Scale and grandeur

It is important to add both a sense of scale and a sense of grandeur to landscape photos.

You add grandeur by using a wide lens and getting close to something (even the ground). That shows the size.

And you add scale by helping the viewer. Adding people is a common technique, as I did in this image of Sedona, AZ, in December last year:

Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ

You need to see that image real size to really see it (click through, then select full size). And that brings me to today’s last tip: make it big. Large prints are sooo much better than 4×6 prints.

Snapshot rules

Even when you take a simple snapshot, as a photographer you should think about how to do it. Almost subconsciously, I apply the same rules and the same thinking to a snapshot that I do to a photo I am paid for.

So I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss some of that thinking. In that context, here is a snapshot I took the other day of a friend:

Michael's friend Ninon, shot with a wide angle lens

Michael's friend Ninon, shot with a wide angle lens

In the second or two before I take that snap, what is some of my thinking, and what are some of the decisions I make?

  • Subject: What is this a photo of? (it is a happy snap, so “camera-aware” and a smile are just great). Check.
  • Light: Where is the light coming from? In this case it is from her front, indirect reflected light, i.e. nice flattering light. Check.
  • Lens choice: I want to use a wide angle lens here because this is a situational portrait, a city woman in her city. Wide angle lenses put a subject in context. I want a wide angle lens also because it creates those nice diagonals that converge on the subject, can you see them? Finally, I also want wide angle to show depth in the photo (a technique knows as “close-far”).
  • Depth of field: I want to draw attention to my subject by blurring the background, so I use Aperture mode (A/Av) with an aperture of f/2.8. Wide angle lenses are sharp all over, but by using a fast one (f/2.8) and by getting close I can still blur the background dramatically.
  • Composition: I am using the rule of thirds. “Uncle Fred” puts the subject in all his images smack bang in the middle: I use off-centre composition. In this case the centre of attention (her face) is one third from the right, one third from the top. And she is looking into the picture, not out of it.
  • Moment: you need to capture the right moment. I shot four times and by photo number four, her smile was best. Shoot a lot, even in a portrait. so you capture just the right moment. I also thought the right moment included the “suits” in the background. After all, King and Wellington, downtown Toronto, means suits out for (if not out to) lunch. So I was delighted to see them approach and took the four shots just as they passed behind her.

That is, in a nutshell, what I thought in the seconds leading up to this picture.

That is my thinking. Yours may have been different, and that is of course perfectly OK. There is not one good picture: there are 100 billion. The essence here is not what my conclusions were, but the fact that I was thinking at all, instead of just blindly snapping.

Light, moment and composition/subject, that is what makes up a picture. So think of those every time you take one, and your pictures will get better.


A reminder of how to make your photos three-dimensional.

You do this by:

  1. Using a wide angle lens, the widest you can
  2. Getting close to something

In the photo of the Israeli tank, I used a 16mm lens on a full frame camera – this would be a 10mm lens on your crop factor camera.

The “close-far” effect is due to you being close to one thing and far from others. The wide lens enables you to compose like that.

So – get wide – get close!

Haze? No problem.

Here is a simple but effective technique: if your background is hazy, blurry: put something sharp against it in the foreground. Like in this picture:


You get benefits that include:

  • Better foreground subject definition
  • No-one minds that the background is hazy – it is a benefot, not a drawback, so everyone’s happy.
  • 3D into your picture.

It’s all good!