Including People in Landscape (or Cityscape) Photography

I have a distinct childhood memory related to photography. On family vacations my dad often wanted my sister and me to pose in his landscape shots and I remember thinking "Why does he always want to ruin this beautiful waterfall/mountain/nature picture by including us in it?". Although it took me a while to come to this realization, I now see that my dad was onto something. At times, adding people to a more a typical landscape/cityscape shot can turn a ho-hum photo into something much more interesting. Here are three situations where including people can be in the right decision (with examples from a recent Portugal trip):

If you want to increase depth by adding a foreground

Strong landscape shots include not only a mid-ground and background, but also something of interest in the foreground. The photo on the left of Lisbon was lacking a foreground, which I was able to remedy by including Maelle and Pearce in the shot. 

If you are missing a strong focal point

The mosaic tiles in Portugal are eye-catching, so when I noticed a dramatic wall covered in tiles in a small alley in the town of Fuseta I knew I wanted to capture it. After taking my first picture on the left, I felt like it was missing a focal point and wasn't as interesting as I had hoped. In the second picture Maelle and Pearce act as a point of interest to draw the viewer's eyes down the alley. 

If you want to provide a sense of scale

When photographing large objects, it can be sometimes be difficult for the viewer to truly understand the size and scale of the scene. If you give the viewer a point of reference and include something familiar in the shot (as I did below with Maelle and Pearce), it can help to convey the grandeur of the landscape shot. 

So the next time you're on vacation silently cursing how busy the tourist spot is because you can't  take a photo without any distracting people in the shot (I've done this too many times to count) stop and consider if including people will add to, as opposed to detract from, the photo.

Here are are a few more of my favourite (people and non-people) photos from Portugal: