take off a normal backpack.

But if you detach one side, the backpack hangs next to your body and since it has two zippers, one for normal, and one for easy access when it hangs next to my body, it's easy to take out the camera and even has access to accessories and lenses.

Other tips:

  • Do not bend forward or backward too much, try to hold a normal relaxed position, especially when shooting many pictures
  • Stand on two feet, this keeps your weight spread, and also more balance means a more stabilized camera
  • If you have accessories you barely use, wear it on your back and not in a bag or something you hold in your hand, because it makes you unbalanced and one foot (and your whole body) is pushed towards that side. Even if it is not that much weight, if you walk or stand like that for hours, it makes a difference.
  • If you stand still a lot, shake your muscles regularly.
  • Avoid keeping your camera constantly around your neck (it's always a trade off, keeping your camera in your bag or around your neck, easy access versus comfortability).
  • From xiota (see below): If you have accessories you barely use – Leave them at home.
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    \$\begingroup\$ "If you have accessories you barely use" – Leave them at home. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 4:51

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