Photo by David Clapp
Why Do We Need To Do This?
When you're working with tall structures such as a mountain range, it can sometimes be difficult to grasp how tall they really are but if you add an object the viewer recognises the scale of, it's much easier for them to understand how big the other object is. As a result, your shot will have various points of interest that can lead the eye through the frame, depth and scale. Another reason for doing this is to give your shot impact. When you see an image of the desert with a person mid-frame (like the shot by David Clapp below) you are suddenly reminded of the sheer size of the landscape which often results in a 'Wow' moment.
What To Use?
People work well as they are an easily recognisable shape that's easy to grasp the size of. In turn, this makes it easier for the viewer of the image to understand how vast the area is that's surrounding the person. Of course, you can use other objects that are easily recognisable or even part of a subject. This works well with very large man-made objects such as cruise liners as it suggests they are so big, they can't be fitted in to the frame. Add holidaymakers walking next to it and suddenly you're realising that it's a huge piece of engineering.
Photo by David Clapp
Where To Position Your Person / Object?
Positioning your secondary subject roughly anywhere from the middle to the back of the shot will make it easier for the viewer of your image to grasp the size of the mountains, dunes trees or whatever else sits in the surrounding shot.
If it's difficult for your subject to reach this area of the shot move further back if you can or if you have to, position them in the foreground without pulling focus from the landscape. If you position your secondary subject too close it can distort the perspective as your foreground subject will appear larger in the frame but this still shouldn't be a problem if you're using a person.
Change Perspective With Your Lens
The lens you choose to use and its focal length can change the perspective of your shot too.
By moving the position you're shooting from, altering the zoom or by using a different type of lens altogether will change how the final image looks and in some cases the distance that appears to be between objects in the frame.
For example, you may be shooting a landscape that has a lone house or tree in it and by using a wide angle lens you can include more of the scene around the object, creating a sense of isolation and demonstrating how small it is compared to what else is in frame.
Go the opposite way and zoom in or use a telephoto lens to pull the object to you and it will fill the frame, becoming more of a focus rather than a way to express the size of its surroundings.
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