Having people walk into your perfectly composed scene can often be enough to send most photographers into rage. After all, you have spent time getting to this place, waiting for the perfect light only for a unknowing tourist to stand in your way. But having people in your photos can actually be a good thing and some picture editors are now actively looking for images which showcase an experience rather than just a tourist shot.
Here are 6 reasons why including people in your shots can actually improve the composition.
1. To give a sense of scale
One of the hardest things to portray in photographs is the sheer scale of an epic scene in front of you. The best way to do this is to incorporate something that we are familiar with into the composition so that the viewer can process the difference in scale. For example, if you are photographing a big tree, putting a person near the tree can help the viewer notice the difference in size. Similarly in landscape photography, if you are high up, putting a person in the foreground can help distinguish how high you are.
2. To add a point of interest
Very rarely does any image work without a point of interest. Often these can be natural details such as rocks or trees. Sometimes the point of interest is the main purpose of the photo (i.e. a boat on a lake). But sometimes the point of interest needs to be added to the composition by the photographer, and one of the best subjects for this are people. Adding a person into the photograph can be especially pleasing to the composition when you have a scene where the colors and patterns are very similar (for example the desert or water). By putting a person in the frame it helps break that repetition and makes for a pleasing end result.
3. To give the photo context
One of the great benefits of adding people into your photos is that it can make them easier to sell as the people in the photo can help give it context. For example, a photo of people walking in a landscape scene can portray walking or hiking trips rather than just a generic landscape photo. These images can be easier for picture editors to use as they can accompany articles related to that topic. For example, the photograph of someone cycling could be used to promote adventure holidays, or an article around mountain bikes.
4. To tell a story
It’s no coincident that that the majority of the most famous photographs ever taken usually include people in them. People in photos can help tell an incredibly powerful story rather than showing a scene. The key is to think about the story that you are trying to portray and then set your composition to highlight it. Sometimes the elements are all there waiting for you to photograph, but often you have to be willing to come back to the scene or wait until the story presents itself.
5. To show movement
Creating motion blur of people using a slow shutter speed is a great way to add creativity and dynamism to your images. Motion blur or movement, can be a powerful way to really emphasize a story as well. For example a person running can give a sense of speed or lots of movement from a crowd can highlight the hustle and bustle of a place. But as always, when using a slow shutter speed you need to ensure that you use a tripod to avoid camera shake as you ideally want the static parts of the image to be sharp so that it contrasts against the soft motion blur otherwise blur will look like camera shake rather than intentional motion blur.
6. To make your image unique
In this day and age pretty much everything has been photographed millions of times. So capturing images that are unique can be even more difficult. One of the best ways to do this is to incorporate people into your photos as these are often fleeting moments which can’t be recreated. Not only will they make your images unique but if you are able to get model release they will make your images much easier to sell and more valuable.
So, next time someone accidentally walks into your scene, instead of despairing, think about how you could incorporate them into the photo and if that will improve the composition. You might be surprised at the number of times that it does.