Everything's Greener for Today's Wedding Photographers

By Dana Rouse

Photographer Shona Dion likes to find clients who "share the same ideals" as she does. Of this wedding held at the Xenia Retreat Centre on Bowen Island in British Columbia she says, "the sense of the celebration and belonging was so strong."

Shona Dion
Sweet Earth Photographics
Vancouver, BC, Canada

It is from her father that Shona Dion developed her delight in finding things that are old and giving them new life. “It was his influence,” she says, “his seeing the beauty in what came before, that started me on my green path.” An extension of who she is, Dion began her photography business, Sweet Earth Photographics, with these ideals already in place.

Based in Vancouver, Dion also runs an eco-friendly wedding fair, where she meets other like-minded people and gets to know the small but ardent community of the green wedding market. “It is hard to find venues that have a commitment to the environment,” she says, “although this is slowly changing.” She finds the people she deals with share her commitment to sustainability and take great pride in what is offered.

In all her business decisions, Dion researches the green options first, which gives her peace of mind. “With photography itself, it is not easy to find green options,” she says, “but running a sustainable business provides more options.” Her business materials are printed on recycled paper, and her office has a full recycling/composting system in place, including ink and equipment. “I belong to a network of photographers who trade and sell equipment and materials with one another,” she says. “Before making any new purchases we can check to see what others have available—our own recycling/re-using program.”

Dion notes that in marketing herself, she is a key ingredient in how she runs her business. All her marketing materials are 100 percent recycled content. She avidly supports local businesses and artisans by buying locally-produced products. “I’m always working toward finding new ways to operate my business in the most sustainable way,” she says.

Sweet Earth offers clients the option of downloading images directly to their home computers to forgo a disc (if they order a disc, the cover is 100 percent recycled content) and handmade/homemade albums that are made from recycled content. If clients choose to order a bound book, Dion works with a company that produces them locally in Vancouver. She also has plans to offer handmade upcycled, reclaimed wood frames inspired by her father.

The wedding industry notoriously produces a lot of waste, so working with eco-savvy clients helps Dion get even more excited about shooting their wedding day. “I appreciate the choices they made to lower their wedding footprint,” she says, adding that she has clients who seek her out because of who she is and how she runs her business, and others who find her and are inspired by how she operates. “Many couples believe that a green wedding will compromise their choices or cost more money,” she says, “and this is not the case.”

Jackson Tyler Eddy
A Frame Forward Photography
Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN

Involved in the photo business for more than a decade, Jackson Tyler Eddy opened A Frame Forward Photography three years ago, actively marketing himself as a green photographer since its inception. Last year, he was certified through Greener Photography (a non-profit organization, actively seeks to mitigate the environmental impact of the photography industry by educating photographers, suppliers and the general public about the benefits of going green) achieving Premiere Level status, and he became a five-leaf rated vendor with the Green Bride Guide (a resource for couples seeking eco-friendly ideas, services and products). Since then, Eddy redoubled his efforts in marketing his eco-friendly services, building on his reputation as the “greenest” photographer in Minnesota.

“The Twin Cities. are pretty progressive as far as American cities go,” Eddy says. “We have a lot of eco-friendly businesses here, and the support for each other is fantastic.”

In a Google search of eco-friendly photographers in Minnesota, A Frame Forward tops the list. “A good majority of my clients find me this way,” Eddy says, adding that he also gets a mix of clients who hire him solely based on his imagery. Running his photo business in a green fashion comes easily for Eddy, because it aligns perfectly with his own lifestyle. “I market myself the way that I am, both personally and professionally,” he says, “and usually attract the same type of clients.”

Eddy finds that working with compatible individuals deepens the connection to his clients and the shoot, enhancing the overall experience for everyone. “Getting that extra inspiration fuels my creativity, and my clients get the benefit of receiving images they love,” he says. “My clients win, I win and the whole world wins right along with us.”

© A Frame Forward Photography
Photographer Jackson Tyler Eddy said of his client Lauren (above) and her new husband Noah, "[they] incorporated some really great eco-friendly aspects into their wedding. These two are kind, intelligent, creative and fun."

To minimize the footprint A Frame Forward leaves on the environment, Eddy utilizes digital delivery of images, providing high-resolution images with zero packaging waste. Because his target market is Internet/tech-savvy, many of his clients choose not to order prints, preferring to share their images online via various social media channels.

When it comes to printing though, Eddy cites the basic rules of thumb he goes by: inkjet printing on natural fibers and staying away from papers with OBAs (Optical Brightening Agents). He also advises steering clear of traditional resin-coated papers, as they essentially never biodegrade.

