The Human Element
Prasad Np gives you interesting tips on the different ways you can add human elements while making photographs of monuments.
I love visiting and photographing historical monuments around India because they connect us with our glorious past while urging us to build a better future. However, capturing monuments needs a lot of patience as they are frequented by hundreds and sometimes thousands of visitors on a daily basis. Therefore, to get a good and clean shot requires a lot of time and effort.
Most often I set out on power trips where I make it a point to visit and photograph different landmarks in just a few hours. Instead of letting the people visiting these structures, come in the way of my photography, I have instead used them as human elements in my photographs. In fact, I quite enjoy doing this, rather than just photographing the structure on its own.
Using Scale to Your Advantage: Whether it is a towering minaret or a fort in ruins, you will only get an idea of its enormity if there is an individual or several of them present in the frame.
Breaking the Monotone: Just like the Red Fort of the Taj Mahal, most historical monuments are monochromatic. Even though these structures are majestic on their own, you can add a dash of colour by including a couple or a kid dressed in colourful attire.
Weaving a Story into Your Photograph: A picture without a story is a body without a soul. No matter how beautiful, sharp or technically perfect your picture is, if it lacks a story then it is just another beautiful picture and not something your audience will be able to connect to. Therefore, it is not just about adding a human element in your photograph, but the individual included in the frame should lend a narrative to your photograph.
Bringing Some Action into Your Frame: Historical buildings, temples and mosques are living breathing creatures, actively participating in the day to day life of folks living around them. Take advantage of this and shoot the activities around the structure, like kids bathing in the temple pond or playing cricket on the steps of an old mosque.
Photographing Rituals: What lies in ruins today, might have at one point been an important pilgrimage center or an emperor’s kingdom. Some of these places continue to practice age old rituals started centuries ago, through the word of mouth and observation. You should capture these rituals as they give you a glimpse of the original dwellers of the place and their practices.
So the next time you are out visiting a landmark, go beyond the selfie and instead look for human elements to add to your photograph.
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Better Photography.
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