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Can a Good Landscape Photograph Include a Human Element?

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

There are many opinions in the photographic community on this question.

For some, landscape images should only include those elements that are naturally occurring in nature - trees, mountains, rivers, lakes, sea, rocks and so on.

Others are happy to include a ‘strategically placed’ person in their landscape images but draw the line at including human-made features, while still others feel that their images are enhanced by the inclusion of a human, or even a human-made, feature.

One of the photographers that I admire and have followed on YouTube for some time is James Popsys.

James is a very successful professional photographer whose website and videos showcase his individual approach to photography.

Two aspects of his work stand out for me.

• James believes that a photograph should be about something rather than of something. He suggests that a photograph should tell a story which encourages the viewer to ask questions and wonder about what is happening in the image.

• James takes the view that including a human element in a photograph helps to tell the story and serves to involve the viewer in the image. His images regularly include people or animals but will often also feature human-made aspects of the environment such as bridges, stone walls, fences, huts, even houses and telegraph poles when they add to the story of the image.

I can relate to the James Popsys approach to photography (maybe not the telegraph poles!) I particularly like to include old human-made features such as old walls, bridges and fences, while buildings such as castles, old churches and the occasional lighthouse feature regularly in my photography.

Fenagh church

Most of these landscape elements have existed for many decades or even centuries and are an important link to the past. They encourage us to think about the lives of those who built the structures and reflect on how these structures have become an integral part of the landscapes we know today.

I am not averse to including people in my landscape images, though I try to deliberately place them in a way that will enhance the image. In addition, I frequently include more modern human-made objects as they often tell a story in a way that the scene on its own doesn’t tell.

In the snow

snowy landscape

I think that sometimes the addition of a human element in an image tells the story better than if it showed landscape only.

Ballawley park

view from a seat

I often include a seat in an image as it gives a human eye point of view.

Marlay in the snow

sculpture in marlay

Looking from the point of view of a statue or sculpture can give the same effect.

Bridge in Ballawley

I think the bridge gives an added element to the leading line, which leads the viewer to the steps in the background. While the bridge and steps are both human-made I am happy to include them.


I think that using the groynes as a leading line out to infinity enhances this coastal image. Do you agree?

misty morning

misty morning edited

James Popsys likes to include telephone wires in his images. In the first image I included the wires then took a second image in which I removed the wires. I prefer the second version but it is a matter of taste.

S-bend Marlay

S-bend with person

The same scene, one with the addition of a human element, one without.

You choose.

Can a good landscape photograph include a human element?

Would you be happy to add a human or human-made element to your landscape images?

Share your thoughts below.


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