3 Things You Can Do To Stay Pain-Free On Long Photo Shoots

3 Things You Can Do To Stay Pain-Free On Long Photo Shoots

Often as photographers we put in long hours on our feet, walk quite a bit, bend, crouch, shimmy and shake all while carrying heavy gear on our shoulders and back. At the end of the day my feet would be sore, my legs tired, my thighs chaffed and my back aching. If you have felt the same way, here are three things that will help you be more comfortable and pain free while out on long shoots.

Let's keep it real and get the most embarrassing one out of the way first. As a wedding photographer in Arizona I do a lot of walking in the heat. Call me big boned, thunder thighs, or just husky, but for whatever reason I tend to get chaffed quite easily between the legs. By the end of the wedding day I am walking around like I'm riding a horse, legs spread apart trying to keep the flaming hot thighs from touching one another. Then I discovered BodyGlide, or as I call it "Heaven on a Stick." Runners are familiar with BodyGlide and that is where you will often find it, in the running section at your local sports store. Typically the deodorant size sticks run about $9 and will be hanging up by the shoes or if you have a Dick's Sporting Goods store near you they often keep the BodyGlide up near the checkout registers.

Fstoppers Body Glide to Stay Comfortable on Long Shoots

This second tip is for those who often experience back pain on the long shoots. Stop carrying all your gear on your back and shoulders and put it on your hips and into a roller bag. One of my absolute favorite accessories that I use on every shoot is my Spider Holster. The Spider Holster allows me to clip my camera onto my belt at anytime allowing me to use both hands to set up a shot or even just take a short break. I now no longer have to wear the camera around my shoulders using a strap and carry the weight there. I also attached a hand strap to my camera so that when I am carrying the camera outside the Spider Holster it fits firmly against my hand without fear of me dropping it.

Fstoppers SpiderHolster to Stay Comfortable on Long Shoots

Another great option is the Capture Pro Camera Clip System by Peak Design. These clips allow you the versatility of adding them wherever you would like so you can have one for your camera and say one for your 70-200mm lens. I did this while shooting along the sidelines of an NFL game and it made it easy for me to keep the lens on hand when I needed it without having to lug around extra gear.

Fstoppers CaptureOne Staying Comfortable on Long Shoots

Another back saver is putting your gear inside a roller bag such as the ThinkTank Airport International bag. This is the one I own and absolutely love. This takes all that weight of carrying a bag of lenses and flashes around and puts it in the convenience of a suitcase on wheels. You might lose some hipster points but your back will thank you for it.

Fstoppers ThinkTank Bag Stay Comfortable on Long Shoots

The last thing to keep you comfortable while on your feet for an extended period of time is compression socks. You've probably seen athletes wearing these over the last couple years. While experts from both sides debate the benefits to the socks their purpose is to apply pressure to your ankles and calves thereby making the veins smaller and increasing the arterial pressure so the blood doesn't just gather below causing your feet and legs to swell. Experts have talked about the benefits of compression socks for passengers of long plane flights and now many are beginning to use them while working on their feet for long periods as well. If you have tired, swollen, cramped legs by the end of your shoots, these guys might just be the key to staying more comfortable.

So there you go, three things to stay pain-free on those long days of shooting photos. Now I'd love to hear your tips in the comments below.

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34 Comments

I have one point I discovered, when it comes to myself. My Meindl hiking boots are worth their weight in gold. They may look bulky and a bit out of place when I'm in shorts, but they save me from the the simple "my feet hurt" - moments. Not to mention the fact that they saved my ankles numerous times during shoots.

Trevor Dayley's picture

I hadn't heard of Meindl before but I just looked them up and they look very nice. A tad pricey but I am looking forward to trying a pair on the next time I am near a retailer that sells them.

Scott Mosley's picture

My favorite shoe-boots are the Timberland pro: Gladstone. They have a dressier look than most other boot boots, but have great anti-fatigue construction and are very breathable. I have had 3 pairs in 5 years, and i love them. Steel toe too, for that rowdy groomsman who wont pay attention during photos.

Yes, they aren't cheap. But they have "a bit" of experience, when it comes to hiking and manufacturing shoes. It is a family tradition, dating back to 1683....So you can say hey know what they are doing. Take your time when choosing the right ones. I had a shop that even lent me mine for a few hours (to use indoors). So I could walk around in them and see how they fit after an hour.

