We all know that landscape photography has the power to bring out the beauty of a location
in an almost magical way. However, it can sometimes be challenging to come up with a
unique landscape photo, especially when the location has been photographed hundreds or
even thousands of times. Adding a human element can enhance your landscape photo, help
set it apart, and can even create a deeper connection with the viewer.
1. Adds interest - seeing a human figure tends to draw the viewer in naturally, and in some
cases can make a fairly ordinary scene extraordinary.
2. Helps with composition - the human element can serve as the focal point or “anchor” for
the composition, it can help add balance, or even help fill negative space in the frame
3. Gives a sense of scale - including a human figure in a landscape photo immediately
helps the viewer realize how big or small a space is, which helps adds impact to the image
4. Helps tell a story - this can be literal, for example including a person in a traditional outfit or someone in uniform. It could also be something with a bit more mystery and drama like silhouettes or people with their backs turned to the camera, where the viewer is encouraged to imagine their own story.
Take note that this doesn’t work for every scene, and sometimes a ‘pure’ landscape or
cityscape works better. But be on the lookout for those times that the human element is
exactly what’s needed to complete the picture
Basically, shoot as you would shoot a landscape or cityscape image. Do research about weather, sun position, shoot at golden hour/blue hour, use filters, etc. The photo should generally be able to stand on its own even without the human element. Just be careful with long exposures, as you may record the person’s movement.
Do not panic if before the first jumps do not get good results, your mind and ability will understand the athlete's times and as the day progresses, everything will improve. Do not hurry
Sometimes this is easy and obvious like a path, tunnel, or doorway, but sometimes more unique opportunities will present themselves. For example, in this sunset photo, I used a nearby traffic mirror to include the elderly gentleman who was enjoying the sunset. Use composition techniques like frame within a frame, silhouette, reflections, leading lines, rule of thirds, etc. to help you decide where to place the human element.
Look for moments where the humansubject is in the most dynamic or interesting pose. If it’s a walking shot, capture them mid-stride. Go for interesting facial expressions or gestures. For silhouettes, make sure there is separation so that the human form is clearly visible. Don’t just shoot one frame. Anticipate the moment and shoot all the way through: before, during and after peak of action.
A landscape shot doesn’t always have to be ultra-wide. Medium and telephoto lenses can be powerful tools for making landscape images as well. For example, if you want expansive vistas with sweeping lines, then definitely go with a wide angle. If you want to compress the scene a bit more and bring in distant objects like the sunset, far off mountains or buildings, then telephoto might be a better choice. Pick the focal length that will best apply to your scene.
Be sure to give yourself multiple options. If you change your mind later and decide that the human element doesn’t really work for you, then you’ll have other versions to choose from. You’re already set up, so might as well make the most of it.
So that’s about it!
I hope you find these tips helpful when creating your own landscapes or cityscapes with a human element. The most important thing is to tell your story and express your vision about the place and the people moving within it. I look forward to seeing your shots!
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