Introducing 'Nature First' The Alliance for Responsible Nature Photography

Originally published at:

In recent years you have undoubtedly noticed changes at the places we love to photograph. There has been an influx of photographers who want to create their version of these beautiful places. It is great to see so many people getting out of the house to enjoy nature, but with this, we have also witnessed the destruction of the places we love.

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Last year Jennifer and I began to work on a project with a group of like-minded photographers who wanted to put an end to this destruction. We all decided what was missing from this new generation of photographers was a set of guiding principles.

In the past, the nature photography world was a small, tight-knit community. You would typically go out with someone you know who would show you the ropes, and along the way teach you some principles to respect nature. With the advent of the internet, social media, and sharing of GPS coordinates this mentoring aspect has largely been lost. Now, it is far too easy to look up a location online, plug it into your GPS and find a delicate spot without learning anything about the area or how/why to protect it.

We see far too many people who have no respect for the natural environment because they have not been educated. They will do anything to ‘get the shot’. We see flowers and ferns trampled, new trails created, cryptobiotic soil smashed, trespassing, wildlife harassed, etc., etc.

It is time for a cultural shift in the nature photography community to respect nature above the photograph, and it starts right now with the advent of Nature First: The Alliance for Responsible Nature Photography, which promotes the following principles.

Nature First Principles

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  1. Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.
  2. Educate yourself about the places you photograph.
  3. Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.
  4. Use discretion if sharing locations.
  5. Know and follow rules and regulations.
  6. Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.
  7. Actively promote and educate others about these principles

You can read more about the principles by visiting the Nature First website.

I know that most of you likely follow these principles already and we thank you for this. What we need from you is to share these ideas far and wide. Please take action by sharing these ideas online, with other photographer friends, try to get your camera club on board, maybe even give a presentation. If you see someone who is violating these principles try to have a positive discussion with them (if it’s safe) to see if you can change their behavior. All of us need to be ambassadors to create change within our communities. It is time to take action and instill values in our fellow photographers to protect the places we all love.

If you lead workshops or have a large following online it is especially important that you get the word out, you have the power to influence the masses and make this spread like wildfire.


Changes on NPN for Nature First

We have proudly partnered with Nature First to provide a platform to discuss the issues we are facing.

We have added a new category on NPN for discussions on the Nature First principles. The category will be an area to discuss the positive impacts we are having on people’s behaviors, what we can do to improve/extend the principles, how we can get more people involved, etc. We did not want these important discussions to be limited to just paying NPN members so we have created a new free membership tier so anyone that joins can post in this category, but they cannot post anywhere else or see the critique section.

Starting today, you will also notice the Nature First logo next to some users names on NPN; this is to proudly display that you are a member of Nature First and that you commit to follow and share these principles with others. If you would like to show your commitment to this effort, please visit this page and click ‘Join Group’ in the upper right, which will automatically add the logo, if it doesn’t show up after joining the group, please give it 24 hours to show up.


Through this process, we have also re-evaluated some areas of NPN that could be contributing to the problem. The Field Reports section, while not very active, as the site grows could lead to an influx of photographers at sensitive areas. Therefore, we are making this section of the site only visible to paying or lifetime members. To access this area members must also agree and abide by the Nature First principles, which you do by joining the Nature First group on NPN as mentioned earlier.

This is only the beginning for Nature First, and I’m sure you have a lot of ideas on how to extend it beyond what we have already created. If you have ideas, please post them in the Nature First category.


Thanks for posting this David. There is probably no more important issue for nature photographers today. I hope everyone will take a few minutes to visit the website to check it out. A lot of hard work by many photographers has gone into developing this initiative. We’re thrilled to have NPN as a partner as well as Leave No Trace.

Hopefully, over the next few years as we all begin to adopt and publicize these principles we will begin to see a change of perception not only among nature photographers but also among YouTubers, Instagramers, portrait photographers, and the general public. We’re aiming for a culture change, much like the one that took place in regards to litter and smoking where those things went from being normal to abnormal. Help us bring about such a change in regard to our relationship with the natural world so that we might preserve the wild lands that are left.


This is such a critical topic today - thank you so much for getting this movement started! Proud to contribute in my own small way!


Welcome to NPN William! It’s a great community.

Thank you for integrating the Nature First initiative into the NPN community. NPN’s leadership in this area is much appreciated and will hopefully help elevate the importance of these principles.


Such an important topic. I just joined. Thank you for integrating this into NPN.


Excellent idea! I’m in .

You said
“We have proudly partnered with Nature First to provide a platform to discuss the issues we are facing.”

From this statement, I’m unclear if this group has existed for awhile and other non-NPN photographers are already involved and promoting it, or whether NPN is starting this group and are the first to join.

It would be good to have a logo available that we could download and add to our websites and other communication.

Something like LOGO - Nature First - please join (free)

Just curious - if NPN is the one starting this, it should imo be given more credit for starting the group.



It also might be a good idea to ( eventually ) create a business care for members that we could print and hand out with our own business cards, when we have the opportunity.


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NPN did not start this. Myself and Jennifer have been working with a group of other photographers to start this initiative. NPN is just a partner as we strongly believe in this and wanted to provide a platform for discussions around this.

If you signed up on the Nature First website you should have received an email with the logos, or you can download them from the bottom of this page

Good idea with the printed materials, this would be great to have for people to bring to camera clubs, symposiums, workshops, etc.


Really great to see you here William! Thanks for supporting this important initiative!

I’m meeting with Leave No Trace again this week to discuss doing a joint card that will have both the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles. We’ll update everyone on the Nature First website when it is available.


I believe any link we add to our websites must be set up in special html language.
We can’t just copy a logo and stick it on a web page.
I’m sure you have other things to think of at the moment; just an idea for the future.

Thank you for starting this initiative to help make stewardship more of a central focus among nature photographers. Looking forward to engaging more with the community to support this effort!


Thanks Matt! I’ve been a member of NPN for a while, just not very active, so this initiative serves a dual purpose :slight_smile:


I have joined the NPN group! I also plan on becoming a member at Nature First.

I have always believed in being sensitive to impacts, and I advise others to do the same.


I joined the Nature First just now. Good to see the thoughts and ideas behind the charter. I’ve always believed heartily in the theme or motto of the list of bonding ideas, but it does not hurt to share or broadcast the thoughts to others…:+1:


How timely is this???

We’re in Valley of Fire state park in Nevada at the moment, and yesterday watched “photographers” corner a herd of desert bighorns on a rocky pinnacle, their only avenue of escape from the horde, which included 2 loose dogs, one a German shepherd. Nasty situation with the shepherd intent on mutton, all in the name of photography.

I would really love to see these. Just stock my pack full and give them out to people on the trail.


Thanks for starting this Dave and others. I joined today.

I was shooting at Bryce this morning when it appeared that a workshop group had hopped the guard railing to shoot along the edge. One guy literally was squatting there without any concern when it looked as if he were one slip away from certain death. I know that most workshop groups probably act in a responsibility manner but I’m kinda sick of the abundance of workshops in general. I miss the days when this was a niche hobby.

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Thanks David for making this available through NPN. I just joined Nature First and have added the logo and link on to my website. I will also post the Logo and link unto my FB page and Instagram, etc. Living where I do (northwest Florida) and shooting where I like to shoot (swamps/marsh) crowds of photographers are not an issue, but sadly they are becoming an issue on the beaches where I shoot. When I see the images of photographers out west, I shudder. I can’t imagine having to put up with 40 - 50 or more photographers just to capture a sunrise or sunset image. After seeing that, I think Nature First is badly needed.