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Creating a sense of scale in your landscape photography will bring the image to life and can have a huge effect on how your audience will perceive and interpret the meaning of the shot. Incorporating elements and techniques that help your viewers to measure themselves in relation to the image increases engagement and the impact of the image.
One of the hardest things about landscape photography is capturing the essence of what you see in real life! It’s extremely difficult to do justice to the majesty of nature and if you don’t manage to create a genuine sense of scale your landscapes photos can look too abstract, unrealistic and flat. You need to give your landscapes a sense of scale so that they have an authentic feeling of depth and grandeur – so how do you achieve it?
Include People in Your Landscapes.
One of the best ways to express a sense of scale in landscape photography is to incorporate people in the images. Including people in the landscape will evoke a genuine awe in your audience while helping the viewer to put themselves into the picture and feel the inspiration that the image captures.
When you are including people in your landscapes photos it usually feels more authentic if they are actively doing something instead of just standing looking at the camera. You can have them walking away from the camera into the distance or looking up at a waterfall for example, as long as they are somehow engaged in the scenery around them. This will let the viewer immerse themselves more fully in the landscape and imagine themselves in the person’s shoes.
Putting people in your landscapes is also a great way to give the viewer a point of reference in the photo and makes an otherwise remote or extreme landscape feel more accessible. Incorporating people in the landscape shows the connection between humans and the world around them and when you place the figures in the right compositional relationship to the rest of the image you can use them to draw the viewer’s eyes within the frame.
Buildings and Structures.
Another excellent method of giving your landscapes a sense of scale is to include buildings, structures and other man made objects. A distant bridge, a lone farmhouse or a lighthouse on a rocky coast gives the photo context as well as demonstrating the enormity of the scenery.
When you’re selecting man made structures to use in your landscape photos try to select things that add to the narrative of the image. For example, a single car in the midst of a bleak landscape can evoke a sense of isolation while a lighthouse on a rocky shore can feel more hopeful.
You can also use structures in the foreground to frame the landscape while simultaneously creating a sense of depth and scale. A landscape photo taken through an old window of a cottage across a stormy ocean scape can be used to highlight the frailty of human life whereas if you used a strong steel bridge to frame the image it might invoke the solidity of human endeavor.
Using the right man made objects in your landscape photography will not only give the image more character and evoke subconscious emotive reactions from your viewers but it can also be used to create points of interest. You can use these elements to draw the viewer’s eye through the photo and give the image a sense of movement and drama.
Adding man made elements in landscapes is also a useful way to stop a photo looking too generic. For instance, a beautiful photo of a lake might be a great image but it will be hard to make it stand out unless you incorporate other elements to capture the imagination of your audience.
When you’re including man made structures in your photos don’t forget to think about the best perspectives you can use to encapsulate their most striking features. You can climb up to vantage points to get a new perspective of the object or to help place it in the right part of your composition.
Man made objects immediately create a powerful juxtaposition in a natural scene. Once you master their placement and incorporate them in meaningful ways they can play a major role in your landscape photos and help to make them stand out amongst other more generic works.
Animals and Wildlife.
Without straying into the genre of wildlife photography you can still include animals and wildlife in your landscapes. They instantly give the image a sense of place and help to highlight the scale of their surroundings. It’s by no means easy to capture wildlife in landscape photography although a herd of domestic cows, a dog or even a few birds on a phone line can add a unique feeling to your image that can make all the difference.
Wildlife in a landscape photo can portray authenticity while a domestic animal will bring up completely different concepts. When it comes to using wildlife in your landscape photos you might have to rely a little more on luck than if you were planning to include your own pet dog because it’s not always possible to find wild animals in a landscape!
When you are using animals or wildlife in your landscapes don’t forget your compositional basics and try to place them in the frame by using the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Ratio. Also remember to leave plenty of negative space around them so they don’t dominate the scene too much. Leaving the extra space around the animal or bird will leave some mystery in the photo and help to draw your viewer’s gaze deeper into the scenery. Leaving space in front of the animal, or in the direction it is looking, will give the impression of motion in the image. You can use this technique to show scale in your landscape photos while adding a narrative element to the image at the same time.
Trees and Other Flora.
Many of the most powerful landscape photos include trees and other types of flora so if you’re using this element in your work try to place them in positions within the frame that maximize their impact and clearly add to the sense of scale in the image.
Placing trees, or other plants, in the foreground of the photo can help to frame the photo, create a sense of space and give your audience an understanding of scale and depth.
