7 Exercises Every Photographer Should Be Doing

7 Exercises Every Photographer Should Be Doing

Whether you’re a photographer who carries a heavy camera kit or an image editor that spends all day hunched over a laptop, these seven gentle exercises can help alleviate pain and keep you feeling fresher for longer. 

When you wear a camera bag, the extra weight strapped to your back forces a hunched-forward posture in order to maintain an upright position. Similarly, when working at a desk or editing photos on a laptop, there’s a tendency to lean forward, rounding the back and shoulders. This can cause pain and tightness in the shoulders, chest, neck, hips, and lower back.

Kat Bayly doing a photography stretch with a tripod

Kat is an experienced yoga teacher and has further training in supporting injured students. She is Hormone Yoga Therapy qualified, and is currently in study to become a Yoga Therapy Practitioner.

So, we had qualified yoga instructor Kat Bayly guide us through some exercises that help alleviate these photography-related issues using the equipment we carry on our backs. These simple exercises are designed for use anywhere, whether at home, in the studio, or shooting in the field. They create space in the body, helping to boost energy levels during your working day. Spend a few breaths in each exercise, and don’t push too hard. Keep things light and gentle.

1. Extend Your Spine With a Camera Bag

Extend your spine with a forward bend and a camera bag

This half-forward bend helps extend the spine to counteract excessive hunching or overarching in the lower back when carrying heavy camera bags.

Directions: Place your camera bag down in front of you. Hinge forward at the hips with a straight back and place your hands on the bag, directly underneath your shoulders. Keep your legs straight if you can, but if you’re having difficulty, leave a soft bend in the knees. Move your chest bone forward, shoulders back and away from the ears, and take a few breaths.

2. Channel Your Inner Eagle

Garudasana pose to stretch trapezius

Eagle pose opens the trapezius muscles, which may ache from holding heavy cameras and lenses up to the eye.

Directions: Cross your arms in front, placing the right elbow in the crease of the left arm. Bend the elbows, fingers pointing to the sky. With the left hand, reach for your right wrist, placing the palms together. If this is too much, hold a V-shape with your forearms. Hold for a few breaths. Repeat this method with the left arm on top.

3. Open Your Chest And Shoulders

Open the chest stretch with a tripod

This posture opens the chest muscles and relieves fatigued shoulders brought about from shooting through the viewfinder.

Directions: Erect your tripod to shoulder height. Place one hand on top and turn your body away, stretching the arm behind. Drop the shoulders down, away from the ears for a better stretch. Hold for a few breaths, then repeat on the other arm. If you don’t have a tripod, use a tree or a wall.

4. Squat Deeply With Your Camera Bag

Deep squat with your camera bag

A deep squat opens the hips and helps to relieve soreness in the legs and hips after walking long distances.

Directions: Obviously, don’t do this with a soft bag. We don’t want you crushing your camera kit! But if you have a hard case bag or something structurally sound, sit on it with your feet hip-width apart and pointed out to the sides. Lift through the spine and resist the urge to collapse forward.

5. Use a Tripod to Extend Your Legs

Calf muscle stretch with tripod

This stretch opens the hip flexors and calf muscles. It would benefit landscape or street photographers that do a lot of walking.

Directions: With your tripod set up in front of you, hold the top lightly and take a step back with one foot moving into a lunge position. Keep the toes on the front foot pointed forward and the rear foot pointing out to the side. Bend the front leg, straighten the rear, and feel a stretch in your calves by pressing into the back heel.

6. Increase Shoulder Mobility With a Tripod

Use a tripod to open the shoulders

By using the tripod in this way, you can support shoulder mobility and open the chest muscles.

Directions: Extend the tripod legs and fold them up. With the arms as wide as possible, grasp each end of the tripod. Keep the arms straight and bring the tripod over the head. If your tripod isn’t long enough to keep straight arms, leave a bend in the elbows and bring the tripod behind the head. Avoid bending your back, and instead, use your core to hold yourself upright.

7. Be Mindful When Photographing

Use mindfulness to reduce stress

Mindfulness practice can reduce stress and encourage better mental health.

Directions: It’s not all about keeping busy by dialing in settings, chasing the light, and working hard to get the best photos. Every now and again, try to take note of where you are and breathe deeply and slowly. Pay attention to sounds, smells, and light. Landscape and wildlife photography is particularly good for mental relaxation; read our discussion with Stu McKenzie for more information.

Stress levels can negatively impact the body, with links to the immune system, headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

Summary

While this isn't designed to replace any medical advice, these exercises can be helpful for those that experience physical cramping, tight joints, reduced range of motion, or excess stress due to photography or image editing. These seven small steps should be taken gently and lightly. It should be noted that they aren't intended to comprehensively cover all physical photography-related issues, but rather to look at some first steps toward gaining physical wellbeing.

If you've discovered anything that's particularly helpful for remedying physical ailments caused by photographing, why not share your findings with us below and tell us what's worked for you? If this has been helpful or you think we should do a follow-up, why not let us know what you'd like to see in the comments below.

Disclaimer: It’s advised to seek professional medical guidance when trying these exercises, especially if you have any current physical or mental health issues. A qualified yoga instructor or physiotherapist should also be able to guide you safely through postures to avoid injury. If in doubt, speak to your doctor first before attempting any of the above.

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6 Comments

Jerome Brill's picture

8. Buy sigma lenses if you're looking to build muscle

michael stern's picture

Good to see this article come out. I've been a commercial photographer for 40+ years and am no spring chicken by any stretch. My physical self is in great shape due to frequent exercise designed specifically to help stamina, strength and flexibility. Couldn't function nor would I wish to, without exercising.

Sidney M's picture

Interesting, thanks for sharing. Do you have any recommendations on a program, or just general sport activity ?

Boy W Camera's picture

"Be mindful". Check.

Arun Hegden's picture

This is so good. Thank you for sharing.

Bill Patterson's picture

Very good especially #5. I would also recommend sturdy shoes or boots with arch supports or inserts for anything other than flat surface walking.