Please Stop Tagging the Locations of Your Outdoor Photographs

Please Stop Tagging the Locations of Your Outdoor Photographs

Please stop tagging the exact location of your outdoor photographs.

I'm just as guilty of it as anyone else. I used to share mountain, lake, river, and scenic vista names for all of my Facebook, Instagram, 500px, and Flickr audiences to see. Through my own outdoor and landscape photography, I always want to encourage others to have their own outdoor experience and to understand why nature is worth loving. But then I realized the impact I was most likely having. 

Not only was I potentially getting other people to explore their backyard, but I was most likely also a cause for the backyard's degradation and eventual destruction. There is no doubt that ad agencies and individuals alike on social media play a role in promoting outdoor activities and locations, but have you ever thought what the impact is of those posts?

In recent years, the Center for Outdoor Ethics, Leave No Trace, has asked that we stop geotagging our locations on social media. If you're an outdoor sports, lifestyle, or landscape photographer, consider asking yourself before sharing a location with an image if it's worth it:

Will this place be negatively impacted if I share the location on social media?

Another point worth considering regarding tagging locations is that true adventure, in my opinion, is slowly being lost. It's now easier than ever to see an image of a place, then Google the location and find exact coordinates. It's very rare that we take out a map and compass in order to find a spot that's worth discovering for ourselves. Why not walk in the woods to discover your own beautiful location? Most of the time, putting in effort, blood, and sweat can make a place much more magical. 

So, if you are going to share an image of a beautiful landscape or outdoor location, consider tagging the region instead. Instead of tagging Mt. Marcy, for example, you could say, "Adirondack Park." Additionally, consider adding a caption about positive leave no trace principles, like carrying in what you carry out. You can help be a steward for the places you love while also promoting your work and encouraging others to get outside. 

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Previous comments
Tim Behuniak's picture

You're right, people can still go and potentially drop litter, or disrespect the land. But at least we can help mitigate the issue to some degree. If you want to plan a trip, by all means use social media, I certainly do. All I'm saying is think twice before sharing a specific location to thousands of people on social media. It's naive to believe that there's no correlation between the places we post about online and the amount of people that end up subsequently visiting them.

Matthew Saville's picture

Nah, tagging spots isn't going to be what affects the couch potatoes who are stuck in their VR world.

Beautiful images in general ought to, and the vague reference to general locations should be more than enough.

For example, "Canyonlands is a breathtaking place!" ought to be more than enough; nobody needs to say, "OMG Mesa Arch is /the/ spot to check out!"

Leigh Miller's picture



So don't tell anyone where you made an image because they might go there and take one as well...maybe walk where they aren't supposed to...drop garbage etc??

How about just making more of an effort to educate people on why it's important to hold the environment in high regard?

Couldn't have said this more better.....

Bodkin's Best's picture

Your faith in this species is disturbing.

Walk to your local park. Pick an area that people regularly go. Plot a random 10mx10m square. Count the cigarette buts and trash.

You want that to happen to the spots they're too dumb or lazy to find on their own?

Jordan McChesney's picture

This may depend on where you live. Here in Japan, parks tend to be relatively spotless. I've never once had to pick up or remove trash from a photo. Think his point was that we can teach people to be better.

Tim Behuniak's picture

Dropping garbage and walking where one isn't supposed to is a huge concern in National and State Parks across the country. All I'm suggesting is not sharing specific locations, but keep in generalized. As to your last point, that's why I said in the article to try to include proper LNT practices and education in image captions.

Tim Behuniak's picture

It's naive to believe that there's no correlation between the places we post about online and the amount of people that end up subsequently visiting them.

Leigh Miller's picture

I don't recall stating that there was an absence of correlation.

Bali was my first "adult" trip many years ago as a result of and interview I watched featuring Mark Kostabi who loved the place and the relative low costs to travel/live there. Everything we put out gives other ideas for travel....heard of insta_repeat ?

That doesn't bring us any closer to curbing our natural human instinct to rape a resource without consideration for others that come afterwards.

Your solution is unrealistic at best and exclusionary at worst.

Tim Behuniak's picture

I think you're incorrect, but we can agree to disagree.

