Get Grand Vistas - 6/23/08
Using people for scale to improve your photos
Not only do people add a sense of scale to photographs, they can also make the photo better by making it more easily identifiable. Viewers can essentially imagine themselves in the place of the person in the photograph and visualize being there-whether it's on the edge of the Grand Canyon or in the middle of a downtown skyline.
Whatever the subject, it's most important to include something for scale when the scene distorts reality. Certain subjects may typically be experienced at a small size-like a potted plant. When something this small is found 100 times larger than life, it actually needs that sense of scale to be an effective photograph.
Sometimes the fact that you've added something to your composition to provide a sense of scale is actually what makes the photograph interesting. Photography is uniquely suited to this proportional trickery, and without including something like people for scale, the entire effect would be lost.
Whatever you're adding to your photograph, remember that if you're trying to use a person or plane or building as a yardstick for a big scene, it's best to have it next to the subject rather than up close to the camera. We've all experienced the foreshortening effect that makes a person standing near the lens look much larger than a building in the distance. To accurately utilize the person for scale, they need to be standing near the building.
The next time you're gazing at a grand mountain vista, don't rush to crop out a human influence in the distance-be it a tent or a car or a cabin. They can offer a great way to provide a sense of scale to your photographs and make them work for your viewers on a much grander scale.