Trees, plants and even flowers, particularly when they are unusual or rare, add lovely points of interest to your landscape photography so if you are presented with the opportunity to use them don’t miss the chance to make the most of it!
Converging or ‘Leading’ Lines.
As well as creating depth in an image converging lines also act as signals to the audience of the scale of the image. Converging lines, leading away into the distance, pull the viewer’s gaze into the frame and gives them an instinctive understanding of the scale involved.
Converging lines can be found in many landscapes and are made by two or more parallel lines that travel through the photo and meet at a single point, either in frame or out of the frame. Converging lines, also known as leading lines, are a powerful compositional tool that give the image depth and perspective, firmly placing the viewer in the foreground of the photo with their imagination filling in the backdrop.
Converging lines are a natural visual cue that tell our minds that there is depth and space in a 2 dimensional image and so if you can incorporate them in your landscape photography you definitely should.
You can keep your eye out for converging lines in the scenery; for example, fields often have lines made up by their furrows that lead away into the distance or a beach landscape has converging lines made up of the shore line and the back of the sand on the beach.
Converging lines can be straight or curved, diagonal or vertical in the frame. You can use elements such as rivers, bridges, roads or train tracks to create leading lines in your photos and you can even imply them by using ripples on the water or rays of light. Remember that the further away that the lines meet the deeper the image will seem to your audience and if you position your subject near to where the lines meet you can increase its visual impact.
The Angle of Your Camera.
Changing the angle of your camera, or the ‘vantage point’, can have a huge effect on the overall feel of a photograph. You can use this technique to capture the space and the scale in a landscape shot. One of the easiest, and most traditional, ways to achieve this is to angle your camera upwards while you take the shot. This will give the viewer the impression that they are looking upwards at the scene which will make it feel as though it is looming above them!
Angling your camera upwards is extremely effective when taking a photograph through a wooded area when the trees will seem to hang over the viewer themselves in the photo! You can also use this technique when taking photos of a rock face or other elements that have strong vertical lines. You can use variations in the vantage point to change the impact that objects you are using to frame the image have on the rest of the composition.
Alternatively if you want to exaggerate the expanse and size of the sky you can angle your camera slightly downwards. This will make the sky feel larger and give it a highly dramatic feeling of scale, depth and even motion if it has clouds sweeping across it.
You can change the vantage point of your camera in any way that your creative vision tells you to and every way that you do vary it will change the overall sense of space in the photo.
Focal Length – Wide Angle or Telephoto Lens?
The kind of lens that you use in your landscape photography has a very important role to play in creating a sense of scale in your work. It is therefore crucial for you to know which type of lens to use to achieve different effects in your photography.
A wide angle lens, for example, will give you more distortion than a narrower lens but it can really help to emphasise the scale in your photography. Wide angle lenses are a favorite among landscape photographers because they show the expansiveness of the scenery by capturing more of it than other lenses can do. They show the viewer a much wider spectrum of the landscape and when used to good effect they are the ideal choice for your landscapes.
You will have some distortion towards the edges of the frame however you can fix these problems in post production and the results will be worth the extra effort. The other thing to keep in mind is that a wide angle lens will make objects in the background appear smaller than other lenses will. This can be used to increase the sense of scale in the image but is not a good choice for landscape photos of, for example, a mountain range.
When you want to show the scale of a landscape such as a mountain range you will be much better served by using a telephoto lens. This will allow you to zoom closer into the landscape from your vantage point and then pick out points of interest, patterns, textures and other features of the mountain range that emphasize the magnitude of the scene.
Telephoto lenses are not so good at portraying the width of a scene, in which case a wide angle is your best choice, but for highlighting details, patterns and distant leading lines in the landscape they are ideal. As a landscape photographer you should aim to take both a wide angle and a telephoto lens with you when out in the field taking shots of the scenery.
Showcasing and Emphasizing Scale in Your Landscape Photography is Essential.
One of the most profoundly impactful elements of landscape photography is the scales involved however it can often be hard to portray this to your viewers without the help of a few useful tricks and techniques.
You can use more than one technique at time, for instance leading lines and changing your vantage point, to magnify the sense of scale in your work or you can focus in patterns, use clever framing and objects in the foreground; or incorporate trees, wildlife and people in your shots to get equally astounding results.
Never stop experimenting and pushing your boundaries to get the best out of your landscape photography because when all the elements come together you can end up with some amazing photos that will stun your audiences.
What strategy do you use to give a sense of scale for your photographs?