Leave No Trace | Outdoor Ethics For Photographers


As both an In-Studio & On-Location Photographer, I shoot many of my sessions in outdoor areas with clients & individuals who may or may not be familiar with wilderness skills or outdoor safety.

It is so important to find ways to educate ourselves & the people around us about how to respect our environment - from picking up trash, to observing safety rules, to being prepared for wildlife encounters, etc. I’ve got a very cool resource to share with all of you who are on-location, outdoor, or wildlife photographers, nature lovers, or anyone else out there looking for ways to take better care of our environment: Read on to learn more about Leave No Trace & how I incorporate their conservation & safety principles into my photoshoots!

What Is Leave No Trace?

Leave No Trace is an amazing non-profit organization dedicated to educating people all about how to recreate responsibly outdoors! Their mission is to protect the outdoors by teaching & inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. LNT has a set of 7 principles that are designed to help people make safe & responsible decisions while they’re in the great outdoors.

There are countless photographers who have gone out into remote areas & been unaware of the risks associated with being unprepared for intense weather, not having the proper supplies on hand, etc. Many new photographers have accidentally put themselves & their clients into unsafe situations outdoors due to a lack of awareness & preparation. Below are 7 Safety & Ethics Principles that are absolutely essential to keep in mind whenever you are outdoors:

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace

1.Plan Ahead & Prepare

Whenever you are out in nature, it’s deeply important to be as prepared as possible. That means understanding rules, regulations & permit requirements for the area you are visiting, staying aware of weather patterns, bringing along food & water, wearing appropriate clothing, & being aware of your own physical abilities.

2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces

If you do go off trail while outdoors, walking on surfaces such as sand, gravel, or rocks is considered best because of their durability. We want to be careful not to trample plants or other fragile surfaces.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

Simple & straightforward - don’t leave any trash or debris anywhere in the outdoors. Pack it in, pack it out!

4. Leave What You Find

While it is tempting, resist picking flowers or taking home a pocketful of rocks from outdoor areas. Many items like certain endangered plants, raptor feathers, & other geological features are protected federally or by the state & it is actually considered illegal to take home pieces from certain sites.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

It is deeply important to be aware of fire danger - thoroughly extinguish all campfires & be sure to build them in a safe place where there is no danger of the fire spreading due to wind, nearby brush, etc.

6. Respect Wildlife

Never feed wildlife & always observe from a respectful distance! Wildlife can startle easily & it is not safe to try & use them as a photo-op.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

The outdoors are for everyone to enjoy, & this means it’s important to be aware of how your presence may be impacting other visitors. Share the trail, keep music at a low volume, & allow everyone their space.

Why Is Leave No Trace Important?

After noticing increased impacts on trails, the US Forest Service developed the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace in the 1960’s. The idea behind the principles was to leave nature as unchanged by human presence as possible, so that future generations can enjoy our outdoor spaces too. In essence, the purpose of Leave No Trace is to keep the wilderness wild.

With the rise of social media, many beautiful outdoor areas have unfortunately become completely over-run by people who are not being conscious of their impact on the space. Certain wilderness areas that were once accessible have now become highly regulated or even fully shut down to the public due to the high number of people trampling plants, leaving trash, destroying the terrain, etc.

Leave No Trace + Miranda Kelton Photography

I am deeply lucky to have grown up in an environment where I was taught outdoor safety & appreciation from a very young age, & this is not something that many people have had the opportunity to learn from their families & communities. I’ve had the absolute privilege to be able to travel frequently over the course of my life, & have always felt deeply connected to wild spaces. My first photographs were of mountains, flowers, & wildlife, & I have had many people in my life teach me how to exist in nature with awareness & respect.

I am always looking for new ways to deepen my connection with nature, to exist more sustainably, & to run my business in a way that is as eco-friendly as possible. I spend most of my free time outdoors hiking, camping, & exploring, & I want nothing more than to do my part to ensure that our planet can thrive for generations to come. It is so easy to get discouraged as we see the effects of climate change happening all around us, & one way to make a difference is to educate ourselves & those around us about how to exist responsibly in our environment.

Leave No Trace has a variety of classes & resources available online to help educate anyone about how to be more responsible outdoors! I have personally taken one of their classes that is geared towards Photographers, & it is so encouraging to know that there is a community of people out there like me who are dedicated to educating themselves & their clients about outdoor safety.

If you are interested in learning more about this organization, visit their website at LNT.org to view the variety of resources they have available. Always feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have about the course for Photographers as well. Here’s to finding new ways every day to educate ourselves & to take better care of the environment - as of 2023, the Studio also became a business member of 1% for the Planet - click here to learn more!

Want to learn more about LEave no trace?

Click the buttons below to visit the LNT website & to learn more about the special program created for Photographers. The LNT for Photographers course is geared mostly towards outdoor Wedding & Elopement Photographers, but it is completely applicable for any Photographer who has sessions outdoors & in remote wilderness areas.

Bend Oregon Portrait Photographer Miranda Kelton Photography

Meet miranda

Hello! I’m a Portrait, Headshot, & Personal Branding Photographer based in Bend, Oregon.