In the end I payed around 240€ (324$). Which isn't that pricey, considering they last about 4 years now. A pair of Alls Stars will set you back 60€ but my feet hurt after 3 hours of walking in those things.
I had an assignment about 2 weeks ago and walked about 12 hours a day with my gear for 3 days (shooting a LARP - Live Action Role Playing). The terrain was everything from a forest to grass to a paved street. And even after this amount of walking my feet didn't really hurt. Did I feel the stress of walking for this amount of time? Yes, but I didn't have any blisters (not one) and it wasn't a painful feeling but rather a feeling of swollen feet (which is normal after this amount of time).

Meindl or Hagwag, both are just top notch, heaven for your legs.

Most of the people doesn't know that most of the lower back problems can be caused by poor, not supporting footwear. For example, one way to ruin your feet is use Converse shoes all the time (or similar styled, thin insole). I'm not kidding or exaggerating. Converse looks fashionable (But I don't wear them, since I don't personally like them) but they don't support your angle and foot at all. The fabric is thin which makes the supporting very low. It supports your leg poorly for...first few weeks or a month but after that, the fabric has stretched so much that the support is gone. This will mean that sooner or later, your foot is in wrong position which can be pronation.

Back pains can be caused by the wrong position of the foot. The reason is that the bones of your angle is in wrong position and this affects to your knee. While bones of the angle is in wrong position, there's a huge build of pressure to your knee, more than normal. Also, while you're knee is getting a huge load on them, they also twist the rest of your legs, which causes your haunch to be in wrong position which makes your spine be in awkward position which means back pain.

People should think that the shoes will cost. Good shoes cost nice amount of money but in the other hand, they can last more than twice long than the "crap" shoes. Your body will thank you if you use proper footwear but sooner or later, you will thank yourself since you don't have any pains. Huge problem, small solution.

Why do I know this? I'm a wedding...or to be honest, all around photographer who does all kinds of photoshoots in nature, city and everything between, but I suffer from a very annoying, physiologic problem: flat feet (no way to cure it). This makes me have a very very bad pains at my legs, for example, normal people can walk for 3km without pains but at 1,5km, I'm having serious pains. I'm not in bad shape, I ran half-marathon last summer. Way I cure or make my life easier: Good shoes and special insoles which are molded for my feet.

I'm sorry for this long...kinda dull and not so related post but I hope people would get this. I've done photoshoots with black, formal shoes which were bad, I had 1 hour without pain. Then I did a photoshoot with good formal shoes, I had 13 hour day and still, no pain.

Jason Vinson's picture

the human foot does not need supportive footwear... the reason why this has become "true" is because we introduce shoes with arch support and heels to children at a young age and they never develop the ability to support their foot on their own. having a shoe with arch support is your way of telling your feet "hey, don't worry about maintaining the arch, the shoes will do it" then your feet become week and unable to do what they are designed to do and you don't have the capacity to maintain the arch on your own. Chucks are not bad because of their lack of arch support, they are bad because they are heavy and the added weight of the shoe goes right to your lower back because its has to work a lot harder to move and support foot that weighs a lot more.

Trevor Dayley's picture

What are your feeling about TOMS. I hear a lot of good reviews from users, but curious if they are actually built to provide the proper comfort or are just a hipster trend right now.

Jason Vinson's picture

i wore a pair of TOMS my last few wedding and felt very noticeably better then the previous where i wore dress shoes. more specifically, i wore a pair like these with the laces so i didn't have to worry about them slipping off. the pair i got where a lot cheaper and the standard TOMs material, but they don't seem to have nay on their site anymore

http://www.toms.com/grey-suede-men-s-botas-12/s

Very helpful article. Wearing dress shoes to a wedding gig isn't great when moving fast all day on foot. Believe it or not but those darn Dr scholls orthotics really help.

Trevor Dayley's picture

This is so true Nicholas. I have a pair of Dr. Scholls inserts in one of my sets of shoes and it has helped tremendously.

I've found that Rockport Shoes are the closest thing to tennis shoes.

I have a simple and fool proof method, I call it "Don't be a bitch"

Trevor Dayley's picture

Is this Jesse Pinkman?

Mark Weikert's picture

Would love to have tips on upper back pain. Not sure if it's my posture, or just shooting all kinds of different angles, but my upper back is always screaming after a 3+ hour shoot. :/

If you don't have the spider holster, I strongly recommend it. My upper back would be dying after carrying two camera bodies with heavy lenses on them.

