Holding heavy camera taking its toll on my small hands, any suggestions on braces or tools to use to take some load off?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by fuccisphotos, Sep 27, 2010.

  1. Hi All,
    So I'm now shooting almost every weekend, and am noticing that the weight of shooting with my 24-70L and the 580EX flash is starting to take a toll on my right hand (particularly my middle finger). I'm trying to do a better job of supporting the camera with my left hand, and did one outdoor event recently using my monopod all day trying to take some of the load off, but that didn't really seem to do the trick. Are there any wrist/finger braces you use, or maybe taping techniques or additional equipment you use or means of holding the camera that take the load off? Any suggestions are much appreciated. I'm only 29 and don't want to be giving myself a lifetime of arthritis in my hands if there is some easy solution to this problem that isn't, stop being a photographer.
  2. I would look into hand straps- The only thing is I know a lot of the time they require a battery grip (i.e http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/12984-REG/Canon_2344A001.html) which will only add to the weight, but it's possible you can find one without the need for that.... But I don't know too much about them, maybe someone else on here does
  3. Even though brackets add weight, many also provide extra handholds and ways to carry the camera in your left hand.
  4. Just get more used to providing more/most of your support by cradling the lens with your left hand. That will let you ease up on the death drip you're using with your right.
  5. Maybe try carrying the camera in your hands less when not shooting - use a holster, strap, whatever.
  6. Vail, what camera/cameras do you use and how many hours do you shoot?
  7. I have one of my best friends hold my camera whenever possible. My best friend is a carbon fiber tripod (ok, I don't get out much). But seriously, a good, lightweight tripod is one of the best investments I ever made. Even if you don't like shooting on a tripod, it is still someplace to put the camera while not in use, say getting a group together or even just walking down the street- in which case you can just put the tripod on your shoulder.
  8. I am large, with large hands, but I have tendinitis in both wrists, and shooting a heavy camera hand-held for hours has been uncomfortable. Two things have helped: downgrading to a lighter DSLR, and working with weights when I'm not shooting. As to working with weights, please don't do it based on advice here, see a doctor and/or a physical therapist first.
    I had trouble with wrist straps because the one I tried it difficult to use the thumb controls on Nikon. Might be different on Canon.
  9. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    But seriously, a good, lightweight tripod is one of the best investments I ever made.​
    This is the Wedding Forum. A tripod is usually not viable at a reception, where space can be tight, people are moving around a lot, and the photographer needs to be nimble.
  10. It sounds like constantly gripping the camera is the problem, so tape or braces isn't going to help. The hand strap may help, if just so you can loosen your grip. Consciously letting the camera hang on a strap or loosely from the hand strap at times will help. A small flash bracket might help, just as another grip for the left hand. You can get a cheap L bracket and put your trigger on the end, instead of the flash. You will also be surprised how a simple L bracket can help improve your steadiness with slower shutter speeds, particularly for verticals.
    The fact that your middle finger hurts tells me that you are using it to support the weight of the rig, instead of distributing the weight. Consciously relearning how to hold the camera might be in order, as well.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    More detailed description of your hand holding technique, is required.
    If the middle finger of your right hand is hurting then one possibility is you are holding your camera in an unusual fashion.
    The weight of the camera when held is usually taken on the left hand, unless shooting one handed.
    What finger do you use to release the shutter? - If the middle fingers this could be the cause.
    If your middle finger relatively short it could be tiring from extending to address the zoom or focus turret?
    Also many photographers tire, simply because they keep the camera at the "at ready" position far too long and do not move the arm and hand around enough.
    Also many photographers grip (with both hands) far too hard.
    With a two hand grip, the camera literally rests on and sideways against the ball of the left hand.
  12. I am not medical in any way but it sounds like you need to take the advice of a pro - a physiotherapist. Might be worth the investment. I am off to see a back cruncher in the next couple of weeks - I have realised I simply carry too much gear around. Experience seems to be reducing the amount I carry but I still like to throw in things like a few graduated ND's for the few occasions I actually use them at a wedding.
  13. So I figured showing how I am holding it might help. Keep in mind, it might be slightly different because I did this on a timer trying to get this shot of myself. But I experienced the same pain in the finger when I did it. I definitely rely WAY more on my right hand than my left. I use a Demb flash bracket when I'm shooting weddings. So when I'm not shooting I sometimes hold it by the bracket.
    I usually shoot for 6-10 hours at a time. Typical wedding hours.
