People in Landscapes
Raj Lalwani shares some simple tips on how to make your landscape photographs more dynamic by including human subjects.
For landscape photographs to be more than just picture-perfect postacards, they need to have something extra. Very often, photographs of landscapes do not capture the magnificence of a place as we see with our own eyes. One simple way to improve your landscape pictures is to include people in them, which can help add a personal connect. Here are few tips on how you can include people and enhance your landscape photographs.
Create an Interest Point
Adding a human element adds context and a point of interest in a photograph. For example, instead of shooting a photograph of just a field of flowers, wait for someone to walk into the frame, or make someone pose in front of the flowers to make your shot more interesting.
Let Your Subject Interact with Nature
To emphasise a person’s character as well as the landscape’s beauty, wait till that person is in their most natural and comfortable element. Try not to go too wide or too close, because it is important for the face to be recognisable and still have the landscape in the frame.
Position Your Subject to Tell a Story
If a man is standing on the edge of a cliff, the viewer will wonder why he is standing there, what he is thinking or what he could have done next. While shooting candid photographs of people, shoot as many frames as you can—each one may tell its own story depending on the people’s expressions.
Use Body Language to Create Mood
The body language must complement the mood of the landscape. If you are at a snow‑covered valley, tell your subject to jump high or stretch their arms upward to convey a mood of freedom and joy. Alternatively, if they stand with their head down, the image may lend a feeling of gloom.
Shoot Environmental Portraits
Landscapes make great settings for shooting portraits of people who belong to that environment like shepherds, farmers or even the local people. Interact with them and shoot their portraits from up close.
See Where the Subject is Going
When a person is entering the frame, a viewer tends to follow their path to see where they are going. This lends a sense of harmony. On the other hand, when the subject is leaving the frame, the viewer will be curious about what lies beyond the frame and where the person is headed.
Let the Subject Break Monotony
While shooting landscapes that are full of lines or have recurring elements like a row of flowers, cluster of trees or a mountain range, tell a friend to stand in a way that breaks the pattern. Not only will this emphasise the pattern, but the lines will also help lead the eye towards the person.
Isolate Your Subject in a Corner
Fill up the entire frame with the landscape and place the subject in one corner. It also helps convey the brilliance and vastness of the landscape. These images look great as large prints and make the viewer feel as if they are actually at that place.
Frame Your Subject Naturally
The space between two trees, a narrow path in the middle of a green patch of land or a valley between two mountains can be great spaces to place your subject; so that they are ‘framed’ inside the photograph.
Use Vantage Point to Emphasise Landscapes
A top or ‘God’s eye’ view gives a flat perspective and makes the people standing on the landscape look like tiny abstract specks. Alternatively, get close to your subject and shoot from a lower perspective. The subsequent distortion will make the person and area look larger than life.
Play with Scale
In an ordinary snapshot of a mountain range, can you make out how big it actually is? By making a person stand before the range, it becomes easier to estimate the latter’s scale and size and also make it look truly magnificent.
Get Creative with Light
Look out for shadows early in the morning or late in the evening as they form lines that help direct the viewer’s eye.
Alternatively, you can shoot silhouettes, particularly when your subject has a strong form or shape. A man carrying a plough or a person on a bicycle or bullock cart are all strong silhouette subjects.
People make a beautiful and almost poetic contrast with landscapes. With the presence of a human element, the impact a landscape photograph can deliver is completely different. This is when we truly appreciate the sheer magnificence of nature and its relationship with man.
Decisions You Need to Make Before You Shoot
- Emphasis: Do you wish to emphasise the person or the landscape, or both? Depending on what you choose, you will need to decide how to frame the image—whether you wish to shoot a horizontal frame or a vertical one. It will also help you decide whether to show a wide expanse or close in on the person.
- Light: The direction of light and the shadows it casts has a great impact on landscape photographs. For example, sidelighting brings out the textures of the landscape and makes the subject look good. Alternatively, you can use backlighting and shoot silhouettes.
- Composition: Classic compositional rules like the Rule of Thirds work best. Depending on whether your subject is standing in the immediate foreground or middleground, you can create depth.