The Big Picture: Photography & Arthritis – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck


No one wants to have to give up their favorite pastimes or hobbies, much less a career, because of arthritis.

So, photo-bugs of the amateur and professional photog levels alike, no need to fear!

A guide to arthritis-friendly photography is here!

If arthritis in your fingers and hands makes it difficult to take photos due to trouble holding or manipulating a camera and all its parts, here are some suggestions to keep up with the “big picture.”

Here are some ideas gathered from APUG (Analog Photography Users Group), Livestrong, and Eldergadget.

  • Get a camera with larger controls (i.e. power button, shutter control button, mode selection switch, flash, and so on.) These buttons and switches or dials can be teeny-tiny, so if you have arthritis, seeking out a model with larger and more user-friendly buttons, controls, and parts may be in your best interest.
  • Make sure you choose a camera that is easy-to-hold! There are many different types of cameras including small point-and-shoot camera and the larger SLR models. SLR cameras can be bulky, so for someone with bad pain or limited strength in the hands, a smaller point-and-shoot option may be ideal.
  • Carry your camera with an ergonomic camera case or bag. Some camera bags come with a neck strap. If you have arthritis in the neck or shoulders, this may be painful, so you may need to look for a different type – maybe one on wheels or one that goes across your back. For the smaller cameras, many cases have a wrist strap – make sure that it isn’t too uncomfortable on your wrist, or, figure out another way to hold and carry your camera.
  • Consider camera weight when purchasing a camera.
  • Use a tripod when need be.
  • Seek out a durable camera: According to Eldgergadget.com, “Clumsiness can affect anyone. Seniors, unfortunately, must deal with ailments like arthritis that can decrease dexterity and put fragile electronic equipment, such as digital cameras, at risk. Luckily there are a number of digital cameras on the market that are built for durability.”
  • Consider using your iPhone: it may sound crazy, but the built in digital camera with flash takes great photos and is likely easier to manipulate than traditional cameras if you have dexterity issues or pain.

If you love photography, but you absolutely cannot operate a camera any longer, you can enjoy photography by purchasing photography books and coffee table books, by reminiscing over old family photos, by visiting photography blogs and exhibits, or by trying out being on the other side of the camera: models of all ages, races, weights, and physical abilities are needed all the time for different projects!

If you do choose to continue keeping up with your photography, Dr. Nathan Wei, M.D., FACP, FACR, suggests remembering your arthritis when taking photos. “Being a photographer is a set-up for neck pain,” he says. Minimize lifting, carrying and lugging around bulky photography equipment if you are a professional photographer. He suggests taking breaks often and not keeping your neck in the same position for extended periods of time. “Heavy photography vests can lead to neck pain. Try to use a  pack that places most of the load on your hips and avoid heavy loads altogether if you have a neck problem,” he says. Another option is to have a photography assistant – often college photography students will do this for free – who can help you carry your camera and equipment. Dr. Wei also says that photography can cause shoulder and back pain. “When you work with your arms held in one position, and especially if you work with your arms above shoulder level,  you can cause or worsen pain. He suggests stretching exercises of the shoulder before and after your shoot, and the same goes for the elbow.  Most of all, just exercise caution. Squatting, bending, laying, and kneeling for extended periods of time may be fine for some photographers, but if you are dealing with arthritis, this could worsen symptoms – so just be smart!

Arthritis doesn’t have to be the end of your favorite hobbies, such as photography. And: arthritis can even make for a photography subject!  Professional photographer Jodi McKee started the Portrait Project of people who are living with RA! Also, there is a “Show Us Your Hands” Photo Project of arthritic hands that anyone can contribute to – not to mention countless of arthritis survivors out there who have managed to blossom into wonderful amateur and professional photographers!

If you are a photographer who lives with arthritis or chronic pain, please feel free to share your story by leaving a comment, below!

Stay Well,

Ashley Boynes-Shuck

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Arthritis is Unacceptable.

2 thoughts on “The Big Picture: Photography & Arthritis – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

  1. Pingback: Arthritis at the Beach – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck « Wellness With a Side of Life, Please

  2. Hi! I’m a photographer with rheumatoid arthritis. My back aches SO bad after even shooting for an hour. I literally sleep all day until my photoshoots in the evening. Is there a camera strap or harness you might recommend that could help?

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