As an outdoors enthusiast, I’ve done a lot of traveling, hiking, camping, and exploring in the many beautiful national parks, bureau of land management properties, state parks, local parks, preserves and privately owned flower fields across our wondrous country.
In the outdoor world there are 7 Leave No Trace Principles that help to protect and save our environment for the animals, trees, and nature that live there and to protect it for others to enjoy now and in the future. A few similar and a few new ethics and etiquette can be easily applied to photography when shooting at outside nature locations to help us preserve our world and protect the environment for the future. Here and there, I’ve included a cautionary tale, just things I’ve seen over time so we are aware of how our actions impacts our world.
1. Plan ahead and prepare
Be prepared for changes in weather – rain, snow, hail, thunderstorms, mud, wet grass, etc., to protect yourself, your gear and your clients.
Some parks, preserves, and privately owned properties require a fee to be paid in advance of your shoot. Do research ahead of time and remember that these fees and can be deducted from your business taxes.
2. Respect other’s property
Always ask permission first to shoot on private property. If you don’t know who owns it , find out and ask for their permission, or shoot somewhere else.. Just the name Preserve indicates that organization is working to preserve something in nature – be respectful.
If anything were to happen to you or your client while on their property, that property owner may be deemed responsible. You must ask for permission, or you are putting yourself, your client and your business at risk.
There are also spots that do not charge fees – let’s keep it that way by taking care of all these spaces as it if were your own backyard.
If a private tulip field does not charge an entry fee, yet you are shooting on their property, be respectful and buy some tulips. This allows te owner to continue inviting photographers to their property without charging a fee.
3. You pack it in, you pack it out
This means whatever you bring to the shoot with you, you bring home with you. Everything – even that snack wrapper, Starbucks coffee cup, or balloon. Don’t ever set a helium balloon free to in the environment . What goes up, must come down. And, when the balloon comes down it can endanger the lives of wildlife or pollute the local watershed. Instead, the balloon give it to your client’s child and make their day!
If you hold a cake smash session on an old porch in a town heritage center. Please be sure to bring wipes, water, and plastic bags along so you can clean up after yourself and discard any trash in a trash can.
It seems more and more these days every place that photographers desire to shoot at want to charge a fee. It is their property, and they are entitled to. I do feel if they knew we photographers would respect and care for their space as if it were our own, they may welcome us more openly.
4. Protect our wildflowers
Many of our precious, local wildflower fields are being trampled by those who want to be “in the wildflowers”.
In Texas, we have these wonderful bluebonnets each spring. These plants require the flower to die naturally and “go to seed” in order to reseed the field to grow in the next year. If these flowers are trampled, the flower will not reseed.
There is a way to be “in the wildflowers” without trampling them and causing additional damage.
For every wildflower shoot I do, I am sure to follow a bare patches or a natural path in the flowers so I am not harming any additional flowers. My children are asked to walk single file and follow my path. In this shot, my son is running in a grassy area behind the bluebonnet field. It looks as if he is in the field, but he is not. Try to sit your client in a spot that has already been matted down from a previous visitor.
Something I’ve done to give back is work with a nonprofit to collect funds to reseed a very popular bluebonnet field. That led me to work with my city, to donate seeds and designate a new child friendly area as a “Wildflower area” It’s just starting to grow now! Think about what ways you can give back to nature.
5. Leave what you find
Please be sure to use and stay on existing trails to preserve nature. If you must step out, check for animals, and try not to damage any plants. If you are setting up props, be sure you are not damaging trees or flowers.
6. Be considerate of others
At a nearby Rose garden and historic barn, I witnessed four vehicles drive past the railroad tie enclosed parking lot, up a dirt road next to the historic barn. Their vehicles should have been parked in the parking lot. They proceeded to unloaded all their props and made several sets in and around the old barn. They even made a “room” in the old barn into their dressing room by covering the outside with their blankets.
So not only did they not respect the property, but they changed it, nor were they considerate of other visitors or photographers who were shooting at that space. On another occasion a photographer and client climbed into the 2nd floor of the preserved historic barn. That is a huge safety issue! Since then, the city has had a police presence at the location and is entertaining a permit to shoot there. If we all know how our presence and actions impacts other, would we take more time to think about what we are doing.
As we all know, many of our favorite spots can be quite busy especially in the fall. If we all followed and are aware of a basic photographer shooting etiquette, I think we can all get those shots we want and we’d all be happy. Often I try to shoot on weeknights then most locations are a lot less crowded
If someone is shooting near you, be sure to be out of their shot. I always ask and move if needed.
Take turns – be sure to do you best to be quick about getting your shots, then let the next photographer take her turn. We all want the best shot, right?
If we take care of this world, it can take care of us. Let’s keep our space beautiful.