PhotographyTips.com - the #1 guide to better conventional and digital photography Become a Member iPhone Posing GuideGuide to Posing the Female Model BookGuide to Posing the Model CD
Search
Login

Member Login

Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Flickr
Connect with us on LinkedIn

SPONSORS

Sell Photos Online

FEATURED SITES


Persons or animals in a landscape

They should appear to be a natural component of the scene.


Landscapes often benefit from the addition of animals or people in the composition.
Landscapes often benefit from the addition of animals or people in the composition.

A landscape photograph can be greatly strengthened by the inclusion of one or more human or animal figures in the scene. For example, a picture comprised mainly of horizontal lines, which commonly occurs in landscape scenes, can be balanced by the addition of a person in a vertical position. Or, by the inclusion of one or more animals, as demonstrated by the image on the left. The added figures, as tiny as they are relative to the scene, break up the scene's monotony, enhance the interest of the overall composition and add a sense of life.

If a scene is especially vast and requires something of a known size to provide it with scale, the figure of a person or an animal is an object of recognizable siz that can illustrate the scene's immensity.

LANDSCAPE OR PORTRAIT?

When positioning someone in a landscape, you must be careful to not confuse your picture's subject. Is your image one of a person in a landscape, or a landscape with a person in it?

If a figure is prominent and clearly the attraction in the image, that person is probably the subject of your photograph, and the landscape is the setting in which you take the person's picture.

But, if you have placed the figure in a less dominant spot in the composition, one in which the landscape is clearly intended to be your picture's subject, or in a relatively small size, then the figure should appear to be merely a part of the composition of a landscape.


RESTRAINT IS YOUR WATCHWORD

Landscape photographers should aim to place figures in their compositions with a degree of restraint so they are not the main objects. They should not dominate the image when it is the scene itself that is meant to be the subject. In effect, they must be less interesting than the scene.

The figures must combine well with the landscape itself and shouldn't by any means dominate. When you achieve this balance, the people you include in your landscapes will not be of sufficient interest to make a good picture on their own, but can still be extremely important in the creation of a good landscape photograph. In other words, they are not the subject of the picture; they contribute to the picture, or they wouldn't be there. They belong in it, but it is still a landscape.

This doesn't mean that you can't make a person or even an animal the focal point of a scene around which you can balance the elements of nature. You must just be sure that the picture is not of the person per se, but rather of the landscape in which the person is located.

You must be careful that your photograph does not give the impression that you just dropped a person into the scene. The figure must fit the scene, must look natural in it, and must contribute something that is needed to make it a more effective landscape - that is, it must belong there as an element of the landscape's overall composition. It must not look unnatural or staged.

The figure seated above the waterfall provides a sense of scale to this landscape, but does not dominate the scene. It is clearly a landscape with a person in it.
The figure seated above the waterfall provides a sense of scale to this landscape, but does not dominate the scene. It is clearly a landscape with a person in it.

Does the inclusion of the bather make the image something other than a landscape?
Does the inclusion of the bather make the image something other than a landscape?

INCLUDING FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE CAN AFFECT HOW VIEWERS FEEL ABOUT YOUR PICTURE (Figures appearing in the following images were added using image-editing software.)

These pictures of a secluded pool and waterfall in Maui (below) are intended to illustrate how a landscape picture's impression on its viewers can be influenced by the addition of a figure in the composition.

For example, to many viewers, the picture on the left at the top could be of a hidden or undiscovered pool that is appealing not only for its verdant beauty, but for its seemingly untouched and natural isolation. Its greatest appeal may be that it represents a lovely, pristine scene that has been undisturbed by man.

The lower picture is also inviting, but in a subtly different way. The presence of the bather reveals that the pool is known as a place where people can go to swim. It could still be a relatively private pool, but it is obviously not in an undiscovered wilderness location.

There are many other ways that figures in a landscape can affect how your picture is perceived. You would need to be a psychologist to examine and explain them all. The important thing, though, is for you as a photographer to ensure that your landscape picture says what you want it to say from your perspective.


IS IT A LANDSCAPE OR ISN'T IT?

Purists would argue that the image above on the top with no people in it is a landscape photograph, while the one beneath it with the bather is not. If the presence of a person in a scene keeps a picture of it from being called a landscape, does the presence of an animal, like the deer in the picture on the right at the top, have the same result?

Of course not, the purist would probably think, since a deer is a normal part of the scene. In other words, if an animal appears in its natural habitat in a landscape image, the image remains a landscape. But, if a human being appears in the same setting, it should no longer be called a landscape. We don't agree. Both images shown here, with the bather and with the deer, are landscapes.

One could also argue that the image on the bottom right is also not a landscape - that it is really a picture of a bird, since the bird is so relatively large in the frame. What it actually does is indicate that many landscape photographs can also fall into other classifications.

At the end of the day, creating a great photo in a natural setting is more important than trying to define what its classification is. Let's leave that up to the kind of people who worry about that sort of thing.


If you have the opportunity when photographing a landscape to include a figure in it, like the black bear above, go ahead. Take pictures with and without the figure, and assess later which image is the keeper.
If you have the opportunity when photographing a landscape to include a figure in it, like the black bear above, go ahead. Take pictures with and without the figure, and assess later which image is the keeper.

WHEN YOU CAN, SHOOT WITH AND WITHOUT FIGURES IN YOUR LANDSCAPE

When taking landscape pictures, it can be a good idea when possible to capture more than one photograph of the scene - some with people or animals absent and others with people or animals in the composition.

This may require some patience on your part, perhaps even a good deal of patience while you wait for a person or an animal to move into the "right" spot while the light is still right. Or, for an animal to even show up at all. More often than not, the opportunity doesn't present itself, and you have to be content with a picture of the scene "as is."

Sometimes, though, perhaps more commonly, the problem is having to wait for people or animals to clear out of the scene you wish to photograph. That can take a great deal of patience.

As photographers, we all find a scene now and then that would make a really great landscape image if only there was an eagle on that branch, or a deer by that tree in the meadow. Luck plays a big part in the inclusion of people and animals in landscape photography.