Why Become A Member of Nature First?

Since we launched Nature First in April of 2019 we’ve had thousands of people across this world join this movement, but occasionally we get questions from people wondering whether there is any real reason for them to sign up. So today, we’re going to try and answer some of these questions and address the reasons that keep people from joining. We hope you find this helpful. 


If you read Nature First’s seven principles of responsible nature photography and think to yourself that your actions don’t currently align with the principles, then in joining us you are in good company. The principles are a standard to which we aspire and falling short in some areas is actually the best reason to join Nature First. We didn’t establish these principles because we flawlessly practiced them. We recognized where our own actions were having a negative impact on nature. We first committed ourselves to becoming better stewards of nature then issued a call to action to others.

As Nature First members, we are making a commitment together to become more thoughtful about how our actions affect the natural world. None of us are perfect, but together we can make progress, pursue perfection and, in doing so, reduce our impact on the world’s wild and natural places. 


Every member matters because each additional member amplifies our voice and helps transform the Nature First principles from an idea embraced by a few into an accepted standard that is practiced by many.

At an individual level, your membership and commitment to practicing Nature First principles becomes an example to those who view your work and to those with whom you socialize. Your accountability, actions and advocacy become a benchmark to which others will aspire. Nature First’s principles can only have a real impact on the world if they become a recognized standard, practiced by all photographers, not just a few. Your membership reflects a commitment as opposed to an interest, giving the movement a louder voice, greater visibility and more meaningful influence to promote greater protection for our natural places.


While it is absolutely true that many of our easily accessible natural places are suffering from over-visitation by the general public, it’s often nature photographers who first popularize those places through their published works, posts on social media, workshops, etc. Even less well-known, or difficult to reach natural areas can be harmed by just a few visitors or photographers if care is not taken to first learn about the area and take appropriate steps to protect sensitive or delicate ecosystems. With nature photographers seeking new and beautiful scenes, the fragility of some of these locations make them susceptible to damage from even well-intentioned visitors. In this regard, all of us – nature photographers and the public – play a role in how our natural places are impacted.

The good news is that nature photographers – using the same influence that attracts people to these locations – have an opportunity to help educate visitors of all types about responsible photography and to drive positive change. In the past, nature photographers used their imagery to influence the establishment of parks and protections for wild and natural places. Back then, the threats to those areas were more often land development and resource extraction. Today, the threats are different, but nature photographers have the power to once again provide protection for these places through adopting and advocating for Nature First principles.


Sometimes photographers say that Nature First is only trying to keep people from ruining the grass around beautiful places, as that is the most visible impact of increased visitation to many areas. While the loss of vegetation and the resulting erosion is something we are concerned about, that is just the start. The impact of many feet is a big issue that leads to destroyed vegetation in large areas, the creation of social trails where there were none, the destruction of delicate mosses that have taken years to grow, the crushing of cryptobiotic soils, leaving scars in the tundra that take half a century or more to recover, and the breaking of sandstone fins that are irreplaceable. Yet, the impact of our feet is not all that concerns us.

Nature First is concerned about the impacts on whole ecosystems. Many places that were unknown are now so popular that wildlife have had to vacate large areas. The natural silence that once prevailed has been replaced by the constant hum of human activity. Garbage and human waste is now polluting the soil and water and being ingested by animals. Wild places are losing their wildness and even remote natural areas are becoming tourist destinations requiring barriers, signs, fences, and trails. We are concerned about the ever-expanding degradation of natural areas and habitats for wildlife.

We can’t – and don’t want to -diminish interest in visiting or photographing these places. Nature First is about establishing and propagating an ethic that guides our thoughts and actions in an effort to minimize our impact, preserve our remaining wild places, and allow damaged areas to begin recovery.  


The most obvious benefit is that your commitment is helping to achieve the goals we hold in common, preserving our natural and wild places. You are joining your voice with others so that our common message can be heard.

Secondly, you are joining a community of photographers who share the same values and who prioritize the well being of the natural world. This commonality can often be the start of lasting friendships. You are joining a community that spans the globe and a movement that is helping to take care of our earth’s greatest treasures.

Nature First also plans to start rolling out some more tangible benefits for Nature First Members such as a members-only section of the website. Here you will have access to content that you can use in the field and tools to promote responsible nature photography. One of the resources in development is a set of regional guides created in collaboration with Nature First members across the world. These guides will explain what you need to know  to have a safe, productive, informed, and responsible photography trip in different countries and regions of the world. These beautiful and informative guides will be available free of charge to all Nature First Members.

All these benefits notwithstanding, the question of, What’s in it for me? is probably the wrong question to ask. The better question is, What can I do to care for the natural world?. By becoming a member of Nature First you will be part of a movement that is making a concrete difference and investment in the future of our natural world.