How to Stay in Your Best Shape

Years ago, I entered a mentally dark place that led to me becoming clinically obese. It prompted me to write a popular piece about how photo-walking helped me lose weight. The Phoblographer has also talked to various folks about self-care. With it currently being summer in the US, we believe it’s time to talk about workouts for photographers. So we spoke to a few fantastic photographers about how they stay in shape. 

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How Ian Pettigrew Stays Fit While Battling Physical Conditions

  • Yoga
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Cardio
  • Weights

“Personally, I tried to keep fit by working out at home during the lockdown and just recently joined a gym again,” says photographer Ian Pettigrew to The Phoblographer in an interview. “I work out – weights and cardio – about four times a week.” Ian shares that he learned the hard way how vital it is to keep fit. Knowing his history it’s imperative.

Over the years, I’ve interviewed tons of photographers and became friends with them. Ian Pettigrew is one of those people. He’s the mastermind behind The Phoblographer’s current logo. Ian, based out of Canada, is also a multi-award-winning photographer best known for his two books featuring adults living with Cystic Fibrosis. With that said, his health is critical to him due to having a slight case of cystic fibrosis himself. He’s done various projects and fundraisers for awareness and helping people who have the condition. From my understanding, not everyone he’s photographed has survived. But Ian has told me a few times over that he feels lucky.

“Hiking through terrain to get to a waterfall while carrying equipment is never fun.”

Ian Pettigrew

So, how else does he keep in his best shape? Ian recommends a lot of stretching and even yoga. He also thinks simple bodyweight exercises help and are some of the best workouts for photographers. Ian is one of those photographers who often crouches, so he conveys that his legs take a toll on a shoot as well as his lower back. “Having a strong core is very important,” says Ian, who admits he’s getting old. “And the older you get, the more all this becomes a necessity as other ailments kick in. Holding a camera all day can also take a toll on your hands if you are like me and are starting to get arthritis.” 

Desiree De Sade Is Both a Photographer and a Burlesque Dancer

  • Yoga (3x a week)
  • Pilates
  • Resistance Training with free weights
  • Burlesque dancing

“…I do find it quite hard to fit in a fitness routine, but since I play both sides of the camera and perform, I really feel it when I go too long without exercising,” says photographer Desiree De Sade. “I’ve been doing yoga off and on for 20 years, and I honestly feel at my best when I’m doing it three times a week.” Desiree juggles part-time gigs and has a changing nightlife schedule. She’s an NYC-based burlesque performer and photographer specializing in portraits and live events. She is currently working on two ongoing series: one featuring projections and one featuring her FX makeup skills. 

Desiree ( does portrait shoots out of her home studio and locations. She also shoots events in Manhattan a few times a week. She often does more than one gig in a day. “…I’m always lugging gear around on my shoulders, ducking through sight lines, and crawling around on floors to get the best angles without any assistants to help,” says Desiree. “My flexibility and endurance are key, so strength-building yoga routines at home are my go-to as well as some Pilates for core strength and resistance training with free weights for added upper and lower bodywork.” Does any of this sound familiar? As Desiree demonstrates, workouts like yoga for photographers are well worth the time.

Indeed, the lower back can be a problem for photographers. Many of us are on our feet for a while and spend a ton of time sitting at a computer. Stretching that area is pretty important. Admittedly, Desiree says that her back isn’t what it once was, and she can sometimes feel pretty sore. This is why she says she values a lot of core strength.

Desiree uses a shoulder bag when she goes to gigs; she finds it more comfortable than a backpack when walking from site to site for long periods. “…it still means a sore right shoulder later and tight hips and calves from walking in a way to compensate for the weight imbalance,” says Desiree. “The last thing one needs when dancing in heels is calf pain, and a bum shoulder is certainly bad for feather fan choreography, so stretching those areas, using heat packs as necessary, and allowing oneself to rest and recover is key.”

Chris Burkard’s Job Requires a Lot of Physical Fitness

  • HIIT
  • Cycling
  • running
  • 20-30 minutes of yoga

“Usually, I try my best to get 1 hour of exercise every day – typically with a  HIIT type workout in the morning or cycling or running,” says star photographer Chris Burkhard. “Then I will often add in a 20-30 minute yoga class to keep my back and shoulders open. I find that doing a yoga-specific hip and or back opening class is crucial for photographers that are constantly traveling, flying, and sitting in cars for long drives in addition to carrying a heavy load on your pack.” For sure, this is part of the formula of how Chris Burkard has become such an accomplished photographer, creative director, speaking, and author. He’s an incredibly famous photographer and has some very recognizable photos across the web.

Chris’s (@chrisburkard) fitness regiment has evolved over the years. Since he spends tons of time chasing down professional athletes, he has to have a decent level of fitness himself. His secret is a combination of cardio and strength along with stretching. And overall, it seems like these are the recommended workouts for photographers.

As we’ve seen, it seems like photographers often do many of the same things. There’s a combination of strength training, stretches, and some cardio involved. Cardio helps keep weight off when combined with a moderated diet. Stretching helps ensure you’re not in pain when you go shoot. And strength translates into endurance for long shoots.

How do you keep fit as a photographer? We’re curious and ecstatic to hear from you in the comments!

All images provided to us with permission from the photographers.

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