Using Scale – a short tutorial

Beach Scene


a series of short tutorials on different compositional techniques you can use to make images with stronger impact

Using Scale

You wouldn’t believe what we saw today. It was so large it was hard to even image. You wouldn’t believe the power we felt being there. Here I took a picture. Wait, you can’t really see how big it is from this picture, but it was amazing.

Why use scale?

  • Express size – providing objects of known size against objects of unknown size provides a frame of reference.
  • Exaggerate – juxtaposing objects of different sizes illustrates the contrast and provides a reference for exaggeration.
  • Fool the view – using camera position and subject placement you can fool the viewer to make small things look big and big things look small.

How to use scale

  • Use Perspective – show the relationship between near and far objects or between large and small objects
  • Include items of known size against items of unknown size
  • Combine fore-ground, middle-ground, and background to bring the viewer into the scene and create an expansive space
  • Include items in their extremes – very small or very large

Here is an example of using scale to express size. The woman and her laundry illustrate the expansiveness of this arch on the Prado in Havana Cuba.

La dama en el balcón

We know that giraffes are large and children’s hands are small, but this image showing both together shows the extremes.


Small is large and large is small in these images using camera placement and careful composition.

The Sandwich



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