As with wildlife, including people in the landscape adds life to a scene, but in a completely different way. While wildlife tends to offer a more mystical feel, a person in the image provides a more direct connection with the viewer.
A completely wild scene can often feel ‘untouchable,’ but introducing a person—or personal objects—into the view helps create a reality that most people can relate to, even if they might never visit that place, or undertake that activity themselves. People can also help show how dramatic, dangerous, or peaceful a scene is, and add a sense of scale or remoteness to a wilderness shot.
When shooting this type of image, you might well prefer to photograph a person ‘in the moment,’ rather than posing them. When choosing a composition the big question is whether the picture will be about people or the landscape. There is a direct connection between the two, but at the same time the two elements are very different. For example, the same scene—a person in the landscape—could be photographed so the image is of a landscape that happens to include a person, or it could be a portrait, where the person is the subject and the landscape acts as a backdrop. The di erence can be subtle, but it’s important to decide how you want the viewer to see the picture—a person in the landscape can be the anchor, or simply a prop to draw the viewer in.
Unless you are on a specific photo shoot, you will likely be shooting each image for its own merits, and not worry whether there is a commercial purpose for the photo until later. If everything comes together for a good photo: compose it, shoot it, and worry about the applications later. Of course, that’s great if you know the person you are including in the frame, but if you don’t, it brings up the issue of model releases. This isn’t a problem if a person can’t be fully recognised—there is no need for a signed model release. However, if there is a recognisable person in the shot, and the image has the potential for some kind of commercial use—for a book cover, or any other use where the photo helps sell any kind of product—you must have a signed model release. This isn’t a clear-cut requirement, as if a recognisable person is in a public location and the photo will only be used non-commercially, no model release is needed. Perhaps the best rule is if in doubt, ask for—and get—a signed model release.
Acclaimed photographer Carl E. Heilman II has been photographing the landscape for more than thirty years. In this comprehensive guide, he shares the latest techniques for capturing professional-quality digital images in the field. Bursting with hundreds of inspiring images and a genuine passion for the natural world, Advanced Digital Landscape Photography is the definitive guide for today’s outdoor photographer.