Including or excluding people in your pictures


I assume that many people who view this picture will say something like “If only those people weren’t in the picture!”. Am I right? I would say the same a few years ago. People were disturbing. They were always in the way of my perfect shots. I found many great locations but people was always in my way, always disturbing my perfect locations: The perfect landscape shot, the perfect scenery, the perfect building, car, etc. If only I could go back and experience the same location again without people!

Things have changed for me during the last year or so. Whenever I find a nice location nowadays it always seems empty without people there. I don’t need the perfect people, the perfect motion or the perfect clothes. I just really appreciate seeing some life in every image.

A building is static. It’s dead. A landscape will usually always look the same – at least for some time.
Don’t get me wrong. I love photographs of beautiful landscapes, buildings and monuments. But for me – personally – I try to include some life into every shot that I take.

A little over a year ago I would look at this image and say “If only those people weren’t there!”.
I took a picture of this scene without people at the same time as I grabbed this image as well, and it doesn’t give me much. Sure, it’s a nice night-time scene. But there’s no life there.

What do you prefer and why? Do you think this image would be better without people included in it? I would love to hear your thoughts.

High-resolution version of the image:


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Stephen G. Hippersonreply
April 14, 2013 at 16:35

It doesn’t matter what I think, I didn’t take the picture.
You took one with and one without – why – indecision?
Images without people can only give a sense of place. They cannot give a sense of time. Any ‘atmosphere’ is brought by the viewer. With people we have a sense of period/time (in 20 years time the picture will look 20 years old, fashion changes). People provide another layer – and as such become a distraction – but whether they are appropriate to your ‘minds eye’ picture of what you wanted to create…… only you can say. 😉

April 14, 2013 at 20:44
– In reply to: Stephen G. Hipperson

No indecision, I usually walk around and find certain locations where I might just stand and wait for the right time to click. In tricky lighting situations I usually take one or a few test shots to confirm that the metering and my settings are correct and optimal for that scene.

We all have difference preferences 🙂 Thanks for your input Stephen!

Stephen G. Hippersonreply
April 15, 2013 at 09:18
– In reply to: Børge

🙂 – if we didn’t have our differences all our pictures would be the same. 😉 🙂

April 14, 2013 at 17:01

It’s a fine shot, Bo, and in no way compromised by the two figures. It comes down to each shot – the synthesis of some is ruined by people drifting into the frame. Sometimes, I wait until there is some human life present before clicking the shutter.

April 14, 2013 at 20:45
– In reply to: mikeosbornphoto

Thanks Mike!
It’s all about then and there and what we’re looking for I guess 🙂

April 14, 2013 at 18:40

A great shot, very dramatic and imposing building. With people, I guess it depends on the building and mood you’re trying to create. With this one, for example, the couple of people add to is by creating a sense of scale. Other times, if you’re just aiming to get the building itself, passers-by can be a pain in the proverbial.

April 14, 2013 at 20:46
– In reply to: ckponderings

Thanks. You are right, we can often use people to show the scale of things. Be it buildings or other objects. People are great for determining the scale of a scene! Great point.

April 14, 2013 at 19:35

i’m going through the same (probably evolutionary) process like you. i always preferred to make pictures without people but lately this has started to change (i still don’t show them on my blog, though).
maybe it’ll swing back sometime. but in the end i guess stephen is right. only you or i (on behalf of my pictures of course ;)) can say.

April 14, 2013 at 20:47
– In reply to: lostfunzone

Exactly! Good luck on your evolutionary process! And please post some of your people pictures as well 🙂 It would be interesting to see them.

April 14, 2013 at 22:36

Perfectly fine with people in it. And perfectly fine without people in it. Personally, I think the two men walking by add to the image and make it more dynamic and giving it a better sense of scale. It also brings the image to life, so to speak. Very good.

April 14, 2013 at 22:38
– In reply to: icastel

Thanks! And I totally agree with you.
I would really prefer if there were three people instead of two. 1, 3, 5 and so on works better in pictures than 2, 4, 6… For some strange reason. For my eyes anyway 🙂 But it was freezing cold, so it is what it is.

April 15, 2013 at 07:13

Essential that they are there! Without them, it’s an achitectural image – static and not so interesting. With them it has scale, humanity, involvement and is tethered to the time it was taken. A great shot exactly as it is!!!

April 15, 2013 at 09:42
– In reply to: artmanphotos

Thank you! Much appreciated feedback.

April 15, 2013 at 21:39

I like this photo with the people, without them it’s just the building (also beautiful of course), with the people there is also a story, who are this people, why are they visiting that place …

April 15, 2013 at 22:35
– In reply to: margottrommelmans

Thanks Margot!

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