    The second shot is of how I would hold it if I have to do a quick shot I notice something going on, or say if I'm holding it high above me with a single hand. I currently shoot with the T1i and am happy to say I have earned enough to finally in the next few weeks purchase the 5DMkII.
  14. Your last example, with more of the rig's mass in your left hand, it going to make the difference. It's also going to result in much better stability (and thus cleaner shots).
  15. This is the Wedding Forum​
    I know, I am a wedding photographer.
    A tripod is usually not viable at a reception, where space can be tight, people are moving around a lot, and the photographer needs to be nimble​
    You have missed my point. There are plenty of times throughout the day where it is nice to just have someplace to rest the camera instead of holding it all day. In these situations, a lightweight tripod is your friend. I personally believe that using a tripod at a wedding is a very good technique to adapt, but that's another story. Do I use a tripod at the reception? I sure do. It is where my camera is resting between activities, say eating or using the facilities. I use a tripod with a remote shutter release to get my macro shots of the rings, usually done at the reception. Far easier than doing it hand held! Depending on coverage, I might keep a third camera handy on the tripod with the 180mm lens. I typically don't shoot with the camera on a tripod at the reception (although I have), but again, nice to have. In the shot below I have my usual two cameras strapped to my body: the 11-16 and the 50mm @ the reception. The 180mm was on the tripod in the corner; I brought it out during the toasts and this was captured during the bride's father speech. Again, it's nice to have something to hold a camera. That is my point.
  16. Consider weight-lifting to increase your arm strength...
    Until you manage to support the camera-lens-flash bracket-flash in your left hand, you will continue to over-stress your right hand. There is not a simple solution to your problem, save getting a Leica M6 body and a single Leica lens to shoot your weddings.
  17. The assumption that the manifestation of pain in the middle finger suggests poor hand-holding technique is not valid. There is a tendon that runs all the way from the middle finger, through the wrist and into the forearm. My problem is there. That is why I am suggesting that Vail see a physician, specifically an orthopedist or rheumatologist.
    That said, using one hand to hold a heavy camera and lens is very tough, particularly if your hands are small
  18. Hector--I don't think the middle finger pain suggest poor hand holding technique. Now that Vail tells us she uses a Demb flash bracket to shoot weddings with, it becomes a bit clearer to me what is happening. It seems to me, the middle finger is being called upon to hold the weight of the rig upright. With the Demb bracket, the flash is positioned forward of the camera, so the tendency is for the weight of the flash and lens to pull the whole thing forward and downward.
    Actually, a 5DMkII might make a bit of difference, being bigger and heavier. Now, the weight is all in the lens and flash, as described above. I still think gripping the camera less (when you aren't shooting) and consciously relearning holding the camera will help. I still don't think taping or braces will help. Whether a visit to the doctor will help is a question mark, but I think seeing what one can do before such a visit is worthwhile.
  19. Have you considered using (if you have access to one) a smaller lens? This kind of thing was (one of several) reasons why we rejected the 24-70mm f2.8 in favour of (in Nikon Land) a 35mm f2, 50mm f1.4, etc.
  20. This is the epic question for me really Simon. For parts of the reception I go around with the 50mm 1.8 on, just because I love the effects I get from it, and frankly to give my hand a bit of a break, but while I'm getting better at zooming in and out with my feet, there are times I just can't beat the advantages of a zoom over a prime. It keeps me from having to switch lens to lens to lens, or keep 2 - 3 bodies on me lensed up with different lenses.
    At my most recent wedding that I had my husband 2nd shooting with me, he tends to really like 50mm with the 480EX, and for a few minutes I had to switch bodies, and he had to use the 24-70 with the 580EX and he was flabbergasted at how much heaver the set up was.
    I'm sure the forum has probably had big debates before on the use of primes vs zooms at weddings.
  21. I found while shooting sports for my local newspaper that on long weekends of hitting wrestling, volleyball and then both boys and girls basketball at night that I was feeling a lot of the pain that you were feeling. In part it was due to my handholding technique. Though I was holding the camera and lens combo (Nikon D700 + 80-200mm f/2.8) properly I wasn't consciously using my left hand to really support the camera. I was gripping hard with my right hand and just sort of keeping my left hand in place. So, once I consciously made an effort to support with my left hand it took a lot of weight off of my right and the load was more evenly distributed.
