Introduction to Sustainable Photography

It is time to get serious about sustainability in the photography industry. The younger generation cares about climate change, the planet, and who they do business with. They seek out products and services that are environmentally and socially responsible. Nearly 8 in 10 respondents indicate sustainability is important for them. For those who say it is very/extremely important, over 70 percent would pay at least 35% more for brands that are sustainable and environmentally responsible. By incorporating sustainability into the core of your business, you’ll attract more customers and employees, gain their trust and loyalty, and help protect the environment.

Environmental Challenges in Photography

Due to the nature of the business, you might think that digital photography is environmentally friendly and doesn’t need to be regulated in terms of sustainability; however, digital photography is not as clean as we might think. 

Here are some of the impacts digital photography has on the planet:

  • It generates electronic waste.
  •  Production of SD memory cards produces high CO2 emissions and requires rare minerals.
  • Batteries only last a maximum of three years.
  • Data storage is kept in the cloud, which consumes resources. 
  • On average, photographers have to replace their cameras, computers and phones every five years because they become obsolete.
  • Photography generates a lot of waste from printing and selling photo paper and prints (many of the products are not being sold and go to waste).

Sustainable Photography Initiatives

Below are some initiatives to incorporate sustainable photography into your business.

Buy from Green Suppliers

Buy equipment from certified green dealers to support sustainable businesses and encourage other businesses to be more environmentally-friendly. Ensure you are choosing certified green suppliers with public sustainability initiatives and avoid those that practice greenwashing, the tactic that businesses use to seem more sustainable that they actually are. Some examples of sustainable photography equipment suppliers include Sigma, Nikon, and Hasselblad.

Use High Quality or Used Cameras and Borrow

Buy one good piece of equipment instead of buying many cheap ones and changing them out regularly as they fail. Borrow lenses for special photo shoots instead of buying new ones; it will save you money and will generate less waste for the environment. 

A GBB member and part of the Shutterfly Inc. family, Borrow Lenses, is an online camera rental giant with small business-style customer service. Their mission is to advance the photographic and cinematic dreams of their customers by delivering superior, cutting-edge gear through their stress-free rental process. With their business model, customers can choose the gear they want, when they want to receive it and for how long they want to rent it for, encouraging the circular economy. Learn more about Borrow Lenses in their Member Story.

Outsource Printing

Outsource your company’s printing instead of buying a printer. Some of the benefits of outsourcing can include: lower costs, increased efficiency, variable capacity, increased flexibility to meet changing business and commercial conditions, and accelerated time to market.

Use Eco-friendly Recyclable Packaging

Ship the photos and your products in recyclable packaging and use sustainable mailing services. There are many advantages using recycled packaging, some of which include reducing your shipping costs, improving brand image, and expanding your customer base. To learn more about the benefits of green packaging read another of our GBB articles, 10 Advantages of Green Packaging to the Environment.

Create a Virtual Gallery

Have a virtual gallery instead of an in-person one, so you would print to meet order demand only and not waste any materials preemptively. Instead of renting a gallery or retail space and printing multiple photos that may not be purchased, print the ones already selected by a customer. There are plenty of online conference and video tools you can use to take your event online. Google and Facebook offer free tools on their platforms or you can sign up to Microsoft Teams or Zoom for paid video tools. Setting up events for your customers and including yourself as the artist is a great way to bring back that intimacy of an exhibition. Here’s more info on how to host a virtual art gallery.

Certify Your Photography Business

Certify your business with any of the following available legitimate green certifications to avoid greenwashing and market your business as a green business. There are many environmental certifications that are actually reliable, so if you’re looking to make a difference and kickstart your sustainability journey, you should choose from a trustworthy list. This GBB article touches on the different types of Sustainability Certifications and will help you understand all your options.


Photographers should become more eco-friendly and switch to sustainable business practices. Following recommendations listed in this article your business will be able to:

  • Help preserve the planet and play a part in a global movement to stop the global warming
  • Save money by reducing waste
  • Improve its reputation and brand
  • Grow sales by attracting a new group of customers who seek sustainable photographers
  • Retain more customers and improve loyalty
  • Attract new employees that care about a greener environment
  • Minimize waste from printing, packaging, and buying new equipment
  • Become a  greener  business that encourage other businesses to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly

About the Author

Maria Gorskikh

GBB Green Ambassador

Maria Gorskikh is a content writer for Green Business Bureau who is passionate about business and sustainability. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, concentrating in Finance and Business Sustainability. Maria also has a special interest in environmental studies and social movements. Outside of academia and her career pursuits, Maria enjoys playing chess, painting, traveling in Europe.

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