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Earth Day: how to make money from photography in an ecological way

How can photographers help create change in environmental and conservation? With another World Earth Day on April 22, 2022, now is the perfect time to think about small ways to become a more eco-friendly photographer.

Check out our tips below, along with the best green web hosts for a sustainable photo business and eco-friendly printing tips.

The conversation about climate change comes and goes, driven by media coverage of high-profile events, but neglecting some of the major environmental issues we face today. As photographers, we probably don’t think our business practices are particularly harmful to the environment.

When working from a home studio or a fixed location, it can feel like you’re operating in a bubble that has little to do with nature. However, issues other than global warming and global climate impacts need to be considered.

At the local level, our daily activities can have significant effects on the environment. From waste generation to damaging behaviors when shooting in the landscape, we all leave a mark that can sometimes be hard to keep track of.

Many of the negative impacts we introduce are completely unintended and often overlooked. For example, it’s surprising how much we throw away and where there are areas for improvement. The advantage is that we can even save money in the process.

It’s not easy to run a profitable business and be climate-conscious. But with a few simple changes, you should be able to achieve both goals seamlessly. Let’s find out how!

Lights, action
Modeling lamps are easy to forget and leave on in your studio. A standard lighting setup helps you remember when it happens because the extra light is noticeable
(Image credit: Carlos Alcazar)

Reduce your energy consumption

As photographers, we use a lot of electricity. Most of this is unavoidable because we simply cannot function without power – our cameras need to be charged, our laptops need to be active for editing, and we need a charge for each of our studio strobes. However, you should think about asking yourself if during a working day you consume more energy than necessary.

A perfect starting point in the journey towards greater sustainability is to reduce unnecessary energy consumption. Turn off your equipment when not in use and big savings can be made, both environmentally and financially. Take a look around your workspace and it won’t take long to find areas that might be more efficient.

Many photographers use multiple screens to edit their work. This is perfectly acceptable and probably essential in some cases, however, if you don’t need all monitors to be active, turn off those that are not in use.

The same can be said of strobes. At the end of a shoot, it’s easy to walk away with your memory cards full and leave the modeling lights on. This increases both your carbon footprint and your energy bills.

When creating a controlled mounting setup, calculate exactly how much light you need and determine the ideal location for balanced intensity. Then turn off any other lights in the room that are not essential to your work.

In the field
It can be tempting to move and break branches and flowers to get the perfect shot, but that’s not environmentally friendly. Leave nature as you found it – and move instead of wildlife
(Image credit: [email protected]/moment)

Be respectful on the field

When shooting in the field, always make sure to minimize your direct impact on the environment. Keep your distance from wild animals to avoid causing distress or altering their behavior. This can have profound effects on the life cycles and general well-being of the organisms we kill.

Macro and plant photographers should limit their “gardening” of wild environments – try not to move anything that cannot be composed from a shot or retouched later. If you must make physical changes, try tying up stray foliage instead of pruning it. If you move organisms for shooting purposes, always return them, safe and sound, to where you found them.

An effective approach is to seek out ideal shooting locations. This way, you can reduce walking on vegetation or other habitats by settling into a few pre-identified positions. Also watch out for damaged roots – consider swapping tripod legs to minimize the impact on the ground you’ll be shooting on.

Sustainable brands
Many photo makers such as Urth are now incredibly environmentally conscious in their production process and choice of materials.
(Image credit: Urth)

It is not possible to prevent all CO2 emissions caused by your photographs, but we can work to reduce them. Firstly, if you’re looking to buy a second camera, why not search the used market for equipment? This way, you can find great products that are kinder to your wallet and the environment, because you’re essentially recycling an item that would otherwise end up in landfill.

Source these items locally and you have limited transportation impacts as well. Also, look for eco-certified green website hosts. Also, why not use your locality as a selling point? Promote your business locally to reduce your need to travel, using this environmentally conscious position as a marketing strategy.

Waste reduction
Printing at die-cut sizes is effective when outputting a small number of images, while roll paper is better for larger print runs
(Image credit: George Milton)

Use sustainable materials

It’s a good thing to print more of your images, but that only applies when you’re printing sustainably. If you have a lot of failed prints that need to be thrown away, that’s obviously a waste. Papers made from synthetic materials often require the use of more chemicals in their production. This means that they cannot be fully recycled, so they end up in landfill.

Ecological papers are those made entirely from natural materials and from sustainable sources, such as 100% cotton papers, from certified farms. These can be more expensive to purchase, but are likely to have full color management support, which can further reduce your waste.

If you print less regularly, use online print labs and only those that specify the papers and inks they work with. If you are a professional who prints often, consider using roll paper and wait until you have accumulated enough orders to fill an area of ​​paper. For one-off jobs, use pre-cut paper sizes – this approach can minimize the amount of unusable scrap.

Read more:

Green Website Hosts
The iconic photo behind the Earth Day hashtag
Eco-friendly photo printing
Best online photo printing