    Perhaps just as important was working with a battery grip. Holding my camera in a constant portrait orientation caused me to crook my wrist at an angle so I was supporting basically the whole rig on my wrist. Putting on the grip and keeping my right hand in basically the same position when shooting in either orientation really helped a lot, despite the added weight of the grip.
  22. Vail, I shoot the Canon 1D MKIII and the 1Ds MKIII, usually with a 70-200L, but no on-camera flash. Almost all the weight of the rig is in my left hand cradled between my thumb and forefinger in the web of the hand, palm up. I can still zoom, touch up the focus and swing the camera and lens around. Very little of the weight is in my right hand and I am gripping it just hard enough to be stable and fire the shutter.
    If you try to handle the weight of the body and lens in your right hand only, your middle finger becomes the pivot point of that lens trying to tip downward.
    My elbows are together and my triceps and elbows are braced against my body to better distribute the weight. I also look around for anything to lean my body against such as a wall, post or beam. This allows for greater stability and it takes a lot of the tension out of my body. If things are happening fast, but my camera is down at waist level resting, I switch off which hand I am holding it allowing the other to relax. But, if I am going to take a quick shot, I always hold the camera in both hands.
    A good physical therapist can recommend exercises to help strengthen up your wrists
  23. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Hector: the "technique" with which a camera is held has to do with the position of the hands, also the wrists also the forearms also the shoulders and also the hips, for that matter.
    What is "not valid" is to assume that one can determine the cause of the pain so definitively with only a few written words, three posed photos and no physical examination or face to face interview.
    Vail: your three photos are helpful, but they do not show how your right arm is supported. Do usually have the elbow out or supported tucked into you body?
    In photos 1 and 2 there is a lot of stress (downward and forward twisting) on your right hand, wrist and arm. As pointed out anything on top of the camera (and foreward of it) will add to that weight and twisting force.
    Although the 3rd photo shows the left and giving support, the left hand still appears stressed.
  24. I'm sure the forum has probably had big debates before on the use of primes vs zooms at weddings.​
    I'm sure there have been many such debates. For me, a zoom is too slow in all senses, too heavy, too tiring, too slow max aperture, too slow to raise to my face when I'm tired. But if you're having trouble with hands aching, I would have thought it really would be a no-brainer.
  25. You might consider using the little Canon S90 some of the time. It would certainly provide relief, but also is much less intrusive and in-your-face than the Beast. Different tools give different opportunities, and the S90 has lots of good opportunities. Also, getting your left hand even farther out on the Beast's lens will help a lot. If you were simply carrying a big camera from one place to another you would not carry with both hands at one end, but with one hand at each end. Clearly this is an issue to solve earlier rather than later.
  26. Another vote for a hand strap. My main set up is the same as yours but with the added weight of the 1Ds (mk I). I feel your pain. Fortunately the 1Ds came with the hand strap. I think you would need a battery grip to make that work though. A battery grip alone could change things a great deal though even without the handstrap. Before I got my 1Ds I was shooting with a Rebel. I found that the smaller grip was causing me hand cramps as well.
  27. There are a few things I think no one has mentioned yet. The first is that your camera body is light (about 1 lb) and your lens is heavy (about 2 lbs). That means that the center of gravity is quite a bit forward. Actually the heavier the lens is in relation to the camera and the longer it is the further forward you need to hold.
    You should support all the weight of the camera with just your left hand because the right hand is not in a position where it can hold the camera for any duration (as you have found out). So for this to work the center of your palm should be under the center of gravity. And your palm should be facing up. Your elbows should be tucked in and braced against your body as GF Kramer described above.
    Problem is that because you need to zoom it is difficult to put your left hand in the right position for your camera body/lens combination.
    As the 5D MkII is heavier the balance will likely be better (more towards the camera body) but the total weight of the body and lens will go from 3 lbs to 4lbs. If you can't find a good way to operate your camera the added weight will make things worse.
    While you could improve your strength and and add straps and whatnot I think the primary problem is actually your hand holding technique.
    I suggest you try first to hold the camera just with your left and then add the right to press the shutter. See what fingers you need to operate the zoom with without compromising your grip.
  28. What is "not valid" is to assume that one can determine the cause of the pain so definitively with only a few written words, three posed photos and no physical examination or face to face interview.​
    That is why I am saying she should see a physician.
