Big Impact with Small Subjects

If you regularly read photography articles, you’ve probably gotten the message by now that it is important to make sure the viewer knows what your subject is and looks at it. In many cases, this means a simple composition with the subject being a pretty prominent part of the image. However, you can also create effective pictures when the subject is very small in the image by guiding your viewer to the subject. Here are four ways to do that.

1. Even though the distant hikers are small in the picture, you can still identify them quickly as the subject of the photograph. This is primarily because the sidewalk forms a leading line. As discussed in a prior blog post, you can use leading lines to direct the viewer’s eyes.


Three Hikers : Prints Available

Path forms a leading line to hikers in the distance

2. A second way to make a small subject stand out is by framing it within the image, such as I’ve done below with the small tree in Namibia’s dead tree forest. Even though the tree is a small part of the overall image, your eye goes right to it due to the larger foreground tree framing it.

africa,african,dead tree,deadvlei,desert,forest,horizontal,namibia,namibian,sand,tree,woods

Clouds Over the Forest : Prints Available

Clouds over Deadvlei, Namibia’s dead tree forest

3. You can also draw attention to a small subject by lighting. I had no control over the actual lighting when taking the picture below, so I used dodging and burning in post-processing to brighten the subject and darken the rest. Also, the raised hands of the group help put a frame around him, so this image uses a couple of techniques.

asia,asian,bali,dance,dancer,east java,indonesia,indonesian,java,kecak & fire dance,uluwatu kecak,kecak & fire dance

Kecak Fire Dancers : Prints Available

Bali’s Kecak & Fire Dance getting underway after sunset.

4. A fourth way to make a small subject stand out in a big space is through color and/or contrast. Your eyes are easily drawn to the hiker below because of the red coat and because he is darker than the landscape he is walking in.

boiling mud pit,europe,geothermal,horizontal,hverir,iceland,lake myvatn,mud pit,myvatn,north,northern,sulfur,volcanic

Hiker at the Georthermals : Prints Available

A lone hiker walks through one of Iceland’s geothermal fields