Wand to improve your landscape photos? Just add people

Early in my photography career, I purposely left people out of my landscape photos thinking that such pictures better captured the essence of wilderness and wild places. Over the years, however, I gradually began adding people to some landscape scenes and noticed that it improved them.
Two things are gained by including people in landscapes photos: interest and perspective.
As humans, we naturally like to look at other people, and if that person is wearing brightly colored clothing that attracts the eye, so much the better. Secondly, at times it’s difficult to tell how large a mountain, lake, or other natural feature is in a photograph without perspective. But by including a person — or a small group of people — anyone viewing the photo instantly knows the relative size of the natural feature you’re trying to capture digitally.
When using this technique in landscape photos, remember to make the person only a small part of the overall photo. If they’re too large, someone viewing the photo may be confused as to whether the landscape or the person is the main subject. The photograph then falls apart, not accomplishing its intended purpose.
After years of taking landscapes — as well as many other types of outdoor photos — I now include shots both with and without people. And when I send those images to editors, it’s interesting how often the editors choose the landscape shots with people rather than without for publication. ◊
Freelance writer and photographer W. H. “Chip” Gross (www.chipgross.com) has been an OWAA member since 1986. He served a three-year term on the Board of Directors from 2004 to 2007, and is a member of the Magazine and Photography sections. Contact him at whchipgross@gmail.com.

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