12 Ways to be an Environmentally Friendly Photographer

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Trash

The nature of photography is to preserve a scene, emotion, mood, idea, concept, piece of history, etc, via the photograph. We capture what we see at a particular point in time, space, and perspective using the tools of the trade. But as photographers, we also have an obligation to preserve something more important — the environment.

Nature photographers have long been on the forefront of environmental conservation. Art Wolfe, for example, is not only known for his impressive nature photography, but also for his love of the environment. But nature photographers aren’t the only ones responsible for the environment; we all are. The following tips can certainly be applied to natural environments, but many of them are just as applicable in other situations such as street photography — the environment doesn’t end where the streets begin.

Here are 12 ways that you can personally save the environment and ensure that future generations will have the same photographic opportunities that we have.

  1. Tread Lightly
    Be gentle on your surroundings with as little impact as possible. The environment will help reclaim itself, but not if you keep beating it down.
  2. No Trailblazing
    If you’re outdoors where trails are available, don’t make your own. If everybody with a camera left the trail, the impact would be massive.
  3. Don’t Alter the Scene
    Staging a shot by moving or removing parts of the environment is a big no-no. Either make the shot work, or find a different scene.
  4. No Souvenirs
    If everybody took something back with them every time they went out to photograph, there’d be nothing left to photograph. Get your souvenirs in your camera.
  5. Keep Your Distance
    When it comes to wildlife, stay far enough away to keep your presence unknown. Disturbing animals can have severe effects on the local ecosystem.
  6. Pack It In — Pack It Out
    It’s fine to bring waste-producing items with you on a photo outing, but don’t leave it out there. If you had the room to bring it, you have the room to take it away.
  7. Clean Up After Others
    Packing out our own trash is good, but packing out the trash others left behind is great! Make the next photographer’s experience a better one.
  8. Carry a 1-Gallon Bag
    Not only can this handy item protect your camera in wet weather, but it’s also a great trash receptacle.
  9. Document the Beautiful
    Capture things that amaze us. Let everybody know just how beautiful that place can be.
  10. Document the Ugly
    Capture things that disappoint us. Let everybody know that the environment needs our help.
  11. Use Rechargeable Batteries
    If you have a compact camera or a flash unit that uses AA batteries, use rechargeables — they can last for years and help reduce unnecessary waste.
  12. Be a Leader
    If you see somebody doing things that will harm our environment, stand up to them and make them aware of the impact they’ll have.

What other things can we do as photographers and as world citizens to preserve our environment?