  29. I keep a wrist brace in my camera bag and when I know I will be shooting all day long, I put it on before I even start shooting. I do also use both hands to support the camera and when I am not shooting, I make a conscious effort to not hold the camera as I find your hands and fingers can get cramped and painful. On my last all day shoot when I came home I went to bed with a magnetic therapy wrist wrap and the next day I felt great.
  30. Everyone, thank you so very much for the suggestions. Being that my undergrad degree was in Bioengineering, you'd think I would have thought about the center of gravity issue. I think you are totally right, I need to get my left hand forward. Now that I have isolated that as a problem, I will try to more consciously take more weight on my left hand. I think that should make a big difference! Hopefully this forum has saved me from years of pain! You are the best!
  31. For over a dozen years I carried a camera, equivalent size lens, Vivitar 283 flash, and a Quatum 1+ mounted on a Stroboframe bracket and never had issues with the hands, wrist, etc.... I suspect that you're carrying extra tension/stress across these muscles resulting in some fatigue. as you relax and gain more confidence/comfort in your shooting then I suspect it will become much less of an issue. If not, you may have some pretty under-used hands/wrist muscles and you might benefit from some sports medicine-style OT or work with a personal trainer to...... uh, "pump you up"!
  32. The best bracing and support system is called "muscles and tendons", and it's made by the famed equipment manufacturer Vail Fucci.
    Learn the proper exercises to condition yourself for handling a camera. If necessary, get a PT/OT or physiologist to help you. Believe it or not, you can get your physician to refer you, quite easily. They'll probably have you on free weights, mostly curls...
  33. Hi Vail
    I wanted to chime in on your question as well. Personally I often shoot with a gripped Canon 50d and Canon ef 70-200 F2.8 so I can totally understand how you can get finger pain and possibly sore shoulders. I started shooting again 7 years ago and one thing I can tell you (now that I am in my mid 30's) is your body does go through a lot of changes. 3 years ago I did start seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist over some issues which turned out to be early repetitive stress injuries. The funny thing is even though I work in front of computers a lot it was the tiring of my muscles during the long shooting sessions which caused bad posture and holding technique.
    The solution which has worked for me:
    (1) Saw a a physio therapist for an exercise program to strengthen and protect my body.
    (2) Took up Yoga to increase flexibility and build supporting muscles.
    In my case I saw my physio therapist for a couple months to monitor my progress. It was worth the investment.
    Good Luck
  34. Solution:
  35. PS: ;-)
  36. Vail,
    Any job or hobby that takes a toll on a particular part of the body requires extra attention to that area in the form of stretching and strengthening. Event photography certainly is no different. You should consider some (regular) exercises focusing on your hands and arms. Also practice your holding technique. As already mentioned, position the left hand under the lens and allow it to support the lion's share of the weight. Use the right hand mostly for control and stability - but with an ample grip Also concentrate on making your ring and little finger bear some of the work.

    Adding a battery grip does add a bit of weight to your rig but you'd be surprised at how much control and comfort comes with it - especially when shooting in portrait. The grip will also allow you to install a hand strap if you like. A hand strap does add a certain amount of comfort (and confidence) to working with a heavy rig, but I found they can also get in the way. You will also find that the extra weight acts as stabilizer to help with camera shake.

    One other thing - check out the "BlackRapid" camera strap. (No, I'm not a salesman for them) Unlike a neck strap, the BlackRapid is COMFORTABLE. I bought one earlier this year and now wish I had gotten one when they first came out. My favorite venue is family reunions (the more people, the better), and this strap make it very easy to slip comfortably through crowds. When you're not actually shooting, you simply allow the whole rig to hang at you hip - which gives the hands and arms a rest. Bringing the camera up from the hip position for the next shot is amazingly fast and easy. They even make one specifically for the curves of a woman body.

    I won't go into its other advantages.
    You can check it out here: http://www.blackrapid.com/product/camera-strap/rs-w1/
    Let me add one caution about the BlackRapid strap system; screw the "connectR" tightly into the tripod threads of the camera and make sure to check it on a regular basis.
    I hope this helps. Good luck.
  37. Are there any wrist/finger braces you use, or maybe taping techniques or additional equipment you use or means of holding the camera that take the load off? Any suggestions are much appreciated.​
    "Wrist/Fingers braces" Nothing that I know of specific to photography, but there are braces or finger splints and wrist supports that you can buy at drug stores or department stores like Target or Wal Mart.
    You may want to look at something like the "Mueller Lifecare for Her Contour Wrist Plum" that will help give wrist support.