For clients who order print enlargements, Eddy prefers Giclee Fine Art prints as the most eco-friendly option available, manufactured to stand the test of time with museum quality. But he offers several other interesting alternatives.

“My favorite look is the recycled aluminum enlargements,” he says. “The technology makes the images look alive.” Eco-friendly canvas is another top choice, and many vendors are greening it up even more with framing and construction. Bamboo enlargements are also a fast-growing, sustainable resource with a unique look and feel. “The best thing about all these premium products is that they don’t suffer in appearance or quality by being eco-friendly,” Eddy says. 

A part of the puzzle Eddy wishes was more eco-friendly is the actual photo equipment. “The research and development that goes into manufacturing our cameras and computers most definitely has a negative impact on our environment and eco-systems worldwide,” he says. “The good part is that the high-end equipment I use, especially the lenses, should last my entire career.”

For Eddy, being able to work as a green photographer brings harmony, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I would rather make a modest living and do things right,” he says, “than be super rich and know I am not following my heart in what I do.”

Angela Simpson
Angelina Rose Photography
Phoenix, AZ

Growing up in western Massachusetts, Angela Simpson was surrounded by eco-consciousness, so the transition to running her photo business greenly came naturally. Working and marketing herself as a green photographer for the past six years, Simpson made a cross-country move in 2008 to Phoenix, which proved a challenging place to restart her Angelina Rose Photography. “Arizona is slow to catch on to the green- wedding concept,” she says. “It’s been a trying process, but I have seen things improve with the shift to having more eco-friendly clients.”

Simpson’s clients in Arizona are aware of her eco-conscious efforts, but that doesn't appear to be the selling point when they go to her for their wedding day coverage. “Truly eco-conscious clients are still few and far between in this state,” she says, “but 2013 looks promising.”

A self-proclaimed longtime treehugger, Simpson says starting to market herself as a green photographer hasn’t made a huge impact on the way she does business. But there was an enlightened moment when she became more environmentally aware of certain waste in the sphere of wedding photography.

“When I first started Angelina Rose Photography, I remember feeling guilty about having 400-800 4x6 prints processed for my clients,” she says, “knowing full well that at least half of these proofs wouldn't make it into any album and would simply be tossed out.” She vowed to change the way she runs her business and set up practices and values associated with her personal eco-conscious lifestyle.

© Angelina Rose Photography
Angela Simpson's clients William and Sharlot tied their love of nature into their wedding. Decorations included re-purposed tins and framed quotes by naturalists and preservationists.

The Angelina Rose Photography Web site clearly spells out the specific things Simpson does that directly affect her business on an ecological level. Some of them include reducing the amount of paper she uses for business purposes, printing her pamphlets and business cards on recycled paper and using soy-based inks with a company that produces their products with waterless offset printers.

“Finding local companies to do this was challenging, but the connections I made after my move to Arizona helped tremendously in my search for other eco-friendly companies,” Simpson says. “Back in 2008, finding alternative eco-conscious wedding products, such as album companies and print labs, was a bit more difficult. Now, not so much.” 

Simpson researched a more efficient and eco-savvy way to present images to her brides and grooms, and decided to switch from DVDs and CDs to thumb drives for easier storage and less chance of the images being damaged by scratches. “I also no longer have that guilt of making proof prints by hosting images online instead,” she says.

Some of the products Simpson uses are Couture Book green line for albums, Red River Paper for anniversary prints, which she sends out as gifts to her brides and grooms, Plywerk for bamboo photo panels as wall art, and a local lab for processing prints. She also recycles batteries and donates a percentage of each wedding package to the Nature Conservancy to help protect and preserve coral reefs around the world.


More of the eco-friendly and local products, services and resources these photographers use are listed below.

Watermark Bindery (Nordland, WA)  

Iris Book (Vancouver, BC, Canada) – locally produced albums/books

ProDPI (Englewood, CO) – photo lab

Loktah (West Monroe, LA) – natural media products

White House Custom Color (Eagan, MN, Mesquite, TX and Fresno, CA)

Simply Color Lab (Akron, OH)

Nikon’s Environmental Policy & Environmental Action Report

Back Thru the Future (Ogdensburg, NJ) – CD/DVD recycling

The Green Bride Guide by Kate Harrison

Couture Book – green line for albums

Red River Paper (Dallas, TX) – for prints

Plywerk (Portland, OR) – for bamboo photo panels



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