Leigh Miller's picture's how mature adults can discuss an issue.

So you carry on blanking out your locations and I'll keep on drawing other photographer's attention to posted signs and trash they drop :-)

Tim Behuniak's picture

Perfect! If you reread my article, you see I mention that, also, at the end. :-)

Michael McCray's picture

Not very realistic protect just for you.

Interesting article.

Where was the picture at the top of the blog taken?

Simon Patterson's picture

Mount Marcy, Adirondack Mountains. 😀

Let's face it, the image is nice but not so compelling that others would flock to the exact location if we knew where it was within a yard of accuracy. Which negates the point of the article really...

Simon Patterson's picture

Ah, I thought you were implying that's where it was taken when you mentioned it in the article. I'll be interested to see if that other guy who commented earlier can pinpoint the location, as he claims he can.

Tim Behuniak's picture

It wasn't Marcy...

Simon Patterson's picture

I think the opposite. We should be encouraging people to get out into the great outdoors more, not less. The benefits to people of enjoying such places are immense.

I was thinking that yours is a more positive way to think about the issue: education, not prohibition. Although the author did say please. What of Google maps and its (and other mapping services) that provide a street view.

BTW, people can virtually traverse a few trails in Yosemite National Forest. What of the fires? Shouldn't we be able to revisit from previous trips and see what the current state is post fire? That is the better way.

FWIW, geotagging allows me to relocate small descancos in and around our county. These are small memorials to large installations. Geotags allow me to later revisit them (even see where they once were) or study them for visual rhetoric and urban archeology projects.

Tim Behuniak's picture

It's naive to believe that there's no correlation between the places we post about online and the amount of people that end up subsequently visiting them. This is why I also mention educating your audience about proper LNT practices in your captions.

Jon Kellett's picture

I'm in two minds about this. Yes, we need to get people active and enjoying the outdoors but what happens when we become a plague of locusts upon the land?

Hyperbole? - "...Local iwi picked up six buckets of human waste on a single day last Labour Weekend. The track is equipped to handle around 600 walkers daily but on busy days it's getting as many as 3000."

The national parks of my country are not capable of handling the sheer number of people visiting. This of course is a serious issue not only because of the environmental concerns, but also the impact on visitor numbers (and resulting tourist spending) should the over-crowding start to deter tourists. An important consideration for my country.

Simon Patterson's picture

We have the same problem in places here in Australia. For example, numbers of visitors are limited for the Overland Track in Tasmania. I'm not against that at all - in some places, the environment can only handle so many footprints per day or per year.

I don't think the cessation of using geotags will change this, though. Geotagging a specific location within a managed site may encourage a few more people to enter the ballot to access that site, but the number of entrants will not change because the authorities have already limited those numbers.

Jon Kellett's picture

Couldn't agree more.

Tim Behuniak's picture

I agree, encourage people to get outside by using general locations, not specific ones. And use captions to encourage positive LNT practices in the outdoors.

Felix Wu's picture

Couldn’t have said it benter! Not geotagging a photo will never help save a place.

Mark Guinn's picture

I can only halfway agree with this. Feel free to tag the more recognizable spots. One of the main reasons to create a photo of a beautiful place that people can find on Google Maps is to make the viewer say, "Damn, I gotta go see that," and then actually GO OUTSIDE. For example, I spend a lot of time in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Thousands of people see that same mountain every day, so I'm not doing any more damage than the Blue Ridge Parkway has already done. If someone ventures out to the Devil's Courthouse because their interest was piqued by my photo then I've done a good job. On the other hand, I do have several special "fishing holes" that I'll never tell anyone about because I don't want these places to be trashed more than they already are by the local trashy types (you know, the ones that leave campfire sites and piles of beer cans). These are the places that are off the beaten path and are usually only known by a few locals.

I think there's a thin line between what we should and shouldn't share... it's up to each of us to decide which secrets to keep.

Tim Behuniak's picture

I disagree. How can you say that of "local trashy types" but assume the general public isn't the same. Countless locations nationwide have been desecrated due to tourists and locals alike acting irresponsibly. I think that you can still promote others to "GO OUTSIDE" by tagging only general locations, not specific ones.

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