INSPIRATION: Adding The Human Element

Portraiture is not my usual venue for photography since I primarily shoot outdoors and nature. Although I do include people in my compositions occasionally, to enhance the overall mood in a scene or if I want to provide a sense of scale.

I have shown this photo to quite a few people to gauge their reaction. The responses have been varied, with many folks saying it is peaceful, while some have described it as moody, and others feel is it contemplative. Relaxed, saddened, and exhausted have been other responses. Everyone seems to interpret the mood of this image in their own way, which is what I expected.

Adding the human element can change the entire dynamics of an image. However, there are times when we are out shooting solo and there is no one else around to be our model. In these situations, a self-portrait can be the answer.

It’s really easy to accomplish a self-portrait without a lot of expensive equipment. Set up the camera on a tripod, rock or some other stationary object. Compose the shot, and determine where you would like to be in the scene. Set the self-timer for length of time you need to get into position and look natural. Press the shutter release, move to your pre-determined spot then relax. The shutter will click, and there you have a photo with a person in it.

When most folks view photos or paintings which include the human element, they often imagine themselves or someone they know being in that scene. This added feature can make for a more successful image. Worth a shot or two.


  1. February 10, 2012 at 9:25 am

    This is certainly something different for you. I like it. I find it all of the above (see your second paragraph). πŸ™‚

    • February 11, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Glad you enjoyed this Bob…I like to mix things up every now and again…keeps it fresh!

  2. February 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Nice shot! She looks like all of the above moods you mentioned. Interpretation is in the eye of the interpreter.

    • February 11, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Thanks Teri, every time I view this photo I get a different feeling also.

  3. February 10, 2012 at 9:27 am

    How true… This is beautiful dear David. I loved what you shared with us. The photograph hits all of us in different way… Human element! Thank you, have a nice weekend, with my love, nia

    • February 11, 2012 at 10:58 am

      Thank you Nia, sometimes the human element really adds to to the mood. I feel in this case it sure does.

  4. February 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I really like this shot too. It is a peaceful shot and I can’t help but wonder what the person in the picture is thinking about. It seems as though she is in deep thought because she is not looking out of the large window but starting at the wall. I can’t tell for sure but it appears that she could have been out jogging earlier and maybe is in the process of winding down..I guess what I am saying is that I completely agree with you in regards to how the human element does add another dynamic to a photo like the one above. Thanks for sharing!

    • February 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

      It’s funny that even though I took the photo, I get a different feeling every time I view it. Maybe it’s because I just used the available light and underexposed it a bit that the mood (whatever mood the viewer feels) really comes through.

  5. February 10, 2012 at 11:46 am

    having been primarily interested in landscape, I’ve literally switched camps these days and I love the story telling and the emotional response that human element brings.

    For me (with this new belief), this photo, without the person would not appeal as much as it does in this state. Did you try out a bnw conversion on this david ? the contrast (shadows and lights) scream out for a bnw IMO πŸ™‚

    • February 11, 2012 at 11:12 am

      I think it’s good to switch things up a bit now and again. Your portraits are great! I did try it in B&W and it looks good,and I almost posted that version, but I thought the old ochre colored paint on the bench, doors and the window frames added to the the scene.

      • February 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm

        I can see what u mean now and why you chose the color πŸ™‚

  6. February 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Very interesting shot, David…the elements certainly beg a lot of different interpretations–the largely empty room, the position and posture of the human subject, the light pattern on the floor (coming from a window not shown, obviously), the window itself and the contrast with the comparatively dark room. Lots to think about here.

    BTW, I echo the suggestion to take a look in this in b&w. There’s not very much color in this shot anyway and it might add additional interest to go full-blown monochromatic.

    • February 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Thanks Terry, you are right…this one sure does allow for many interpretations. I did do a B&W conversion on this shot and it works well. In fact it changes it completely! I posted the color version because it shows the age of the mansion a little better. Hmmm maybe I should have posted both.

  7. February 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I like this a lot. The sense of scale is interesting: the doors seem small – of Alice in Wonderland proportions; the window is huge; and the person seems small compared to the size of the room and window. I like the soft muted colours too.

