Unrecognizable woman in hat taking photo in nature

Leave No Trace & Social Media

In a previous blog post, we went over the Leave No Trace Seven Principles and what they mean for us as photographers. With social media being one of the biggest reasons why more and more people are wanting to experience the great outdoors, recently there has been a lot of discussion across the adventure industry about a need for some updates to these principles for the digital age. Being responsible isn’t just about taking care of these places while we are out in them, but also assessing how we portray them online to the world. So how can we as photographers help to keep our wild places wild and protected in this digital age? Leave No Trace have come up with these new social media guidelines:

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Leave No Trace – A Social Media Guide For Photographers

Tag Thoughtfully

Rather than tagging a specific location, consider whether it would be better to tag a general area. Whilst it might feel like gatekeeping not to share the exact location with others, many wild places are now being overrun with tourists who are just looking to take the same shot they have seen on Instagram and this is causing irreparable damage to the surrounding environment. By tagging the surrounding area, you’re encouraging people to explore more and not just visit a location to take one specific photo.

Side note: Since writing this original article on the AWA, I have been involved in many discussions around gatekeeping, diversity and access to the outdoors (which I hope to address in a future podcast episode). I think both sides of the argument of “to tag or not to tag” have extremely valid points, and I think every situation is different. I would also invite you to ask yourself why you want to not geotag a location, and if a location is so vulnerable that you don’t think others should know about it, perhaps the best thing is to keep those photos to yourself and not post them publicly.

Be Mindful Of What Your Images Portray

This is a HUGE one where I see photos giving the wrong impression of what is and isn’t ok to do out in the wild. One of the biggest problems (and unfortunately some of the most popular on social media) is pictures portraying camping, tents and campfires, in locations where it is forbidden to camp. How many times have you seen a beautiful image of a remote lakeside camp? Whilst the person taking the photo might be aware that camping within 200 feet/60m of water, wild camping, or having a campfire is forbidden in that location, the thousands of people who see that photo and aspire to copy it might not. I love the Instagram account @youdidnotsleepthere for highlighting some of the most ridiculous camping locations.

Another example where images might not be setting a responsible example are styled wedding shoots in natural locations, with elaborate table scapes and decorations. While these might seem like harmless inspiration shoots, the reality of couples wanting to re-create these for their real weddings can have a hugely damaging impact on an area and affect other people’s enjoyment of a public outdoor space.

Give Back To Places You Love

Nature isn’t just a pretty backdrop for your photos. What can you do to actively help to protect these places where you are working? Whether it’s donating your time by organizing a cleanup or donating money to a local charity, find a way to give back to the places that you are benefitting from.

Encourage & Inspire Leave No Trace In Your Social Media Posts

If you’ve read my post on footprint and brainprint, you’ll know that what you share has an impact. Make sure you take the time to check the messages you are sending out on your social media. Be critical about which images you are sharing, and the captions your posting alongside them. Use your platform to inspire and educate your clients, your followers and other photographers to enjoy nature respectfully and responsibly.

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