What Is Eco-Friendly Product Photography?

Global Palette by The Wandering Lens

So what is eco-friendly product photography?  That’s a hard one to definitively answer my eco-friendly friends.  My journey into the eco and sustainability space is very much in its infancy, but through my own professional experience in commercial product photography, product photography courses, Pinterest boards, and thousands upon thousands of product photography social media posts, I started to realise just how much of a potential impact product photography can have on the environment.

From vinyl backgrounds, to plastic props, from studio equipment to fake organic props just to name a few, there is an incredible amount of “things” that can go into just one styled client shoot that may never be used for another shoot ever again, and what we’re left with is an ever growing prop library of “things” that could very well end up in landfill all for the sake of a beautiful image that captures a consumers attention for between 8-20 seconds.  I had started product photography as a service in April 2021, and by August of 2022 I was questioning just how much of an impact my small business was having on the environment.  I hadn’t even been in the product photography business for long, and I had built up a significant collection of various props that were only used on single shoots, and I started reconsidering product photography and whether I would remove that as a service that I offered.  The issue with that was, I actually enjoyed creating product photography images, but I needed some time to regroup and think about how I – and by extension, my business – could create a sustainable practice within my current business model that would reduce environmental impact, and would meet the needs of my clients and my business.  It was at this time that I also decided that I wanted to create a range of photography services that embodied a more holistic approach than what I was currently offering, and so naturally, I took a hiatus for a few months whilst working out the details of the direction I planned for my business to move towards.

I set about working on some pillars for my business that would form the foundation of all of my decisions moving forward.  The first part of that process was figuring out what is what that I enjoyed doing, and then figuring out how I could offer those things I’m passionate about as a service whilst keeping my and my businesses environmental impact to a minimum. Once I grouped my passions together – landscape photography, travel photography, interior photography, product photography and writing – I set about strategising how all of these elements could work together as individual pillars to form a holistic service base for my business, and I then started working on how each element of the business would embody its own unique environmental focus.

What I came up with was this:

Lens & Muse is a multi-creative photography studio based in Newcastle, New South Wales.  We work with accomodation, eco-tourism travel service providers and sustainable outdoor product based businesses Australia-wide to create bespoke, impactful imagery to connect with those inspired by environmentally focused travel, adventure and lifestyle.

As soon as I wrote those words down in my notebook, everything clicked into place.  From there, it was then a matter of thinking about how each pillar would be communicated to my clients and potential clients.  From a product photography point of view, I fleshed out what my terms of service would like.

  • Shooting outdoors in natural light will be the preferred choice of lighting.  I do still have my two continuous studio light setup which I can revert to in exceptional circumstances where more powerful lighting is required should the lack of natural light compromise the quality of the deliverables.
  • Working with product based businesses with aligned environmentally focused business values.
  • No further non-organic props are to be purchased brand new – they are only to be sourced via second hand sources like op shops, or Facebook market place, Gumtree etc.  As mentioned above I have quite a few props stored already, and so, I’ve also created a prop library on an excel spreadsheet so that I know exactly what I already have at my disposal to use for projects.
  • Organic props are the preferred prop to be used for product photography projects.  Food, flowers and plants, can either be composted, or put in our green bins where they can be disposed of correctly and as minimally impactful on the environment as possible.
  • Organic props are to be sourced locally.  All floral organic props will be sourced from local florists who source their flowers from local growers, and the flowers I use for projects will be determined by what is available seasonally.  Similarly, organic food props will be sourced from local farmers markets, and as with the flowers, the food props will be selected based on what is seasonally available.  Plants have always been sourced from my parents backyard (thanks mum and dad), and I will continue to use their plants for as long as I have access to their yard.
  • Editing software.  I have always used Lightroom and Photoshop for my product photography images – Lightroom for colour grading, and Photoshop for cleaning up an image.  Where I previously would have had used elements of these editing tools in conjunction with physical vinyl backdrops and/or paper rolls, to achieve a certain colour aesthetic for my clients, I now exclusively use Photoshop to create all background colour aesthetics.
  • Any props or studio equipment that I already have that I no longer require in the future will be sold on, or donated to not-for-profit businesses.

To be completely transparent, I am still on a path of learning in this area, and so what I’ve listed above is based on what I have come to understand that I can do to make change in this space so far, and whilst the changes are certainly not a perfect, I believe these small but impactful changes that I have made in my business are a good starting point.

If you’re a product photographer starting out, you can find my beginners guide to product photography here, and you can find examples from my product photography portfolio here.

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