    You may also want to consult your doctor or consult a physical therapist to do some exercises and weight training to build muscle strength in your wrist and arms so your muscles are supporting the weight of the camera and not putting so much stress on joints and bones. They may have other suggestions. This may be covered under your medical insurance. At only 29, see what you can do now to prevent long term damage is worth it.
    Also consider a light weight mono-pod like a Manfrotto with a nice quick release ball swivel head. Very light, basically a collapsible stick that will not get in the way with crowds and will give you very stable shots, they adjust to your ideal shooting height and you save the wear and tear on your wrist. you can even keep the camera strap on with the mono-pod attached. I use one for shooting bands in clubs or walking around.
    I have also seen body harness supports the cinematographers use, but it might be a bit over the top for wedding photography. Your not shooting Star Wars. Still there may be some scaled down versions.
    If your business is picking up that much, consider hiring an intern/second shooter trainee, they work on the cheap, can handle some of the grunt work, but learn from you and gain experience. When you feel they are ready, they could work some jobs for you solo. It's a thought as you grow your business.
    Best of luck getting you hands feeling better.
  38. I developed hand pain not so much from holding the camera to shoot as just carrying it in my shooting hand--it put undue pressure on my index finger to carry it around in one hand, I believe. I found that adding the vertical grip and hand strap (from Kirk) was enough to relieve it and the pain has not troubled me since. This isn't the same issue as the one you describe, but it may point to a solution for you nonetheless.
  39. Vail, I have the exact same problem - index finger fatigue/stress on my right hand when shooting for hours. It started after I purchased a 24-70mm zoom for my Nikon D700 and shot a 10 hour wedding. Like you I started to wonder whether I could do this for a living at all.
    It's definately about the weight at the front of the camera and the index finger being the main support to keep it held up.
    I've decided it's a good reason to slow down, choose my shots more carefully and take fewer shots! Since I'm hyper-vigilant by nature and don't want to miss that all important shot, I tend to overshoot anyway - I'm the only one that suffers for that (in post-production).
    I'm finding that choosing my shots more carefully is making me a better photographer, the client gets better results and my index finger is far less stressed.
  40. Wow - I don't take weddings very often so that's probably part of why, but for me usually most of the weight is on my left hand. The right is really just to adjust and fire.
    Regardless, doesn't sound like a lot of fun...
  41. I have adapted a mono pod with a camera bracket (custom brackets that rotates the camera) to hold my nikon d700 with battery pack, 70-200 and Quantum Trio as well the Quantum Batterry. The manfrotto mono pod takes the load and I can easily walk around with it out of the way. Holding the mono pod is easier on my hands even when I have to lift it off the ground for some shots.
    I have a manfrotto quick release on the bottom of the bracket and when I remove it, i can still set the bracket with camera and flash on a table. It works for me.
    If you're interested, let me know and I can send you pictures of the setup.
  42. From your picgtures (the second especially) it looks to me like you are holding the camera mainly with the fingers and with the palm not pressed to the handgrip and if I am right then the middle finger will tend to take most of the strain. I have the palm of my hand firmly wrapped round the handgrip so the whole of the right hand (palm and fingers) are holding the weight of the camera.
  43. I suspect Vail will solve most of her problem by getting more center-of-gravity support in the left hand. The suggestion to hold the camera only with your left hand, and then just add your right hand for shutter actuation, is an excellent way to retrain yourself.
    For what it's worth, I also second Robert's recommendation about the BlackRapid strap. I purchased the dual strap and used it at my last wedding, and found it to be very helpful. I can "drop" both cameras, even with a 70-200 on one of the bodies, and still be in the action. This won't solve the holding-technique problem, but it does give you a way to rest your arms, wrists, hands, and fingers from frequently, throughout the day, without being stuck in one place (i.e., next to the surface on which you've put your camera down).
  44. A monopod is inexpensive and could solve your issues.
  45. I'm resurrecting a post here, but seemed most appropriate.
    I use two camera bodies. One with a 200mmL 2.8 lens and one with a Sigma 17-55 2.8 lens plus sometimes flash on a stroboframe bracket.
    I was going to get a black rapid double harness. But, I'm not sure how well a camera/flash/bracket combo would hang. So, I thought perhaps a single black rapid strap, layered with a Tamrac boomerang strap to hold the bracket setup upright in front of me.
    suggestions? Thanks!
  46. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    You might do better to begin another thread.

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