To go along with the new look blog I’ve decided to be a bit more pro-active and write some articles on here alongside posting the odd photo or two. Every* Friday, which I’ve now called ‘Freelance Friday’, I’ll post something about working as a freelancer that, fingers crossed, will have a few helpful bits of information.
So welcome to the first post in the series! There are so many areas of freelancing that could be covered I thought I’d tackle one which isn’t really talked about (and, depending on feedback, could signal the end before the series has even started) – health and fitness. There’ll be a few themes that’ll carry through most of the posts, one of which is that freelancing is a long term career; a long term career your health can influence quite heavily. Every day you’re off sick or laid up in bed with a bad back is a day you can’t earn money. Long term chronic health issues are more of a threat to your earning potential than a shrinking magazine industry (also with less work around you want to be ready whenever a job comes up).
Working as a photographer (unlike Jake, above, who’s a personal trainer) brings about some unique strains on your body that, over the years, can cause niggling injuries and pain. Most of us have a large rucksack that we hulk around job to job generally packed with not-particularly-light kit. Last time I weighed mine it came in at around 15kg – on the face of it not too heavy but remember that all that weight will be concentrated along the straps over your shoulders (not to mention that it won’t be static, it’ll sway as you walk). I know too many photographers with back problems – which leads to back operations – thanks to a long career loaded up like a pack horse. So the first thing to look at is your bag. Is it comfortable? Does it sit on your back in a balanced way? It really is an area that spending a bit more will save you a lot over the years so try bags before you buy and find one that feels right for you and your needs.
There are other preventative ways of protecting yourself. It might not be obvious but working as a photographer is physically demanding whichever field you find yourself in. You’ll spend a lot of time carrying bags, cases, backdrops, props, brides… OK maybe not the last one, but you get the idea, we carry a lot of gear and sometimes over long distances. Simply having a good level of fitness and health will be beneficial. It also opens up job opportunities – I know art editors who book photographers partly on their photographic abilities but also partly on the fact that it’s an hour bike ride to the shoot location. While this is more the extreme end there’ll always be more work for photographers that can say yes.
We need to look at where the strain is placed – predominantly your back, shoulders and neck (carrying a couple of DSLRs for hours on end can strain the small stabilising muscles at the base of your neck). A lot of these muscle groups are common problem areas for a lot of people simply because once they are damaged it’s very hard to heal them effectively – all three are in continuous use to support you when you walk or sit. Strengthening, relaxing and stretching are all worthwhile activities. If you drive a lot you can add your legs to this (common ‘back’ ache from driving is more a tightening of your glutes and hamstrings than back issues). These are all areas that we can strengthen and protect (through stretching) – much like you would if you were playing sports. It’s far easier to prevent injuries than it is to heal injuries. A lot of strengthening and stretching can be done at home with no equipment so there isn’t a cost factor.
Most photographers care about their kit knowing that without it they can’t do the job – it’s worth having the same due diligence when it comes to our own bodies as well.
Come back next Freelance Friday for amazing** facts and tips on your workflow!
*may not be every Friday…
**may not be amazing…