Tip 10:
Look for Elements of Scale

By Bob Krist

By Andrew Hudson Published: August 18, 2011 Updated: May 3, 2013

How many times have you come back from a trip where majestic mountains end up looking like so many mole hills in your pictures, and broad sweeping landscapes you remember as breathtaking just look like big empty spaces? More than likely, the culprit is the absence of scale. To appreciate the size of an natural landscape feature in a photograph, the eye must see a subject of known size — a human figure, for instance—to judge it against. Without that sense of scale within the frame, a waterfall could be 12 feet high, or 120 feet high — there’s no way to judge.

Almost all the publications I work for prefer some sense of scale in their landscape pictures. Scale can take the form of a person, a vehicle, a boat, an animal — anything that is of known size. Using a long lens helps to compress the perspective and gives a dramatic, looming presence to whatever it is you’re photographing.

This is a good time to utilize your family members as “scale models” by having them walk, hike, or drive through the scene you’re photographing. Since your models will more than likely be too far away to talk to, make sure you let them look through the lens and discuss where they should stand before they set off. This will save you and your vocal cords a lot of aggravation.


Keeping all the above pointers in mind seems like a lot to remember when you’re out shooting on vacation. But it’s not that hard and it’s worth the effort. You’ll be surprised at how the intelligent application of a few of the preceding suggestions will vastly improve your results. You’ll find that the pictures of your vacation will finally live up to your fond memories.

Have a great trip!

Copyright 2006–2011 Bob Krist. Reproduced with permission. No Internet reproduction or other usage permitted. For more information send an email. Bob’s next book will be PhotoSecrets Travel Photography.

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