Let’s not mince words. We’ve arrived at the golden age of adventure photography.
If we ignore the concerns about what social media is doing to our behaviour and our craft, let’s just be pragmatic about the current situation. As adventure photographers, we’re in a unique position. Supply and demand is decidedly on our side.
There are two big things at play:
- Adventure is also wildly popular. I am not talking about adventure like traversing Antarctica, kite-skiing across Greenland, or rowing across the Atlantic. I’m talking about simply getting outside, getting away from cities and exploring wilderness.
- As consumers, we no longer trust advertising. Brands must earn our trust before they earn our money. And often, they’re using social media to build that relationship. Rather than requiring a dozen images for an advertising campaign, most businesses need multiple images every day.
Since our images inspire people to get outside and explore, the demand has never been higher. Simply put, it’s never been easier to get work as an adventure photography.
As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
I’ve been an adventure photographer for nearly a decade. Over that time, the industry has changed. Photographers have become social media influencers and influencers have become photographers. Established pros have honed their messaging and become experts in the field, just as new photographers have exploded onto the scene.
We need to work together to make sure our careers aren’t just successful, but also sustainable. With that in mind, these are my guiding principles.
My Adventure Photography Manifesto
Concerning my business, I will:
- focus on my creative vision rather than chase social media engagements.
- strive to create authentic adventure images (and captions) for my clients and my portfolio.
- cherish my audience and earn their respect. I will be transparent and honest. I will not create a story that doesn’t exist.
- foster valuable relationships with clients I admire and respect. I won’t sacrifice my core beliefs, work ethics, or best practices for a paycheck.
Regarding the environment, people, and cultures I photograph, I will:
- take only photographs and leave only footprints. Whenever possible, I will follow LNT principles, hike on established trails, and pack out what I pack in.
- respect wildlife. I will not approach, bait, feed, or pressure wildlife to create an image.
- empower people I photograph. I will ask their permission, understand their vulnerabilities, and value their trust.
- respect other cultures and portray them accurately.
Because it’s the law, I will:
- respect local laws, restrictions and common practices. I will ask for permission and/or permits, when required.
- fly a drone. But I’ll only do it where I am allowed and when it is appropriate. I will obey. I will take the time to learn the local regulations, before I fly.
Within the photography community, I will:
- borrow ideas from other artists, but I will not plagiarize.
- became a leader, stand up for our collective rights, and mentor aspiring photographers.
What did I miss?
I would also love to open this conversation up beyond my own adventure photography manifesto, so please let me know about your ideas.
- What trends on social media or within the industry concern you?
- What best practices should more photographers should adopt?
- Should photographers ultimately become stewards for the environments they work in?
- Has a photograph or a photographer ever influenced your outdoor behavior?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!