Back braces, while technically not photographic equipment, are as essential to street, bird and wildlife photography as shoes and a camera. The weight of lenses, tripods, gimbal heads, teleconverters and cameras can add up quickly. Now consider that you may have to hike miles with all this equipment to get to your location. It can be hard on an old back. And it can turn young backs into old backs quickly – faster than jumping up and down on a concrete basketball court.
Years ago, my chiropractor sold me a simple, effective, super comfortable back brace which I wear during photo expeditions. It’s a giant elastic affair that wraps around the waist and fastens with velcro. Two “wings”, one on each side, let you tighten the brace for additional support. They also fasten with velcro. It’s a little more complicated than putting on a jacket, but not much.
The back brace is a bit like wearing a corset and during hot weather can get a little sweaty, but it’s a lifesaver on long treks into the woods. With it, I can hold a D4 fitted with a long lens out in front of me without stressing my lower back. And I feel great when I return to my vehicle and take it off.
I usually wear the back brace over a T-shirt and under a long-sleeve outer shirt that protects me from mosquitoes. A good back brace costs a pittance compared to the cost of photographic equipment.
I bought my back brace directly from my chiropractor, but I have seen them in medical supply and drug stores. You can also buy them online. They are pretty easy to find. Just google “back braces” and hundreds of models will pop up. Most are in the $20-$30 range. A few are more expensive and a few less. Women will even find models designed just for them. The one I have has lasted 25 years and will probably last the rest of my life.
The bottom line is this. If you’re in pain, you’re not going to want to go out shooting. If you don’t go out shooting, you’re never going to get the shot. And all that expensive gear you bought will gather dust and make you feel guilty.
In my humble opinion, tound for pound, a good back brace is one of the best investments you can make in your photography.