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Tips for Greener Photography: Less Energy, Greater Profits

Energy Conservation for Photographers

By Stephanie A. Smith and Megan Just

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Conserving energy in your photography business is remarkably easy. The changes you can make are so subtle that you'll hardly notice anything is different. But the ecological payoff of your green actions is anything but subtle; small efforts make a huge collective difference to our environment. And while you're busy saving the Earth, you'll be entertained by watching your power bills plummet. Here are some easy ways you can conserve energy in your photography business:

Natural Lighting

It is obvious that shooting outside uses less energy than shooting inside. When possible, make the outdoors your default shooting location. For the inevitable indoor or studio sessions, consider mitigating the power drainers like studio lights. Use a space with skylights and lots of windows if you can.

Swap your traditional light bulbs for Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs). CFLs, although they cost a little more up front, will end up saving you about $100 of electricity for each light bulb per year and they will last 10 to 15 times longer than standard bulbs. Regularly taking little steps like these to reduce the power demand that comes from shooting indoors will add up in the long run.

Electronics

Taking the time to set the hibernate, power off, and energy conserve functions on your advanced electronics will conserve a great amount of energy while extending the life of your electronics. For example, set sleep modes to cycle after 15 minutes of idle time. PC users can download a software program called CO2 Saver to save energy.

For items that cannot be preset to power off, be conscientious about manually turning them off when not in use. You can save yourself time and effort by plugging all the small electrical appliances in a room into one power strip. This way, you only have to turn off one button at the end of each day.

For sensitive equipment like computers and printers plugged into a power strip, perform a proper shut-down sequence and turn it off before shutting off the power strip. Check the specifications of your power strip to make sure it can handle the energy use of the appliances plugged into it. According to IdealBite.com, if 10,000 people used a power strip and actually turned it off when they were not in the office, they, as a group, would save $300,000 per year (that is the equivalent of 38 Nikon D3Xs!).

Before you depart on your next travel photography trip, physically unplug all your electronics. Appliances that are off but plugged in will still draw electricity, especially if they are the type that has a status light or display. This can include your battery chargers, cell phones, DVD players and televisions. These electronics all continue to draw current even when they are turned off, are not charging, or do not have anything plugged into them.

This is known as "phantom" energy use, which can account for 5% of an individual's home energy use. To prevent phantom use, unplug it! Yes, even the inconvenient items like your alarm clock, coffee maker, printer, TV, and the actual power strips themselves.

Look for power supply that is hot to the touch. Heat is a waste product of excessive energy use, and an indicator that an appliance is drawing excessive power. You can purchase an inexpensive energy meter, such as the Kill-A-Watt, to see which appliances are drawing the most phantom power. When it's time to buy a new piece of electronic equipment, be sure to buy an item that has an excellent Energy Star rating.

Heating And Cooling

Did you know by making several small adjustments to your thermostat you can save up to 10% on your energy bill? According to Energy Savers, for every one degree you turn your thermostat down for heating and up for cooling, for eight hours you can save 1% on your energy bill. Cranking up the heating and cooling in our homes is unnecessary if we can regulate our comfort by layering clothing, opening windows, and using fans to circulate air. Open a window before you reach for the fan. Put on a sweatshirt before you turn the thermostat up. 

The Minnesota Municipal Power Agency says that by turning on ceiling or floor fans, you can raise your thermostat four degrees without affecting your comfort. Additionally, using shutters, blinds, or insulated window shades to control the amount of sunlight entering your studio can reduce the heat buildup in the summer. Older windows have a very low insulation rating; replace single pane windows with double pane. There are new federal tax credits available for energy efficient windows, doors, insulation, roofs, HVAC, water heaters, solar panels ... the list goes on! Check out the details at EnergyStar.gov.

Finally, take advantage of the free energy assessments that most energy providers offer. You can also inquire with your energy provider about renewable energy source options.

For more simple ideas on how to conserve energy in your photography studio, visit Greener Photography.

Photographer Stephanie A. Smith specializes in candid images of pets. She lives in Tampa, Florida. PawsitivelyPictures.com
Megan Just is a freelance writer with a degree in Natural Resources from Oregon State University. MeganJust.com

Resources

Greener Photography (http://www.greenerphotography.org)
Ideal Bite (http://www.idealbite.com)
365 Ways To Live Green, Diane Gow McDilda, F + W Publications, 2007
"Is Phantom Energy Haunting your House?" (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/03/is_phantom_ener.php)
Kill-A-Watt Energy Meter (http://www.p3international.com/products/p4460.html)