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5 Tips for Becoming an Environmentally Conscious Photographer

environmentally-conscious-photographer-tips

Being an environmentally conscious photographer should be on all of our minds. The world is changing irreversibly as a result of human intervention, and we need to consider carefully the impact that we make.

Photography is a hobby that has traditionally not been kind to the environment. Manufacturing processes, film development, and the industry required to create digital cameras all take their toll on the planet. So to does travel by photographers seeking new subjects to photograph.

But it is possible to be a photographer and still be considerate of the environment, helping to preserve it for future generations.

environmentally conscious photographer

ISO200, 35mm (50mm equiv.), f11, 1/180th sec

See the beauty of your home area

Many of us photographers can be guilty of lusting after exotic locations.

We’re sold the dream that we’ll create photographs that are more special than we’ve ever shot before. But if we’re to be a more environmentally conscious photographer, cutting down on air travel is one of the biggest lifestyle changes we can make that will help the environment.

Image: ISO1600, 35mm (50mm equiv.), f2.8, 1/2000th sec

ISO1600, 35mm (50mm equiv.), f2.8, 1/2000th sec

The truth is, people on the other side of the globe will see your local area as exotic and photogenic because it’s something that they’ve not experienced before. It does take a little more effort on your part to imagine how a visitor might see the surroundings that you see every day, but that can be part of the challenge and joy of photography!

Every time you’re photographing locally, try and imagine it is the first time you’ve ever been there. Look for the small details that you might usually miss, and think about what would wow a visitor.

Consider if you really need an upgrade

I know – we all love a new piece of photography gear. But before you purchase an upgrade, consider if you really need something new. Manufacturing harms the environment because of the use of materials and chemical processes. So if you can delay that upgrade for a little while, you can ease the strain on our planet. Plus, how many megapixels do we really need anyway?

environmentally conscious photographer

ISO800, 35mm (50mm equiv.), f4.0, 1/320th sec

If you really do need to upgrade, consider how you can pass along your old gear to someone who will use it so that they don’t have to purchase from new. Either sell it to someone looking for their own upgrade or pass it along to a friend who is getting started in photography.

Both are better options for an environmentally conscious photographer than letting it languish unused on a shelf or ending up in a landfill site.

Work with local people

Many of us enjoy photographing people or getting lessons from experts. This often involves travel to visit models or the studios of photographers that are a considerable distance away.

Image: ISO200, 35mm (50mm equiv.), f1.4, 1/500th sec

ISO200, 35mm (50mm equiv.), f1.4, 1/500th sec

Instead of traveling these long distances, why not look at who is available locally that you could hire to photograph or learn from? You never know, you might discover a real gem in the process!

Perhaps even try taking online classes and shooting some self-portraits – you might even love the results!

And if you do really need to travel to someone or for them to travel to you, how about checking out public transport? It’s not feasible for every journey, but it does help to keep your environmental footprint to a minimum. You will have to learn to pack light, though!

Find a low-impact genre of photography

Really, it’s a bit like turning the lights off when you’re out of the room. If everybody did just a little bit towards helping the environment, we’d all make a big difference.

Image: ISO400, 35mm (50mm equiv.), f5, 1/160th sec

ISO400, 35mm (50mm equiv.), f5, 1/160th sec

With that in mind, imagine if all photographers found a kind of photography that they could do locally that had almost no environmental impact at all? It wouldn’t have to replace all of the photography they loved, but if it just replaced a little bit, and everyone did something similar, then it could make a huge difference.

Local street photographytabletop still life, portraiture, and local architecture photography are all different genres that you can do with a minimum of equipment and environmental impact.

If you love still life, you could explore the local farmers market for new objects to photograph. Or how about photographing ‘local heroes’ if you’re more into portrait photography?

The opportunities are limitless for an environmentally conscious photographer, and they’re right on your doorstep. You don’t need to rack up the miles to create great images.

Be mindful when you do enjoy the countryside

If you are going out and about into nature to do photography, ensure that you’re knowledgeable about your surroundings. Be respectful of areas where animals and rare plant life might be living. Learn about the environment that you’re photographing and leave it clean and unbroken; this is what it means to be an environmentally conscious photographer.

environmentally conscious photographer

ISO400, 35mm (50mm equiv.), f2.8, 1/140th sec

Perhaps even consider not sharing the location of incredible places you find with other photographers to prevent it from damage. Unfortunately, there will always be those who respect nature less than they should, leading to the damage of habitats that wildlife so desperately need in our world.

It’s about everyone doing their bit

The point is not to suck all of the fun out of photography. Not at all. But instead to raise awareness about the difference we could make.

Photography can be an activity that is very taxing on the environment in many different ways. The key is to be aware of this fact and then, as photographers, make different decisions about our purchasing, traveling, and photographing habits.

environmentally conscious photographer

ISO200, 140mm (200mm equiv.), f3.2, 1/110th sec

After all, what good is a box full of photographs of beautiful sights, if we have damaged those sights beyond all recognition? It would mean that future generations could not enjoy peaceful moments with their cameras in the same way that we have done.

So I urge you to think about your approach to photography and consider if you can lessen your impact on the environment while learning more about it. And then see if you can persuade others to follow your example. That way, we can all work together, as environmentally conscious photographers, to help preserve our world for the future.

Do you have any other tips you would like to share on becoming an environmentally conscious photographer? Please do so in the comments!

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Charlie Moss
Charlie Moss

is UK based photography journalist with experience shooting everything from historically inspired portraits to e-commerce photography. Her passion is history of art, especially contemporary culture and photography. You can follow her on Instagram or catch her over at Patreon to find more of her teaching and mentoring resources!