The Merits Of Including People In Scenic Photos

While there are good reasons to leave people out of your landscape photographs, consider these exceptions to the rule

I’ll be the very first person to admit that I go to serious extremes when it comes to omitting people from my landscape compositions. It’s not that I don’t like people (I almost couldn’t type that sentence with a straight face). Rather, I have long found that the inclusion of person, or people, in the frame of a landscape composition takes the viewer away from imagination. Instead of enjoying the splendor of the scene, they’re focused on the person. “Who is that person? Why are they there? Would I (the viewer) have included the person in the photo if I was standing there?” All of these questions that a viewer may ask themselves detracts from enjoying the scene itself. Now, that is a blanket statement and I agree that it doesn’t hold true all the time, but it is a worthwhile point to consider.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two reasons why I would consider including a person, or people, in my photo. The first is to simply document the experience of photographing a particular location or natural phenomenon. In some cases, it’d almost be criminal not to photograph the conditions of your shoot because it’d be hard to believe without photographic proof. There have been times when I have been literally swarmed by tourists who have no concept of personal space.

Conversely, I’ll take photos of the classic “firing line” of photographers who organize themselves in an orderly way. Both cases make for intriguing landscape photos.

Other times, I will capture friends or fellow photographers while shooting on location because it does a wonderful job of giving viewers a better sense of the experience. We’ve all seen countless photos of those formidable icebergs on the black sand beaches of Iceland, but I think it’s even more interested to illustrate what it’s like to photograph them by including another photographer. Not only does it provide a sense of scale, if you’re prepared, you can also convey the very real and very dangerous challenges that come with shooting such locations. It’s all in the name of sharing and, I suppose, I’m good with that.


See more of Brian Matiash’s work at matiash.com.

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