    • February 11, 2012 at 11:23 am

      It was a huge room and there were Lilliputian doors through out the mansion. Most were at one end of the place so we figured the were for children. The colors really show the age of the place well…although I don’t know how old it was. Hmmmm further investigation is needed.

  8. February 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    We did “Self Portraits” in my Camera Club last month and it would possibly fit into this month’s theme of “Silence”. Either way it did inspire me to reach into my self for my interpretation(s) and I like the photo as well as what you wrote. Thank you for sharing.-it really says alot about where a person is at in the moment when they give their interpretation of a photo.I decided to have fun and come up with as many possibilities as I could, rather than just one. I tied taking a self-portrait outdoors and just couldn’ t get a sharp focus-maybe i should have had a wall behind me.What kind of DOF would you recommend?

    • February 11, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Glad you have enjoyed this one Jane, I find different interpretations very interesting and ya know…I think a self portrait would fit quite nicely in the “silence” category! DOF would be a tough call without knowing the situation…do you want a soft background or everything in focus as if you were in a landscape…but hey, I got it!!! Manual Focus!!! Put something in the spot where you plan to be, focus on that and then switch places! That should work quite nicely.

      • February 12, 2012 at 7:21 pm

        ah-h-h..there’s the answer-thank you.

  9. Jo Woolf
    February 11, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Very interesting and atmospheric – a very cool feel, with the suggestion of a summer’s day outside.

    • February 11, 2012 at 11:40 am

      I hadn’t thought of that, but cool does work…lonely might fit in as well. The different reactions to this shot have always been interesting to me. Glad you enjoyed it!

  10. February 11, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Peaceful and a little melancholic… Love it (and maybe especially how the door on the left looks like it’s slightly ajar…)

    • February 11, 2012 at 11:43 am

      Glad you like it Anne, I get a different reaction from everyone how see’s it. Looking back on this…I bet I should have opened the door a tiny bit more. Very observant on your part!

  11. February 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I find the photo comforting and contemplative, David. I interpret it this way: the woman was about to sweep the floor in this (attic?) room when she decided to relax and enjoy the winter sunshine streaming through the window. The temperature of the room must be cozy, because she’s not dressed in cold-weather clothing. Oh, and it’s a lazy Saturday afternoon.

    Of course I never try to read anything into a photo. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  12. February 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Ya know…relaxing and enjoying the sunshine does sound a whole lot better than sweeping. Someone once told me that “dust will keep” so enjoying a lazy day works for me!!! I didn’t think you were the type of person to look at a photo and see something other than what the image depicts.

  13. Nandini
    February 13, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Great photo David. After reading your conversation with Abu, I too now know why you haven’t posted it in high-contrast B&W. As I started processing it a little in my mind. πŸ™‚

    I really liked it – very interesting interiors – esp., the windows and the doors. πŸ™‚

    • February 13, 2012 at 9:09 am

      Thanks Nandini, it is a really interesting building. The mansion was built about 100 years ago and is currently being restored. There are tile fireplaces in almost every room, and an elevator from the first to the second floor, multiple kitchens, and I lost count of the number of rooms. Apparently the original owner was quite wealthy! Some parts are finished but they still have a long way to go! It’s gigantic!

  14. February 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I love this photo! I agree with some of the earlier posters who think it’s melancholy. That’s the feeling I get, too. I like that you posted it in color as well. I think a photo with this light might get stark and you might lose her in the corner in b/w. The slight color adds depth and warmth. Great image!

    • February 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm

      Thank you Tricia, Ya know it’s funny that you should say melancholy…that’s the same feeling we had in some of the other rooms. Other rooms had a happy joyous feel. Odd. I think the color version does work better in this instance, and you are right…she did get lost. I could have spent a bunch of time playing with the image but that is not something I tend to do. I think the color adds just a little something to the overall feel too.

  15. February 14, 2012 at 4:08 am

    It’s a beautiful shot David, makes me imagine myself sitting there after decorating my house, tired, warm and happy πŸ˜€

  16. February 14, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Aw thanks Kristina, this photo evokes so many different moods and feelings for folks. All the varied reactions are amazing and interesting!!!

  17. March 3, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    A beautiful image, which transmit a quiet dreaming suggestion. I like it, well done.

  18. March 4, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Thank You Robert…I have to admit…this photo does evoke a bit of thought…

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