I have been working for 33 years; The first half as a radiographer and the last half to current day as a photographer.
Both jobs are physically demanding, but running a photographic business is so much more tiring because of the added emotional, financial and administrative stresses. Being a sole trader requires me to perform many tasks.
When I started photography in 1997 the demands on our physical health were a lot less. We shot film, albeit on heavier medium format cameras (with tripods), but once the film was shot the lab did the processing. We used assistants and had a trolley for the gear.
These days working as a sole trader in the digital era, where everyone is a photographer, many photographer’s have cut costs to make ends meet; and it will be at the expense of our health.
We are photographer, photoshopper, business manager, marketer, administrative manager, studio cleaner, on top of family commitments the demands on our bodies are relentless. Ever increasing numbers of new photographers in the market has lead many photographers do more for less. We have collectively let the market dictate what we should do to get paid. We shoot all day weddings! No morning or afternoon tea break or lunch hour for us…We soldier on regardless. We have actually chosen this model! Why? We just accept that is what we need to do! Really?
I can safely say I have only done ONE 12 hour wedding shoot, and it took my body weeks to recover!
And it is not just weddings; we are asked to shoot long days for conference and event work often without a break. Family portrait photographers shooting all day… gotta love squatting for hours on end!
….and if we are not shooting we are sitting at a computer for hours and hours photo-shopping and doing administrative tasks.
BUT, there is a better way to do it. Charge what you are worth, to enable a second shooter/assistant, outsource the post-production and dictate the terms of the job, so you are not crippled by it afterwards. It is accumulative, you know!
I would hazard a guess that most sole traders do you not have a
Workplace Health and Safety Policy
My W,H & S Policy is thus:
I will not squat for hours on end, and only do photography standing or seated. But seriously, I use a monopod for event photography, it is a must, or I have the gear on a tripod and shoot remotely. I only carry one camera at a time and on big jobs I employ and assistant to look after the gear. I always use a bag with wheels and a trolley if I have lighting etc.
When you hear W, H & S and I can see the eyes roll and yawns stifle…..
I joke about W,H & S to my clients all the time, when I’m standing on a stool to doing corporate head shots or lying on my stomach in a damp park photographing babies and toddlers.
I also hazard a guess that not many photographers have Income Protection Insurance, either. It is so expensive!
We need to look after ourselves!
Stop it! Stop being silly! Say No to crazy hours. It will ruin your body.
But prevention is the key to lasting good health. We need to stay fit to be a photographer, but how many of us actually maintain a regular fitness regime? Have you got the time if your shooting 12 hour days and not charging what you should to get the job done.
I am 53 (believe it or not :-P) and running a photography business for the last 19 years has caught up with me and most of my jobs until recently were only 6-8 hours in length…:
Upper back pain
Tennis elbow (to be renamed Photographer’s Elbow)
‘Photoshop’ finger and tendon
A recurring adductor thigh muscle tear
Added to that is the emotional stress with dealing with people’s egos on a daily basis, creative block, dealing with emotionally charged jobs like wedding photography, or jobs with very tight deadlines, VIP’s and budgets, technological stresses, and general day-to-day running business stresses and making sure you have down time and family time, too.
Photography isn’t ergonomic! Who ever thought it would be a good idea
to run around with several kilos on each shoulder
with one arm raised at shoulder level, all day?
Yes, I know there are devices to help carry the burden of two DSLR cameras, and they can help enormously, but its better to have enough profit in the job to pay an assistant to look after the gear. Insist that they have their own insurance when employing them as sub-contractors and if employing them through your business, then you need to organise worker’s compensation insurance.
People go into photography thinking its all about the creativity and the art, not how physically taxing it is.
Think about it. With governments reducing pensions, increasing the retirement age and fiddling with superannuation we need to look after ourselves but also maybe think about how your work, for your better health, now and later in life.