self-care for wedding photographers: part 1

On the list of luxuries that I wish I could afford regularly is, without a doubt, a weekly massage. 🙂 As wedding photographers, we are in a seasonal industry that requires 8-12 hour days on our feet while holding and supporting bulky camera gear, sometimes 2 days in a row. So as spring and summer wedding season ramps up, I wanted to be prepared this year! Knowing how to stretch appropriately before, during and after a long shoot will hopefully make our jobs more enjoyable, sustainable and less exhausting.

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I’m so excited to share this guest blog post that my dear friend Claire, owner of Claire Taylor Wellness, and an incredibly talented massage therapist, has put together in the hopes that it makes the physical aspect of our work a bit less daunting on our bodies! This is her first guest post but definitely won’t be her last, so make sure you follow the blog to benefit from future advice and tips on stretching and pain management! Take it away, Claire…

When Naomi asked me to write a post addressing the common physical aches and pains of working photographers, and specifically wedding photographers, she explained that the problems most photographers have are with wrist, arm and hand pain after holding a camera for hours at a time, and leg pain from standing all day. I thought, perfect! As a massage therapist, my most common complaints are wrist, arm and hand pain from rubbing people’s bodies for hours at a time, and leg pain from standing all day. And also some back pain. And neck aches. Really everything hurts. Working is hard! I don’t know about you, but after a long day, I want to come home and collapse on the couch, or even straight into bed. The last thing I want to do is take the time and energy to stretch and soothe my body. Self-care is so necessary, but so tough to keep up with in a regular fashion. With that in mind, I have a few tips for stretches and exercises you can do while on the job to keep your body loose, as well as a few to incorporate into an at-home self care routine. A future post will tackle upper body muscle pain, but today let’s start with the legs and feet.

While Working:

The good news is that photographers move around a lot during a wedding, which helps keep your blood flowing and reduces your likelihood of developing significant swelling in your feet and ankles. But whether moving or standing still, being on your feet all day can lead to lower body tightness and muscle pain.

First off, be sure to wear comfortable, supportive shoes.

When you feel your legs growing sore, try a few deep knee bends. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and squat down and touch your butt to your heels, and stand back up again. Repeat a few times to loosen up your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thighs) and hips. Don’t feel comfortable squatting down around the wedding party? You can get a similar effect by standing on one leg and bringing your opposite heel to your butt, bending your knee, and then with your knee still bent, bringing your knee toward your chest. Repeat that motion a few times and then switch legs.

To stretch and loosen the backs of your legs, all you need is a wall:

plantar flexor stretch

Stand about 2 feet away from a wall and place your hands against the wall to brace yourself. Move one foot back further away from the wall so that you come into a lunge position. Keeping the heel of your back foot firmly planted on the ground, lean your chest toward the wall, bending your front knee slightly as needed to bring your chest as close to the wall as comfortably possible. You should feel the stretch down the entirety of your back leg. Hold the stretch for a bit and then switch legs. The stretch will feel most pronounced in your calf and lower leg.

At Home:

When the workday is done, take a few minutes to give your lower body the full stretch and release it really needs with this stretch that targets your entire back body from foot to spine.

standing knee flexor stretch

Stand with your legs spread to a comfortable distance, one leg a few feet in front of the other. With your front leg straight and the knee of your back leg slightly bent, bend at your hips so that the top half of your body comes over your front leg, with your hands reaching toward the floor on either side of your foot. To intensify the stretch, push your back heel firmly down into the ground and gently bring your chest closer to touch your front knee. Switch legs.

The following stretches will help to ease lower back by releasing tension in the hips, glutes and muscles of the lower back and pelvic region.

hip rotator stretch.jpg

Sit comfortably on the floor with one leg extended. Bend the knee of your opposite leg and cross it over the extended leg, placing your foot flat on the floor beside the knee of your extended leg. Take the arm from the same side of the body as your extended leg and position it on the outside of your bent knee, so that your elbow and knee rest against each other. Use your other arm to brace yourself against the floor, and while pushing your elbow against your bent knee, twist the top of your body toward your bent knee, keeping your butt planted as firmly as possible on the floor. The force of your elbow against your knee while your butt stays flat on the ground is what creates the stretch. Switch sides.

hip and back extensor stretch.jpg

Lie comfortably on your back with your legs extended. Keep one leg flat, and bend your other knee and bring it toward your chest. Grab your bent leg behind the knee with both hands and gently pull your knee down toward your chest as far as possible while keeping your opposite leg flat on the floor. Switch legs.

Lastly, soothe your sore, tired feet by taking a golf ball (or tennis ball if you need a less intense sensation) and slowly and gently rolling the bottom surface of your foot over the ball. Pay extra attention to your heels and arches to release tension that can lead to plantar fasciitis and other foot conditions.

If it’s been an especially long and exhausting day, try an Epsom salt bath to reduce muscle soreness and reduce swelling and inflammation.

The most important thing is to remember to take care of yourself. When your work involves dedicating your time and energy to benefiting others, it is very easy to let your own health and well-being take a back seat. Our capacity to serve our clients and perform our jobs to the best of our ability, is only improved by taking time for our own self-care. I encourage you to incorporate these techniques into your regular self-care routine, and stay tuned for more suggestions to come that will target upper body aches and pains!

{Images from Stretching Anatomy; Second Edition. Nelson, Arnold G. & Kokkonen, Jouko.}

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