In a world of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, everyone can be a photographer with a tap of their smartphones. But can those images truly make a difference? Sometimes we just want to share our day-to-day lives with our followers. However, conservation photography can take social media a step further, using that photographic process to advocate for the protection of the planet.
Conservation photography combines nature photography with the issue-oriented approach of documentary photography to become a tool for social change. In close collaboration with stakeholders, conservation photographers can use their images to build alliances, raise funds and influence policy. This type of photography is really about the actions a photographer takes after the images have been made. The real responsibility starts after the shutter has been tripped. It is about getting images in front of the influential people that need to see them.
And putting images in front of people could not be easier than it is today. Thanks to the proliferation of online photo-sharing communities, each one of us has become our own production and distribution house. Post a compelling image and it can be seen by thousands. Curate an online body of work that has an emotional message and people may even join your mission.
Scaling this effort is one of the main goals of conservation photography and online photo-sharing communities are providing the channels to do just that. Here are three Instagram accounts that are using great photography to incite positive change.
Building Alliances for Endangered Species
According to their account, “Racing Extinction shows never-before-seen images to expose the issues of endangered species and mass extinction.” And their projected images on iconic buildings around the world shows that there’s a global audience paying attention. Their innovative and bold approach, and use of images to deliver their message, is making difficult conversations about extinction more palatable. Their online community is treated to a well-curated portfolio of great imagery, both beautiful and shocking. But perhaps more than anything, their Instagram account serves as a portal to the larger dialogue they’ve initiated.
For more information, visit racingextinction.com.
Raising Funds for Ocean Conservation
Committed conservation photographers Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier are harnessing the power of visual storytelling to take followers of their Instagram accounts below the surface, on a global tour of issues affecting our oceans. In a recent Instagram campaign, Cristina and Paul showcase their world-class work with a call to action, asking community members to help raise funds for ocean conservation. For more information, visit
Influencing Policy for a Better Canada
The David Suzuki Foundation has been dedicated to protecting biodiversity and inspiring Canadians to be mindful of our planet for some time, and they continue this pursuit through their Instagram account. When politics become personal, it can be reassuring to participate in conversations with others who share your beliefs. On DFS’s Instagram, you’ll see captivating portraits of a snow leopard or orangutans, but you’ll also encounter messaging that directly connects you with ways to help. For more information, visit davidsuzuki.org.
Want more? Watch a video on conservation photography and check out these international conservation photographers on Instagram:
Learn more about Canadian Geographic's Photographer-In-Residence program.