Any professional photographer can instantly tell what the person
in this picture is doing wrong. Can you?
Hint: look at the camera strap.
The quickest way to tell an amateur with a fancy DSLR from a pro
before they even begin shooting is to watch where they hang their
When I was just a baby photographer in college, I hung my strap
from my neck and an older, wiser student named Ray Whitehouse nearly jumped
out of his skin setting me straight. Pros hang their straps from
their shoulders for some very good reasons.
Amateurs put it over their necks, like the woman in the photo.
Now every time I see shooters with their gear dragging on
their necks like medieval torture devices — which is pretty much
anytime I see anyone with an expensive camera — I wince.
The first and most important reason for this is back pain.
Cameras are heavy — especially when they have top-tier lenses
attached. And they’re a lot to haul around even if you’re
carrying them properly. If you carry them wrong, however, they
can do real damage.
When I shoot a news story or wedding I hardly stop moving. I
might chase a shot down to the floor and up to my feet and
then climb a chair — all in the span of 30 seconds. And
then I’ll likely repeat those motions without a break for
the next eight hours. If I tried to do that with a $2,000
pendulum flailing wildly from one of the weakest points on my
spine I’d have to file for disability after my first day of
But even if you tend to stay still while you take pictures, your
neck is a terrible appendage to carry a camera around. Think
about it: we rarely hang heavy objects on our precious
c-spines, which lets us move around freely. Even the
weight of your head can hurt when you tilt it for too long
while on the phone. So imagine swinging a small backpack
with a laptop, textbook and water bottle from your neck all
day. That’s about how much damage a five-and-a-half pound
D800-long lens combo will do. Even if your camera is on the
smaller side, you’re still doing damage, but it’ll take place
Maybe you say, “I don’t care about my body! I’m an artist. I
just want the camera as close to my face as possible for that
Again, you’ll do better hanging your camera from your shoulders.
A camera swinging from your neck takes a two-handed motion to
grab, stabilize, and bring up to your face. But if you let it
rest against your hip you can catch it mid-swing, lift, aim and
shoot in a single fluid motion like an old-school movie cowboy.
Plus, shoulder-strapping lets you dual-wield cameras
with different capabilities. I’ve never met a pro who does
it any other way. In fact, all the most expensive professional
straps on the market (including
the one I use and
the one I wish I used) are purpose-built to assist that
One final tip: hang the camera so the lens points inward toward
your body. A lens sticking out will torque your shoulder and
bang into things, risking damage. An inward-facing camera is just
as easy to grab and causes the least pain and risk.
Do all that, and you might even get mistaken for an expert.
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