Learning to be Greener – Practices in Making my Wedding Photography business more Eco Friendly

When my wedding planner friend Catrina, of Catrina Maria Designs asked me to speak about green wedding photography at last week’s monthly meeting of the Sacramento NACE (National Association of Catering Executives) I was both excited at the proposition and a bit panicked. It has been many moons since I last made a big public presentation and the thought of it made me pause. But the idea of “going green” has been on my mind for years now and this was a great opportunity to think about how I could make my wedding photography business even more sustainable. So…What makes a green photography business?

From film to digital and how it has changed photographer’s workflow. A very brief history.

Back in the days of film there was substantial waste. The whole photography workflow was comprised of a wide variety of chemicals used in film development and print processing. There was a lot of waste ranging from spent developing chemicals that usually found their way down a drain to scrape photo paper emulsions being tossed in the trash. It was the chemicals (developing baths, stop baths, fixing baths, and rinse steps) themselves that were the most problematic. Many of them had limited shelf life and also could be hazardous to your health over extended periods of time.

These days most photographers have gone digital both from an ecological and economical standpoint. Digital photography offers a paperless and chemical-free way to capture an event, including being able to view online proofs before deciding which ones to print if at all. The transition from film to digital has greatly diminished the amount of waste produced from professional photographers.

In many ways you can say that the professional photography realm has naturally progressed towards many of the practices the green movement. But what business practices make up a green photographer? In other words, how can one make their photography business greener?

Making your wedding business greener?

It comes down to a self-evaluation of how your business operates and identifying things that can be improved on. Start at the core of the green movement with the 3 R’s –Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The following is a list of things you can use to help green up your business.

Printing less stuff equals having less paper waste

You can help reduce this waste by using as little paper as possible, and being smart about the paper you do use. If paper is a necessity, using recycled paper can help. Evaluate your workflow and figure out how you use paper products. Is printing out emails and other documents pertinent to your productivity? Try keeping your digital files organized in their digital format. You can keep emails in your inbox but organize them in a way that makes them easier to find and reference. Many online email providers like gmail.com have made this step nearly effortless. It’s always a good idea to make back-up copies of important files and emails but instead of storing boxes of paper files, consider keeping them on an external hard drive. When you do need to print important documents, make sure you use a sustainable paper, and set your printer or copier to print on both sides of the page.

With unlimited storage online and the concepts of cloud storage system it is easier than ever to go digital with your documents and photography by merging that information into your online presence.

I try to have as much information on my website as possible. I have purposely chosen not to have my website based in Flash and instead have it based off of a WordPress CSS based blog format from Graph Paper Press. The open source code allows for faster load times and uses a fraction of energy consumption of Flash sites. Flash based websites consume a ton of energy to upload, are slow and worse of all they are invisible to search engine optimization algorithms like Google.

A great way to reduce paper use and get contracts and documents signed more quickly is to use electronic signatures programs. I am sold on ShootQ.com and I am slowly integrating it into my workflow. It’s a virtual studio manager that assisting me from the moment a prospective client contacts me through my website to the delivery of the photos. The program helps you manage the workload, stay organized, it provides a place for your packages and rates to be password protected online until the final images are delivered. Your entire business workflow is online with minimum to no paper waste.

The digital workflow also allows me to post the entire digital wedding take online for proofing instead of printing out a bunch of proof sheets for my clients. There are plenty of online photo archival sites that let clients search my full wedding take. It allows them to make print purchases, and/or download low-res images purchases for social media purposes instantly online. I use online photography photo storage company called Photoshelter but there are others like Pictage that can be good options.

Some other practices I’m integrating into my business are…

-Using rechargeable batteries in strobes to offset the waste of used batteries going into land fills. I’ve started using Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries. They have a higher price tag than alkaline batteries up front but the price is offset by the amount you can use them. They can be recycled hundreds of times. This fact can take the cost down to less than couple cents per energy cell over time. Sure, it costs some money for the power to charge them. But that is minor compared to the cost of replacing an alkaline batteries over time.

-I’m printing my business cards on 100% recycled paper from a great business card company called Moo.com. For a less expensive option check out PSPrint.com

-I buy more energy efficient hard drives for storing photos

-I try to buy used camera gear when possible if it’s in good condition like my new, used Nikon D3 pictured above.

-I strive to keep all of my equipment clean and free from dust. This helps my electronics run more efficiently. This also saves me a ton of time having to photoshop out dust spots on my images.

I have all of my electronics – computer, printer, external hard drive, and other office gadgets plugged into one power strip. By turning it off you can ensure that none of your appliances are secretly robbing energy. I was surprised to learn through my research that cell phone chargers left plugged into a wall when you’re not using them still draw energy, regardless of whether there’s anything plugged into them.

So…in conclusion, how can you sell your clients on green photography practices?

-Encourage brides to buy prints of only the photos they really want.

-Offer your brides an option to buy digital wedding albums or if they want a physical wedding album have green album options made from recycled material. Plenty of great choices out there like Wild Magnolia Design Albums

-Offer the option of them receiving their images on flash drives for photo delivery instead of DVDs. They are reusable and double as a cool promo for your business. There are numerous companies out there that can do this like FlashBay

-If brides insist on a DVD, (which most do) design it so that it will be something they will cherish. I use Jewelboxing.com cases that allow me to create beautiful high quality jewel display cases. They are durable, they look fantastic and with the right design can really make an impression on your clients.

-Eliminate the need for lots of camera flash use by encouraging your wedding clients to have their ceremony/reception in naturally lit areas for the wedding which could also mean just having their wedding earlier in the day (having a venue with lots of windows saves energy and creates beautiful soft light for photos).

Remember that becoming green is not about being perfect on day one. Making a commitment to the environment is an ongoing process. Take it in small steps. It can be easier than you think. All the best. Go Green.

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