How to Convey Size in Landscape Photography


In landscape photography, you can very often take a shot of some immensely large scene (Grand Canyon, Ayer's Rock etc) and get home to look at your shots only to see that the shot has failed to really convey how big the place was. It can be a little disappointing when you have grandiose subject matter (and ideas for how it will look on film) only to find that it looks… well, small. Other times, a smaller scene may appear a lot bigger than reality. And many times, you will want to correct the perception of scale in your images. Here's what you can do.
landscape by mike138, on Flickr

The basic strategy to get a viewer of an image to appreciate the size (large or small) of your landscape is to include an object in the photo that the viewer already knows the size of. Even better is to include that element in the middle to far distance of the shot so that the perspective of the shot is not messed with. If it object is too close, then this won't really work.

People and Animals – Everybody knows about how big a person is or how big most animals are. Putting them in the distance of a landscape shot is an easy way to show how big something is. As long as they are recognisable as people or animals then the task of conveying scale and size should be done.

Wildebeest Herd
Wildebeest Herd by wwarby, on Flickr

Human Made Objects – Almost anything built by humans is easily recognisable to most people in terms of size. This can be anything from cars, trucks, houses all the way up to high-rise buildings in some cases. Placing something like this in the distance of your landscape shot can, again, convey the scale of your landscape image.

Some Natural Objects – Even some natural objects can convey scale. Trees, when put in the middle to far distance of a landscape shot can convey scale. Even well known natural objects can convey the scope of the image (Ayer's Rock, Mt Fuji etc) as most people know their relative size from seeing many other images of them or seeing them in person.
MISTY MORNING by kelp1966, on Flickr

In effect, all of these strategies fall under the general banner of putting something of recognisable scale in the distance of your image. This simple little strategy will make sure that you never lose the real scale of a landscape shot again. For more ideas on improving your shots like this one, take a look at our landscape photography composition article.

About Author

Rob is the founder of Light Stalking. His love for photography started as a child with a Kodak Instamatic and pushed him into building this fantastic place all these years later, and you can get to know him better here.
Rob's Gear
Camera: Nikon D810
Lenses: Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

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