Photography is more than an enjoyable hobby or career; it can also shed light on important global issues. Sustainability is one particular cause it can help with.
As a photographer, you can do a lot to promote a brighter future for the planet. This guide will highlight nine things you can do to contribute to this movement.
1. Buy Second-Hand Gear
When you’re getting ready to buy a new camera or lens, it’s tempting to go for the brand-new versions. However, you need to think about the potential impact if you do; purchasing a new camera will result in more resources being used and more waste produced as a result.
Buying second-hand will ensure that something which works fine does not go to waste. Minus perhaps a few scratches and bumps, you probably won’t notice the difference. Getting second-hand cameras and lenses will also help you save a bit of money.
2. Visit Less Touristy Areas
International travel not being as exclusive as it once was has many benefits. However, frequently-visited areas often feel the strain of dealing with excess people.
It’s easy to think this is a problem that only impacts less economically-developed countries, but that’s not the case. Take Iceland as an example; in 2018, over two million people stayed overnight in the country. That year, the country’s population was a little over 350,000.
More people in one place can cause irreversible damage to the natural landscape, along with noise, air, and land pollution. You can help limit this strain by going to less-trodden paths in the country you plan to visit or going somewhere else altogether.
Let’s face it, some destinations deserve the tourist attention they get. But even if you choose to visit them, you can still promote sustainability as a photographer.
One of the easiest ways to ensure that places don’t get overrun is by refraining from tagging exact locations on social media. Instead of adding the exact street name or area you’ve visited, consider tagging the country or state.
4. Document the Consequences of Not Looking After the Planet
Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, photography has been a powerful tool for showcasing essential talking points and triggering action. And even if you aren’t a professional, you can do your part to promote a more sustainable future.
If you see things like plastic harming wildlife or rubbish tarnishing landscapes, capture and share what you’ve found. Sometimes, people need to see the consequences of their actions before changing their ways.
5. Travel Less Frequently
Travel photography is one of the most enjoyable genres, but it’s needless to say that catching regular flights can lead to your carbon footprint growing more than is necessary.
While you shouldn’t cut travel out of your life altogether, you should think more carefully about how you do so. Flying every couple of weeks is not only harmful to the environment in the long run, but it also reduces the quality of your trips.
An alternative approach to frequent travel is to pick one place you’d really like to visit and save what you would have spent on other trips for it. That way, you’ll have a more enjoyable trip where you can focus on capturing the experiences that genuinely matter to you.
In the meantime, don’t discount your hometown as an excellent spot for photography. More often than not, you’ll find plenty of hidden gems not far from where you live. You could also set yourself apart by specializing in your local area, making it easier to attract an audience.
6. Buy Better-Quality Gear
Once you’ve bought your camera and lenses, you’ll probably need extra gear to protect them (and yourself) when you’re out shooting. Camera bags and covers, plus clothing to keep you warm and dry, all add up.
It’s tempting to go for the least expensive options, but you should remember that these often aren’t the best quality. A $20 coat might seem like a good investment, but you’ll need to replace it much more frequently. As such, you’ll produce more waste and spend more money than if you’ve purchased something a little pricier but of better quality.
If you can’t afford more sustainable gear at the moment, put together a savings plan and try to stick to it. That way, you’ll get what you need without having to sacrifice monthly essentials.
7. Don’t Ignore Instructions
When you’re photographing out in nature, you might find signs warning you not to venture onto a particular piece of land. Nobody’s trying to ruin your adventure; the signs are there for a reason.
If you see that you shouldn’t cross a fence or drive along a specific route, look for an alternative where you are allowed to go. In addition to protecting flora and fauna, these might alos be there for your own safety.
It’s easy to complain about the impact that people can have on the planet. However, ranting without providing useful advice isn’t beneficial for anyone—and it’s an easy way to alienate others instead of getting them to join your cause.
As you gain more experience doing photography, share your tips for sustainability with others. Sometimes, people might want to make a change but don’t know the steps they should take.
9. Only Buy What You Need
These days, we’re bombarded with examples of other creators living their best lives. And if you see your favorite photographers with high-end equipment, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you also need it.
But what works for someone else isn’t necessarily going to do the same for you. If you don’t need a certain lens or camera, don’t buy it. All you’re doing is spending unnecessary money and adding clutter.
By adopting a minimalist approach to photography equipment, you’ll use up fewer natural resources. Moreover, traveling with your stuff will become much easier.
Photographers Can Lead the Way to a More Sustainable Future
Photographers have more power than they often realize, and their actions can help change the world. When it comes to sustainability, you can do a lot—especially in terms of your travel habits and approach to buying equipment. By fine-tuning what you do, you can influence others to do the same.
Anyone can take a photograph, but taking a great photograph? Difficult. These photography exercises actually work.
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