Finding scale in New Zealand

So often when taking photographs, we see something amazing, raise our cameras, take the shot, and walk away very pleased with ourselves. Until we get home and review our pictures. We were so impressed with how much larger or smaller than normal something was, that we just wanted to capture it so we could share it, but we forgot one very important thing… to give our photos scale. Taking a photograph of the largest ball of string in the world means absolutely nothing, if you can’t tell that it is really, really big.

When you photograph something because it is especially large or especially small, it is important to include something in the photograph to give the viewer a sense of the scale of the object. (I addressed this partially in an earlier post on the lava tubes of Lava Beds National Monument.) On a recent trip to New Zealand I came across several objects (animal, mineral, and vegetable) that gave me reason to include people and/or objects in my photos to give a sense of scale. These were subjects that were either especially large or especially small, but needed visual cues to help the viewer of the photograph to realize which.

A starfish. How exciting.

Visual cues can be especially helpful when the subject being photographed and viewed is something outside of the audiences own experience, or if the object is in contrast to most people’s experience. The hermit crab that we encountered was many times the size of hermit crabs encountered off of the coast of California (the ones I am familiar with). If I hadn’t included something to scale it against, my mind would simply equate it to the hermit crabs that I already know. Likewise with the starfish, except that they are much smaller than the ones I am familiar with.

Aha! A star fish with a foot. Suddenly the audience realizes that this is a very small starfish, smaller than what they may be used to. If they realized how small my model's foot really is, they'd know that this guy is miniscule

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in How To, nature photography, photography and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Finding scale in New Zealand

  1. Inge says:

    Great tutorial. I’ll keep in mind. :)

  2. Mark Goodwin says:

    Excellent point well made Galen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s