We often think of landscapes as sweeping vistas fading away into the distance, taking our eyes on a journey through flower strewn fields, cascading mountain peaks, skyscraper speckled skylines and rolling waters. When you’re standing behind the camera capturing that magical view it’s easy to see and understand the immense scope of what you’re viewing. However, that sense of size doesn’t always translate to the photo you’re viewing later on your computer screen.
That’s because our eyes scale down those big peaks we’re looking at in your image without any frame of reference – we weren’t there with you after all – of the scope of what we’re looking at. One way to help create scale is by adding in people or other very recognizable sized subjects to your landscape images.
Below – these rafters help give scale to the river scenery and depth through layering.
One of the better ways to show scale in your landscape is by adding in a person (or persons) in the mid to far distance. Their comparatively small size in a larger frame shows the expansiveness of the surrounding scenery. We visually know roughly how large a person should be and judge from there the scope of everything around them.
Above – this kite surfer helps size up the beach scene and cars add a secondary frame of reference.
It can be difficult to add scale to a landscape with a distant person when the nearest point they could be in the distance is inaccessible or just too far away to make out. The next best thing is to add context to that image with a person in the foreground. Look to frame the landscape around that person; making them stare into the distance helps involve them in the landscape without arresting away all the focus onto them. Use a part of their body, half body perspective or the whole thing walking along in the foreground – it’s all up to you as long as it’s adding context.
Below – this Chinese man scoping into the distance adds scale and interest.
Objects as Scale
Common objects like cars can sometimes serve as objects of scale. This can be tricky though. It has to be an object you and your audience knows intuitively well. Do you really know how big that truck or building is in the distance? Your eyes can judge it, but it’s not as familiar as a person, making it harder for you brain to create an accurate scale. When people simply aren’t available however try adding scale with familiar objects.
Above – this boat adds a reference point, but do I really know how large it is?
No matter how you frame it, adding people to your landscape imagery can help create a scale and depth you might find yourself missing. Grab a friend on your next explorations and give it a shot.