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  • Writer's pictureJade Baird

What Does it Mean to be a Conservation Photographer?

Updated: Jul 19, 2023


A photo of a turtle underwater taken by conservation photographer Shane Gross

Photo by Shane Gross


A First Hello


Welcome to the first entry of The CCPC’s monthly blog, where we discuss complex conservation issues, explain our current campaigns and their progress, and interview our photographers.


Our mission is always to educate, engage, and inspire, and that is what this space will be used for. We’ll share unique perspectives on issues that matter to us. If you’d like us to write about an issue that is important to you, please reach out to us and we’ll add it to our list of future topics!


The Question at Hand


We see images of wildlife and nature in our social media feeds every day. There are images that spark joy and wonder, like bumblebees covered in pollen or breaching humpback whales, and images that tell of tragedy, like turtles entwined with plastic or polar bears with jutting ribs. How can you tell what you’re looking at is conservation photography, captured by a conservation photographer?


It’s a question the collective is often asked, and it’s one our founder Josh DeLeenheer has an answer for. “To me a conservation photographer is someone who uses their work to promote conservation,” DeLeenheer said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be wildlife or landscape photography, although those are probably two of the most common genres that are a part of conservation photography, but it could include events, portraits, whatever tells a story about a conservation subject essentially.”


“I think it should be the central, core theme of a person’s work. If you are truly a conservation photographer, that is what defines your goal in your photography.”


It’s About The Intent


Is there a difference between nature photography and conservation photography?


Absolutely.


It’s easy to pull out your camera and snap photos of your surroundings. The intention before, during, and after you capture those images is what defines a conservation photographer.


Nature photography can capture beautiful images, but those images lack a story. A conservation photographer intends to capture images that tell a meaningful story to their audience, with the hopes those images can incite change. More often than not, before those images were taken, a ton of research was conducted, and after, the images are used to help educate the public. These images have the power to change perspectives, allocate resources, and make a lasting difference.


At its core, conservation photography is about advocacy. It plays a vital role in raising awareness about the threats our wildlife and ecosystems face because of human-caused climate change.


This is why ethics is so important when it comes to photography. Conservation photographers adhere to generally accepted ethical photography practices, which The CCPC outlines on our website, and all of our photographer’s follow.


So, what does it mean to be a conservation photographer? It means that your work is defined by intent, research, advocacy, and ethics. You want to make a difference in the world, and your end goal is to help create positive change for our wildlife and ecosystems.



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