How to Photograph Humans in a Landscape Scene with Impact

May 18, 2021

The mention of landscape photography likely conjures up thoughts of vast ocean scenes, mountain ranges towering over treed valleys or beautiful images of lush forests. The absence of the human element is, in my opinion, what defines a landscape image.

Although the infusion of the human element within landscape scenes moves away from the purity of landscape photography and fits more with the definition for environmental portraiture, the inclusion of the human element within a landscape setting is a beautiful way to mix up your approach to a landscape scene.

Although photography has always been a part of my life, my present passion evolved mostly from my quest to capture the everyday moments of my children. Photographing my children within a landscape scene occurred well before I turned my camera toward landscape scenes void of the human element. 

As the weather warms and I venture out into the great outdoors more often with my children, I'm looking forward to opportunities to capture the human element within a landscape scene. Perhaps you are looking forward to these opportunities as well and, if not with children, perhaps with a friend, loved one or even yourself in self-portraiture. 

There are many different ways in which humans in a landscape scene can be captured with impact. However, one consideration should never be overlooked if you're intention is to showcase a landscape scene and the human element together. This important consideration is balance. 

Within traditional portraiture, a photographer emphasizes showcasing the main human subject. All additional elements within a scene fall in at second place. However, if the photographer's goal is to showcase the human element within a landscape scene, equal visual weight should be given to the human and landscape setting. It's hard to find this balance, though, because humans are visually high attractants in a landscape scene and often hold stronger visual weight alongside other elements like landscape features. Equating balance between a landscape scene and the human element isn't always easy, but here are a few ways that goal can be acquired. 

1. Use a small aperture to ensure both the human element and landscape scene are equally in focus. 

ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 109 sec

2. Do not forget about your landscape composition, and be sure to compose your image as you usually would. Also, think about your subject's placement in the frame and try and compose your subject while considering placement within The Rule of Thirds. 

3. Consider using a creative landscape technique like long exposure to infuse visually dynamic interest into a landscape scene, as this will draw attention to the landscape in addition to the human element. 

ISO 50, 22mm, f 6.3, 2sec

Don't be afraid to infuse a human element into your landscape scenes from time to time. Attempting something new and different from your usual approach will often aid in your photography journey learning. Infusing a favourite human into your landscape scenes is also a fantastic way to capture an image filled with sentiment. Those captures are likely the ones that will be printed and displayed in your home.