Also, if your back is hurting after a 3 hour shoot, it's possible your stance is not supportive enough, or perhaps your muscles are tight and compensating. Do a door stretch - stand in a doorway, put your elbows on the door frame, and then lean forward so it stretches your pecs / chest. Loosening this will actually loosen your back muscles. Hope that helps.

Mark Weikert's picture

Thank you so much :) I will give this a shot!

I don't do wedding so i'm normally just carrying one body with a Black Rapid strap

BlackRapid is a bit problematic product. Single version gives a heavy load on one shoulder which makes your shoulders be off from the normal position. This means back pains. But, still, BlackRapid DR-1 which is dual strap, is a good product since it evens the weight of both setups on your both shoulders. Black Rapid makes nice products but there's few flaws they could fix and few they can't fix.

By Black Rapid user...

on weddings i wish i was female so id get by with a light summer dress rather than a suit.

well, not really. a light summer dress can blow around exposing parts you don't want exposed and you can't get into strange positions for the same reason. and forget bending over to pick up something on the ground. lightweight pants are best.

Adam T's picture

My back savior is great, is called an apprentice, low cost and they carry everything you need.

Hit the gym! Work on that core and plyometrics.

Trevor Dayley's picture

There is no denying I need to hit the gym. :)

;) Sonders and I were talking about how hitting the gym has improved our ability to carry more gear and deal with shoots longer without pain ;)

Jason Vinson's picture

if you want to be pain free then you need to watch this....

http://www.creativelive.com/courses/maintaining-your-body-kelly-starrett

pretty much all the info in the above link can be found for free at http://www.mobilitywod.com/episodes/ if you dont want to pay for it, although a little more scattered around since its a bunch of individual videos. (look for the free videos, there are more then a years worth once you get past the newer paid ones)

as far as feet go. don't think big bulky hiking boots and gel orthotic insoles. think light weight flat shoes. walking around with dress shoes and hiking boots with a heel on them cause your calves and Achilles to never be able to fully extend and therefore causing them to become tight and painfull. it would be like walking around without being able to fully extend your arm all day. Also, for every pound you add to your feet, you are adding 10 pounds of added pressure on your lower back. in the above link search for feet, ankles, and calves and start smashing.

for upper back/neck the main problem is going to be bad posture and then the camera is exasperating it even further over the course of the day. If you have bad posture then you probably have tight and tacked down muscles holding you in the bad position by now, so again, look at the above site and search for Tspine and shoulder videos. and yes, if you can get the camera off your neck at least until you fix your bad position that would be helpful.

Oh very good information Trevor. Trust me, we photographers abuse our bodies for our craft. Currently, I have been diagnosed with three annular tears that my doctors and physical therapists are sure I did to myself while doing a 2 hour newborn session.

Hovering over a newborn (or any poor posture) for an extended period of time can really do damage. Not to mention the financial impact it can have.

After an MRI and many doctor appointments (I have a Neurologist now too) I am now limited to being able to lift less than 5 lbs for the rest of 2013. I'm only allowed water therapy, no exercising on dry land at all. Walking is limited to necessity walking only, likewise, unnecessary bending is a no-no.

I had this newborn session 3 years ago. Sure I had severe back pain that day and drove home in tears, but I had no idea what I had done. I rested for two days, took copious amounts of Tylenol and felt better and moved on. I didn't listen to my body. I just thought that photography was getting tougher on my (now) 48 year old body. I just figured that's how it was for everybody.

So, bottom line is that I am thrilled that you are posting these articles. It's so important to implement products that assist in keeping less stress on your body. Your body is the most important piece of equipment we have. Don't end up like me, fighting to not end up in a wheelchair before the age of 50. <3

Another preventative for the chaffing is; and I'm not joking, "Fresh Balls"

Its great, i'm quite the fan.

http://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Balls-Lotion-The-Solution/dp/B00A8OGM5A/ref=...

It doesn't matter if I shoot a wedding, or a 1 hour family portrait, after it's over and I'm on my way home the middle of my back right between my shoulder blades just KILLS me. I've tried different things to try and keep it from happening: Black rapid strap across my body, hand strap, rolling bag, Shootsac...and nothing seems to help. So the only explanation I can come up with is that it must be stress or tension built up there?! I also seem to get short of breath while I'm shooting...because in all honestly, I still get pretty nervous at the beginning of every shoot.
I haven't figured out how to fix or help it yet :( Anyone else get anything like this?

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