Fitness for Photographers: 3 Common Movements Photographers Make & Exercises to Strengthen Them

As a fitness professional and Olympic athlete turned photographer, my eye is as attuned to proper movement as it is to elegant composition. So when I began shooting regularly at Bee Fearless Studios in Atlanta, it only took a day or two for me to notice the repetitive movements that photographers often perform improperly. These movements — squatting, lunging, bending, just to name a few — can, and often do, lead to so-called “overuse injuries” later in life, the same type which require joint replacements and arthritis treatments.

I’m in my early thirties as I write this, but I have no desire to replace any joints or be in chronic pain at any point in my life. So I put my NASM personal training certification to use and began taking notes of the repetitive movements I saw and performed every day. Then, I started implementing them into my fitness routine with the aim of strengthening and stabilizing those positions.

I know most photographers don’t have a professional sports career to worry about, but the physical demands of the job can lead to injuries all the same. Most of the time, though, the poorly performed repetitive movements which lead to injury aren’t addressed until years down the road, when simply getting out of bed requires an aspirin tablet.

Let Your Movements Do The Talking

One of the first things I learned about in my college kinesiology courses was the importance of letting your movements dictate your training. The movements you regularly make, like the arm swing of pitching a baseball, or the upward arm curl of bringing your camera to your eye, should all be incorporated into your exercise routine. Focusing on fitness and functional movement is the day-to-day reality of an athlete and the secret to longevity in any sport, but I have a hunch that it’s an overlooked secret to longevity in a photography career as well

Between contorting our bodies to nail the perfect shot, or moving equipment for 10 hours on-set (both of which I’m now doing frequently), being a photographer is as physical as it is artistic. Unfortunately, regular exercise often gets overlooked in favor of the more typical creative demands of the job, making it easy to neglect your body until it can no longer do the things that once came easily. But by then, it’s too late.

Or is it?

I wholeheartedly believe that the human body is capable of regaining function lost due to injury, overuse, or other physical ailments if we provide it with the proper environment to do so.

As an athlete, I train and compete knowing that the potential for injury comes with the territory. With that in mind, I work proactively to decrease the likelihood of injury actually happening. But all of my efforts would be worthless if I didn’t believe in my potential for recovery.

Should injury arise — as it did for me while training for my second Olympics — the rehabilitation process starts from the ground up. What began with the most basic of exercises progressed into more complex movements, and I continued doing the fundamentals long after I regained full function. This allowed me to return to the track stronger than I left.

I believe the same approach can be taken in a photographer’s career. While it may be true that some injuries cannot be completely resolved without medical intervention, the prevalence of many can be lessened or prevented altogether by using movement as its own form of preventative medicine. 

The Exercises

With that in mind, here are the 3 fundamental movements I find myself doing whenever I have a camera in my hand, and exercises you can use to strengthen them (read: make them easier to do). As you review them, keep in mind 3 things:

  • This list is not exhaustive by any means, it’s simply a starting point. There are countless movements that we do regularly, all of which can be improved.
  • While there are multiple ways to do these movements improperly (which you may be doing already), there are also multiple variations to do them safely. What I’m presenting is just a single example for each.
  • For each exercise, only go as low as you can with good form and without pain. Follow the cues, and work within your body’s ability level. Do not push through pain and progress will eventually come.
  • The Squat 

    You’ll notice experienced photographers doing this to get level with their subject. Beginning from a standing position, keep your weight planted over your heels. Then, engage your core while sitting your butt back and squatting down. To visualize “engaging your core”, imagine the bracing you might do if someone was about to punch you in the stomach.

    Do 3 sets of 10.

    The Side Lunge

    Perfect for nailing those tricky angles, while not losing your balance in the process. Shooting in a studio setting often means maneuvering around stands and other modifiers while maintaining focus on your subject. The side lunge is clutch in these situations. From the starting position, engage your glutes as you hinge at the hips while stepping to the side. Like the other movements, keep your weight planted over heel, and return to the starting position under control.

    Complete 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.

    The Reverse Lunge

    Replace your kneeling with lunging and your knees will thank you. The reverse lunge allows you to maintain your distance from your subject while getting level with them. This means that unlike lunging forward, you won’t have to adjust your focal length while changing positions, allowing you to keep shooting.

    Do 3 sets of 10 on each side. 

    Feeling the burn yet? 

    Try doing these exercises 2-3 times per week. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to maintain your stability behind the camera, and shoot for longer durations without fatigue.

    In Health,


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