Landscape photography was my first love. The forest, still and patient, was where I spent countless hours learning to use my camera. I started out as a landscape traditionalist — all of my landscape photos were devoid of any human elements.

Then, I started adding myself into my images. This was just for the pure fact that I never had any photos of myself (a common photographer problem!). I found that these images were often the ones I liked the most when I got back to my computer.

Eventually, I grew to appreciate the fact that art is subjective and I wasn’t breaking any rules, so to speak. Now, adding people into my nature photography is something I do frequently. Below are three reasons to add the human element to your landscape photos.

Adding a person into this shot helped give emotion and context to the image.

1. To add a sense of scale

Adding a sense of scale is the most obvious reason to add the human element into your landscape photography. A tiny person within a grand landscape helps give the image a better sense of scale and perspective. It gives our brains a frame of reference, which allows us to interpret the image with more context and understanding.

A photo of a large tree, for example, can of course be beautiful on its own. But, placing a human beside it or underneath helps to create an image that the viewer can better relate to, and therefore have more of an emotional connection to.

Adding my friend into this foggy photo helped to show the true size of the tree.

2. To tell a story and add emotion

As the photographer, you always know the story behind your photos. But other people looking at your work most likely don’t. Adding in the human element to your landscape photos can help connect people to your image by telling a story.

The human eye is drawn to other humans, especially within photography. So by adding this element you can help draw the viewer in to your image.

Depending on the image and how you’ve incorporated the human element, you can also convey different emotions from your viewers. Wonderment, excitement, contemplation, fear or any other number of emotions can be added into your photo by adding a person.

Adding myself into this image added a sense of playfulness and exploration to the image.

3. To make your image unique

We’ve all seen photos taken from iconic locations, and most of them tend to look the same. Adding in the human element can help personalize your photo and make it unique to all of the other images taken in the same place.

Placing a person into the shot can add movement or dynamic tension into an otherwise still landscape scene. Or, it can add a pop of color to draw in the eye (my husband knows he’s not allowed to buy black jackets anymore!).

This series of waterfalls has been photographed countless times. By convincing my friend to join me in the icy water, we created an image that I haven’t yet seen replicated and tells more of a story.

Next time you’re out shooting landscapes, consider adding in the human element to diversify your images. Think about scale, story, emotion and making your image unique to you. Adding these elements into your traditional landscape compositions can help you grow with your imagery. And hey, you might also get a few photos of yourself for once!