8 Ways to Incorporate People into Landscape Pictures
8 Ways to Incorporate People into Landscape Pictures

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Landscape photography is one of my favorite genres. I love landscape pictures showing a beautiful mountain range or a shimmering sunset on the water. There is something peaceful about waking up before dawn, grabbing a cup of coffee and heading out on your own for a quiet morning with nature and your camera.

However, as a mom with young children, it is hard to get up before dawn and spend a morning away from home. I’ve learned to creatively add people into my landscape photos, and have been thrilled with the results.

These tips are perfect if you have kids and love landscape photography! Read - "8 Ways to Incorporate People into Landscape Photography"

When we traveled halfway across the country to visit my dad in western Washington. I had big plans to get up every morning before sunrise to take pictures of the sun. I had mapped out all of the stops that I wanted to make while traveling to various parts of the Olympic Peninsula. But, when we got there, the weather was overcast and dreary.

Plus, we wanted to take our kids everywhere we went & kids like to photo bomb. Instead of making myself crazy over keeping them out of the image, I decided to embrace it.

Wampole Landscape Composition Intro

Landscape pictures almost always exclude people in order to focus on the beauty and grandeur of the scene. But when used effectively, inserting a human element to a landscape can add a story to the scene.

Including family or friends in landscape images from a vacation or outing adds a personal touch and helps the photographs stir lasting memories of the trip. Here are a few ways to add people into your landscape images:

1. Follow your usual composition rules

You may want to bring attention to the fact that you have a person or people in your image. Or, you may want to include a person in your image, but want the landscape to be the main focus.

Rule of thirds placement, leading lines, and any other composition techniques that you normally use can all work to draw attention to the main focus of your image.

While on the Olympic Peninsula, we spent most of our time near the water. Our boys loved to throw rocks into the water and to watch the waves come in. This image shows them observing the shoreline, but also includes details of the rocky beach and the stormy skies.

Placing the horizon at the top rule of thirds line and the low angle allows the details in the foreground to stand out and draw the viewer in. This keeps the main focus on the rocks, but the centered position of the family allows them to hold their own weight in the scene.

Wampole Landscape Composition 1A

Read more: Photography Composition: Getting Diversity in Your Compositions

2. Be intentional with your landscape photography

No photo bombing here. Pay attention to human placement within your image. Think about your composition ahead of time so that your subject does not appear to be randomly walking through your image or accidentally included in an awkward location.

Use the landscape to your advantage. Naturally occurring lines, S curves or movement within the landscape draws the eye to people in your image. This was a beautiful trail through a local park in Arkansas.

By waiting for the runner to pass and shooting then image when he reached the right rule of thirds intersection, the runner is at a position in the scene to which the eye is naturally drawn.

The curve of the path also leads to the runner, further drawing attention to his activity within in the landscape.

Read more: 10 tips to improve your landscape photography

Wampole Landscape Composition 2

3. Use landscape images to tell a story

A human element can change the story of landscape pictures, or even create a story when there may not have been one without it. People may not be the main focus of the shot, but if used correctly they can pique the viewer’s interest.

Without the tourists along the boardwalk at Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic pool, this would be a beautiful, quiet, shimmering scene. But by including the tourists, we see that people are a regular part of this place, enjoying it, posing for vacation photos and photographing it from all angles.

In this case, the tourists aren’t distracting from the beauty of the place, but adding clues to the specific location along this pool.

Wampole Landscape Composition 3

Read more: 5 steps to creating a starburst effect night or day

4. Make the landscape the main subject

The Arkansas River Trail in Little Rock is a busy biking and walking trail. Details from the sign give us clues as to where we are and the type of area, but the people walking along the pathway behind the sign reinforce that message.

The people in this image may not be a focus, or even overly obvious, but by including them, they can enhance the story of the location.

Wampole Landscape Composition 4

5. Allow your person to share the scene in landscape pictures

Without the person, this image would be a beautiful landscape picture of an ocean sunset framed by a tree. However, placing my husband in the scene adds another layer to the shot.

I took the photo on a walk down the beach and allowing him to share the scene not only emphasizes its beauty, but adds a personal element.

Wampole Landscape Composition 5

6. Make your person the subject

Let your landscape support your subject and help tell the story of the person in your image. My son spent much of this morning at the beach in Panama City, FL trying to catch jellyfish in his net.

By including the wider landscape around him instead of just details of him and his net, we get a sense of where he was and the surrounding ocean. An uncluttered landscape fades into the background to keep the focus on my son’s activity.

Wampole Landscape Composition 6

7. Show the enormity of the landscape

Small children or even adults can illustrate the expanse of the landscape surrounding them.

Using a wide angle lens to photograph my son at the beach brings more of the landscape into the image, making him small in the scene. We see how expansive the shoreline and hills are compared to a small boy.

Wampole Landscape Composition 7

8. Interact with the landscape

Show your children interacting with the landscape. This is a great way to incorporate landscape pictures into family and vacation images.

Think about what a person might be doing in that area or time of day. Examples can vary widely, such as climbing a tree, running in the water, jumping off of a rock, or walking along a path. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination!

Whenever we get near water, our boys want to play in it. They will spend hours throwing rocks or running into and from the waves. This is true whether it’s a cold northern beach or a warm southern shoreline.

Catching my son mid-step implies movement as he runs away from the waves. The photo effectively captures the motion and power of the waves without my son by the waves, but adding him cemented that theme.

Wampole Landscape Composition 8

People are not typically included in landscape imagery. However, incorporating people into your images is a unique way to tell a story. They can play a main part in your landscape or be a small part of it that helps to emphasize your story and to will help to personalize the beauty of your environment.

Whether you are photographing strangers in landscape pictures or your own family and friends, intentionally placing those people to support your overall theme will allow the viewer insight into your experience at each location.

Read more: Essential Landscape Photography Tips for Breathtaking Photos

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  • Johnna
    August 25, 2016 at 12:53 PM

    Loved the information you shared! I always enjoy seeing your craft of photography!

    • Jessica
      August 27, 2016 at 11:39 AM

      Thank you, Johnna! I hope that you are all doing well!

  • Molly
    August 25, 2016 at 7:45 PM

    Beautiful post! Sparks my imagination…

    • Jessica
      August 27, 2016 at 11:40 AM

      Thank you, Molly :-)

  • Sharon
    September 1, 2016 at 8:29 PM

    Beautiful pictures! Always looking for inspirational and creative ways to take photos. Will try to incorporate
    some of your suggestions the next time I pick up my camera. Thanks!

    • Jessica Wampole
      September 7, 2016 at 9:50 PM

      Hi Sharon! Thank you! I hope that you come away with some wonderful images! I love that most of these don’t require my children to do anything special since they are usually the victims of my photography habit :-)

  • Gina
    September 2, 2016 at 8:50 AM

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your talent and your family! I’m feeling inspired.

    • Jessica Wampole
      September 7, 2016 at 10:03 PM

      Thank you Gina! I’m happy to share my adorable children anytime. ;-)

  • Carmela
    September 2, 2016 at 2:19 PM

    This was a great post. I hate the cheesy snapshots with a person in the landscape. These photos are great! Thanks for the inspiration

    • Jessica Wampole
      September 7, 2016 at 10:04 PM

      Hi Carmela!
      Me too! I was hoping to avoid cheesy :-) Thank you!

  • Shawnee Cress
    September 2, 2016 at 2:58 PM

    Loved this email! Just getting into photography and currently live in Washington. We move next month and I feel like I want to photograph so much before the month is up! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jessica Wampole
      September 7, 2016 at 10:06 PM

      Hi Shawnee!
      We lived in Washington for a couple of years and we miss it so much. Please take as many photos as you can before you go. It really is a beautiful part of the country.

  • Melody
    September 2, 2016 at 4:42 PM

    Great tips, thank you for sharing.

    • Jessica Wampole
      September 7, 2016 at 10:06 PM

      You’re welcome, Melody!

  • Teresa
    September 3, 2016 at 5:01 PM

    Great post! I don’t have a DSLR but I’m using a nice compact mirrorless camera that I really love! I’m thinking about going to Ireland in the near future and was hoping to get good landscape shots that hold interest beyond just a few months or years! I also have a question what type of lense do you recommend for travel photography?
    Besides just landscape I also want to capture moments with friends at other tourist attractions etc.

    • Jessica Wampole
      September 7, 2016 at 10:02 PM

      Hi Teresa!
      Here is a great article by Courtney on travel photography.
      Courtney (and tons of other photographers) LOVE taking a 24-70mm with them for travel photography. My short answer would probably be to tell you to use a 24-70mm as well. It’s versatile because its a great quality lens and has a great zoom range on it to capture both wide angle for landscape shots and details or far away objects at the longer focal lengths.
      I only upgraded to a Nikon D750 full frame DSLR last Christmas. At the moment the only full frame lens that I have is a 50 mm 1.4, so that’s what I use. Some of these images were taken with either my 18-55mm kit lens on a Nikon D5100 or with a 16-35mm that I rented specifically for my Washington trip. For traveling, I would suggest thinking about what type of photography you want to do while you are traveling (do you tend to prefer wide angle shots or do you do a lot more detailed shots) but also what you want to carry. The 24-70 and the 16-35 are both pretty heavy lenses so a mid-range prime lens such as a 35 or 50mm may be a better option for you. Good luck and happy travels! Ireland is amazing. It’s one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited.

  • Eileen Dibble
    September 4, 2016 at 5:57 PM

    Love the originality! Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Jessica Wampole
      September 7, 2016 at 10:12 PM

      Thank you and you’re welcome :-)

  • Kurt Sr.
    December 30, 2016 at 9:52 PM

    Excellent tutorial! Informative and well written. But I might be a little biased!

  • David Pugh
    August 20, 2019 at 12:51 PM

    This is a great tutorial. Always want to put people and signs in my landscape photos. Thanks for the insights.

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