People In The Landscape - Not So Easy To Do Well !
Mike Grandmaison, February 12, 2014 at 9:15 AM

The 'digital revolution' has produced a glut of images but, unfortunately, much of this imagery is also of lower standards. While there is certainly more variety to choose from, one often needs to spend much time to find that gem amidst all that clutter. A good portion of that imagery is not very good at all, mediocre to say the least. The motto for the last few years has been 'It's good enough'. Will this change? Not likely! Most folks don't recognize great quality and/or will not commit to paying for good imagery. The quality of many publications, including some of my favorite magazines, has unfortunately taken a serious downturn in quality during these last few years, both in terms of quality of the photographs as well as in printing quality. There are still excellent publications produced but, sadly, many fewer than there used to be!


A pet pieve of mine concerns imagery of 'people in the landscape'. We are simply bombarded with photographs of people today, including photographs of people enjoying the outdoors. More often than not however, these photographs tend to be disappointing. Personally, the reason people choose to be in a particular location is because they enjoy or want to be in a beautiful environment. The landscape is WHY people want to be there. People own or rent cottages in Muskoka because it is a particularly beautiful part of Ontario with lots of lakes and nature around. Others love to hike in the Canadian Rockies because they truly enjoy the magnificent mountain habitat. However, many publications insist on publishing images of people in the landscape where the people are the 'focus' of the images, no matter how good the photographs are. In my mind, they completely miss the point of WHY we visit beautiful places.


As a society, we are much too focussed on our own species and we have lost sight of the 'bigger picture'. When we want to include people in the photographs, we should publish beautiful images of 'people in the environment' and make sure that the focus is not on the people but more on the beautiful environment that people want to be in. We don't necessarily need to see smiles on people's faces, or even see the people's faces at all. A silhouette can be all that is required to give a sense of the place; sometimes all that is needed in a photo to suggest the presence of a human being is a dock, a pier or a Muskoka chair bathe in gorgeous light. While I admit that I am not a 'people photographer', I nevertheless have studied photographs of people by looking at the works of great photographers, folks like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Arnold Newman, Elliot Erwitt and Yousuf Karsh to name a few. It's paramount to see, first and foremost, a spectacular scene that invites me to go somewhere. I am seldom, if ever,  attracted to go somewhere because there is a beautiful photo of a person in a location but I am very likely to want to go somewhere if the photograph really captures a truly exquisite place, with or without people in the image. When featuring locations, people in the photographs should be for support and not the focus. The photograph shouldn't make you want look at what the people in the photo are wearing; it should instead force you to IMAGINE yourself being there.


A good image should be well processed, with good contrast and appropriate color saturation. The composition should be well thought out and visual elements that don't need to be included shouldn't be. Very often, photographs are poorly composed or are poorly cropped in the publication in order to fit more in or simply because they need to adhere to a specific layout. The resolution is often critical too, especially where print is concerned. While I have made some interesting images using my cell phone, they seldom produce good publication photographs and this is all too evident to people who recognize quality. The scene depicted should be spectacular and every element of the scene should be inviting, from foreground to background, including the sky which is so often captured haphazardly. The photograph should not simply be a 'grab shot' as is often the case. Spontaneity seldom makes for great photographs but, on occasion, can create a truly remarkable image. For me it isn't about the money or the glamour - it's about the message and creating great work! The photograph should make you want want to be there! That, for me, is what good advertising is all about.


For more photos of 'people in the landscape', 'click' on the main photo.

Posted In:Inspiration