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5 Reasons Why Having People in Your Photos is a Good Thing

Imagine this: your aperture and shutter speed are selected, your composition looks good, the light is spot on and you are ready to take your shot when someone unknowingly walks into the frame. They suddenly realize, turn to apologize to which you smile and say “no problem” but inside you are seething with rage.

But don’t panic. Having people in your images can actually be a good thing and in fact, some picture editors prefer people in the photographs. More and more these days I’m trying to include people in my shots as it can help differentiate the photo from the competition.

Kav Dadfar - People In Photos - Walking People

Here are 5 reasons why including people in your shots can actually improve the composition

1. People provide a sense of scale

It is difficult to convey the scale of something in a photo without putting it in context against something that we are familiar with. For example if you are photographing a big tree, putting a person near the tree can help the viewer notice the difference in size. Similarly in landscape photography, if you are high up, putting a person in the foreground can help distinguish how high you are.

Kav Dadfar-People In Photos- Cape Town

The climbers at the top of Table Mountain give the sense of how high it is

Kav Dadfar-People In Photos-Lake District

The people in this photo help to highlight the vastness of the scene


With the first image you don’t get a sense of how tight the tunnel is

2. People can provide context to the image

One of the great things about including people in your photos is that it helps to communicate the message you are portraying, to the viewer. For example, a photo of people walking in a landscape scene can portray walking or hiking trips. When translated into the real world, these images can be easier for picture editors to use as they can accompany articles related to that topic. For example the photograph below of someone taking a photo could be used to promote photography holidays, or an article around photographing people.

Kav Dadfar-People In Photos-Cappadocia-Photographing

This photo could be used to accompany an article on travel photography

Kav Dadfar-People In Photos-Cappadocia

The walkers in this photo help convey the sense of adventure

3. People help tell a story

The saying is “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Photographs can be incredibly powerful and are an essential part of communicating information. Including people in your photos can help tell a story about a scene that would otherwise feel generic. For example the photo of the tourists looking at the statues makes this image much stronger and tells the story of tourists admiring the statues.


The tourists in this composition help the image tell a story rather than than just showing a scene

4. People add a point of interest

Including people in your photos is a good way to add a point of interest to your shots. This can be especially pleasing to the composition when you have a scene where the colours and patterns are very similar (for example the desert or water). By putting a person in the frame it helps break that repetition and makes for a pleasing end result.


The woman acts as a point of interest in this photo


Including people in scenes such as this is a good way to add interest to the image

 5. People help show movement in an image

Using a slow shutter speed to create some motion blur of people in your photos is a great way of making your images feel more dynamic. This is also a terrific way of photographing some places as it helps to highlight how busy they are. As always, when using a slow shutter speed you need to ensure that you use a tripod to avoid camera shake. You ideally want the static parts of the image to be sharp so that it contrasts against the soft motion blur.


Use a slow shutter speed to show people moving. It’s a great way to diversify your portfolio.


The movement of the people in this photo helps make the scene more dynamic and intriguing

Now it’s your turn? Show us your people photos!

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Kav Dadfar
Kav Dadfar

is a professional travel photographer, writer and photo tour leader based in the UK. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images and Robert Harding World Imagery and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and many others. Kav is also the co-founder of That Wild Idea, a company specializing in photography workshops and tours both in the UK and around the world. Find out more at That Wild Idea.

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