Photography is a great way to document the beauty and diversity of our world, but it can also have a negative impact on the environment. Our cameras consume energy, our prints produce waste, and our travels contribute to carbon emissions. This can worsen global problems like climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. In this article, we will share some tips to practice sustainable photography in a more realistic way.
It is a way of practicing photography that aims to reduce the carbon emissions, waste, and pollution generated by photography, and to support the conservation and restoration of nature.
Sustainable photography is important because photography can have a significant impact on the environment. According to a study by the IET, the average person snaps about 900 photos a year and the extra ones stored online could generate 10.6kg of CO2 yearly for each UK adult – the same as more than 112,500 round trips by plane from London to Perth, Australia.
Is Sustainable Photography Possible?
Yes, sustainable photography is a process and a goal that needs constant work and progress. We can achieve it by making choices and changes that lower our environmental impact and raise our social benefit as photographers. We can do it by being informed and creative, and by using our skills to communicate and inspire change.
Tips to Make Photography Environmentally Friendly:
So, how to be an eco-friendly photographer? Here are the tips to make photography more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
You can save energy and money by turning off your devices when not in use, using energy-efficient settings, and unplugging your chargers when they are fully charged. You can also lower the brightness of your screen, use the optical viewfinder instead of the LCD, and optimize your battery-saving settings. Reducing your power consumption not only extends your battery life but also lowers your carbon footprint and helps the environment.
You can save money and energy by using rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones. They can also provide more power and last longer, especially for devices that drain a lot of energy, such as digital cameras and flash units. Rechargeable batteries are more economical in the long run, as they can replace thousands of single-use batteries over their lifetime. They can also reduce the pollution and waste from disposable batteries, which often have harmful chemicals and metals that can harm the soil and water.
Traveling can generate a lot of carbon emissions, especially if you use planes, cars, or other fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. You can make photography more environmentally friendly and minimize your travel impact by shooting locally, or by using remote shooting techniques, such as drones, webcams, or online platforms. To be an eco-friendly photographer, you can also opt for greener modes of transportation, such as trains, buses, or bikes.
If you use film photography, you can reduce your environmental impact by using film and chemicals that are made from natural or renewable sources, such as plant-based or biodegradable film, or organic or non-toxic chemicals. You can also dispose of your film and chemicals properly, by following the instructions on the packaging or contacting your local waste management service.
Storing your photos online can consume a lot of energy and resources, especially if you use cloud storage services that rely on large data centers. You can optimize your cloud storage by deleting or archiving your unwanted or duplicate photos, and compressing or resizing your large files. You can choose a cloud service provider that uses renewable energy or offsets its emissions, thereby practicing sustainable photography.
Natural light can enhance the quality and mood of your photos, and also save you energy and money. You can use natural light by shooting outdoors, or by using windows, skylights, or reflectors indoors. You can also adjust your camera settings, such as aperture, shutter speed, or ISO, to suit the lighting conditions. This is one of the best ways you can follow to be an eco-friendly photographer.
If you use props or backgrounds for your photos and want to practice sustainable photography, you can make them more eco-friendly by using natural or recycled materials, such as wood, paper, fabric, or flowers. You can also reuse or repurpose your props or backgrounds, by changing their color, shape, or texture, or by combining them in different ways. You can also avoid using props or backgrounds that are harmful to the environment, such as plastic, foam, or glitter.
Geo-tagging can reveal the location of your photos, which can have negative consequences for the environment. It can attract more visitors to sensitive or fragile ecosystems, which can cause damage, disturbance, or overcrowding. Geo-tagging can also expose the habitats or behaviors of endangered or threatened species, which can make them more vulnerable to poaching, hunting, or harassment. You can avoid geo-tagging by turning off your GPS or location services, or by editing or removing the metadata of your photos.
Printing can consume a lot of paper, ink, and energy, which can have a negative impact on the environment. You can make photography more environmentally friendly and reduce your printing footprint by printing only what you need, using recycled paper, choosing eco-friendly ink, and using double-sided printing.
In order to follow sustainable photography practices, you need to conserve energy and resources by taking fewer shots, especially with digital cameras, flash units, or other devices that require batteries or electricity. You can also reduce waste and pollution by avoiding film photography, which uses film and chemicals that can harm the environment. You should respect the natural environment and wildlife by not using drones, webcams, or other remote shooting techniques that can invade their habitats or behaviors.
Use your photography skills to raise awareness and inspire action on environmental issues. You can document the effects of climate change, pollution, or deforestation, and show the solutions or alternatives that are available. Showcase the beauty and diversity of nature and the importance of protecting it.
You can make a difference by choosing to buy from suppliers that are committed to sustainability. Look for certifications, labels, or ratings that indicate their environmental performance, such as organic, fair trade, carbon neutral, or green seal. You can also research their policies, practices, and impacts, and give feedback or suggestions on how they can improve.
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You can acknowledge and compensate for your environmental impact by paying a voluntary tax or fee, either to yourself or to a reputable organization. You can calculate your tax based on your carbon footprint, your energy consumption, or your waste generation, and use the money to fund green projects, donate to environmental causes, or buy carbon credits.
You can improve your environmental knowledge and skills by learning from various sources, such as books, magazines, websites, podcasts, or courses. Share your knowledge and skills with others, by teaching, mentoring, blogging, or hosting workshops. You can join or create a community of like-minded photographers, and exchange ideas, tips, or feedback.
If you have gear that you no longer use or need, you can give it a new life by recycling or donating it. You can recycle your gear by taking it to a recycling center, or by using a take-back or trade-in program offered by some manufacturers or retailers. You can donate your gear to a charity, a school, a library, or a friend, and help someone else pursue their photography passion. This is one of the ways you can make photography more eco friendly.
You can challenge yourself and others by participating in or organizing a sustainability photography competition. Choose a theme, a format, a deadline, and a prize, and invite other photographers to join. You can also use the competition as an opportunity to showcase your work, network with other photographers, and get feedback or recognition.
The winner of the grand title was Ian Curtis, a Development Officer at the School of Geography and the Environment. His photo, titled Alone on High, Watching Our Weather Change, captured a Campbell-Stokes recorder atop Oxford’s tallest building, which measures the sun’s rays and records the changing climate.
Sustainability Photographer of the Year 2023 was a competition that invited students and staff members from the University of Oxford to show their environmental awareness and creativity through photography. Winners were announced on June 20, 2023, at the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Environmental Sustainability. You can see all the winning photos and read more about the stories behind them on the official website.
Other similar sustainability photography competitions showcased the most inspirational talents from around the world, such as the Environmental Photographer of the Year by CIWEM, the Sony World Photography, and the Nature Photographer of the Year. These competitions promote awareness and action on urgent environmental issues.
By practicing sustainable photography, we can enjoy our art while also protecting the environment. We hope this article has been helpful. Share your ideas and stories on sustainable photography with us.