Damp, hungry, and stiff. Part III

wedding photography

Romance and rotator cuff injuries.

Read Part I here.

Read Part II here.

By the time the formal photos are done, the ceremony and cocktail hour are over, and dinner is served, my back and shoulders are screaming. 

I’ve learned that if I don’t stretch at least once a day for the week leading up to the job, I pay for it. I spend most of the wedding day bearing the cumulative weight of two cameras, flashes, lenses, batteries, and sometimes a tripod or flash bracket. After the first 6 hours or so, my lower back has hardened like coal into a diamond. 

damp, hungry, and stiff - Johnny Knight Photo
I spend a lot of time on my knees in dress pants. Photo by Michelle Kaffko

In my early days of shooting weddings, I didn’t have a car, so on more than one occasion I compounded the physical challenge by lugging all of my cameras and lights on public transportation. Note to wedding novices: don’t do that. Not only will your shoulders and lower back burst into flames, but every other passenger on the train or bus will give you the stinkeye for blocking their path to the exit.

Uber and Lyft drivers don’t much care for clearing out their trunks to make room for gear, either. Rent a car.

I’ve experienced chronic muscle spasms and inflamed discs in addition to my increasingly long periods of soreness after each wedding. I’ve spent a lot of time with physical therapists and massage professionals. 

They have taught me some stretches to keep my hips, back, and neck from seizing up. I’m supposed to do these stretches every day, ideally twice a day. But come on. Free time doesn’t grow on trees.

So when I get a break, I disengage from my gear, find a quiet corner, and do five minutes of quasi-yoga. Sometimes while eating. 

This quick, clandestine stretch helps a little, but it’s no substitute for doing real yoga on a daily basis. You’d think with my history of stress injuries, I’d get a little more proactive about stretching. 


I dance with the grace of a stick figure. This kid didn’t want to be seen with me. Photo by Michelle Kaffko.

I know a slightly older photographer whose back is so excruciatingly tight after shooting events that he has to take prescription sedatives just to get to sleep. If I don’t get a daily yoga routine in place soon, that could be me.

Wedding photography isn’t for wusses. When you hire someone to shoot your big day, take a moment to respect how tough they have to be. Those beautiful pictures only exist because the photographer is willing to sacrifice their body. 

That said, I’ve never once complained about it to a client on the wedding day. (Principle #2: Reduce stress for others.) Even when I’m experiencing multiple levels of grossness and pain, my role is to remain outwardly dignified. 

And somehow, I still love doing it. Even after 8 hours, when my back is brittle concrete, it’s a cozy feeling to see the wedding couple slow dancing to the last song of the night. You have to admit, this is not a normal job.

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