Photo Tips: The Power of One Part 2

Photo Tips: The Power of One Part 2


A while back I wrote a blog post mentioning that some of my favorite shots, whether my own or those of other photographers that I admire, have a single point of interest.

While on a recent scouting trip to the Kingdom of Bhutan, an exotic destination nestled in between China and India, I was with my guide outside of a gorgeous town called Punakha.  It’s here that two rivers meet and terraced rice patties dominate the landscape.

We took a short ride out of town and came upon this viewpoint where I asked my guide, Sangay, to pull over so that I could make some shots.  I saw the photo opportunity below, a medium shot of the overall scene, but I wasn’t particularly interested in it as in this version it’s more of an abstract made up of patterns and lines, which is fine, but not what I was going for.


Abstract of rice fields in Punakha, Bhutan by Ralph Velasco

The lack of a real point of interest makes this image more of an abstract.


Just then I said to Sangay, half kidding because I never thought it would happen, “Boy, all I need is someone in red to walk into this scene and I’ll be a happy man.”  Incredibly, not a minute later a man in red walked into the scene.  I always say that patience and curiosity are the two best qualities a photographer can have, and a bit of luck doesn’t hurt either.


Man in red in field in Punakha, Bhutan by Ralph Velasco

With a man in red walking into the scene, this image has a real point of interest that the viewer can focus in on.


Here the man adds what I like to call a “human touch.”  It’s my feeling that a subject such as this gives the viewer a sense of being in the scene themselves…on some level it makes it relatable.


Ask and you shall receive….


Below are some additional images that drive home this point.  They’re from the original blog post that this one is based on.


Photo Tips: The Power of One Part 1


The road near Portillo, Chile by Ralph Velasco

Note the yellow bus and how it gives scope to this scene near Portillo, Chile.

This man-made or natural subject gives the viewer a very definite part of the scene to focus in on, and will often provide a much needed “sense of scale.”  Providing a sense of scale is accomplished when a known object, such as a person, tree or bus, is included in the image so that our brains can immediately form an impression of the overall scene and accurately calculate its size.

Quite the View from Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah by Ralph Velasco

The man on the arch gives a sense of scale to the scene.




The man in this image is on top of Mesa Arch, in Canyonlands National Park in Utah, and his presence provides a much needed sense of scale.  Without him it would be difficult for a person not familiar with this location to get a feel for how large or small this natural formation really is.  Certainly, a true landscape photographer would cringe at the idea of a person like this in his or her photograph, but for my taste, it’s what makes the photograph all the more interesting.

Winter Scene in Salzburg, Austria by Ralph Velasco

The man walking across this bridge in Salzburg, Austria, provides interest to the image.



When I first noticed this beautiful winter scene in Salzburg, Austria, the bridge was empty of people, and so the photo opportunity didn’t interest me.  However, I recognized it as a good potential background if I just had the proper subject to include.  It wasn’t until this mysteriously silhouetted man with an umbrella entered the scene that I really took notice.  And the fact that he’s walking into the scene from right to left works well, too.  I usually prefer my subject entering the scene as opposed to moving out of the frame, but that’s a topic for another post.

Be sure to take advantage of the power of one in your images.  The subject should provide interest, a point of focus for your viewers to hone in on, and more often than not, a much needed sense of scale that will potentially make a snapshot a great shot.



If you’d like to join Ralph Velasco in the Kingdom of Bhutan and Nepal, he’ll be leading a photo tour to this fascinating part of Asia from October 30 – November 12, 2014, through Jim Cline Photo Tours.

Please see the Bhutan-Nepal Photo Expedition link for more information and to register.


Ralph Velasco is a travel photography instructor and international tour guide.  He’s the author of Essence of a Place: A Travel Photographer’s Guide to Using a Shot List for Capturing Any Destination and Ralph Velasco On Travel Photography: 101 Tips for Developing Your Photographic Eye & More.

He’s also creator of the My Shot Lists for Travel app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch®.

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Ralph Velasco is a professional photographer and instructor who has traveled extensively and taken photographs in over 40 countries. Ralph Velasco Cultural Tours offers unique cultural touring opportunities that combine compelling locations with breathtaking views, relevant local history, scheduled activities and time to explore on your own. His events are available in dazzling international locations around the globe and his services include public speaking, corporate cultural tours and events, corporate photo walks, photo walking tours, photography eBooks, photography classes and group training seminars. His photo walking tours provide the opportunity for hands-on photography experience with a professional instructor to develop the skills necessary to capture a variety of photo subjects, settings and lighting. Ralph gives private photography lessons and his photography boot camp includes a seminar and training on camera basics, elements of composition, and a personal review of your own photography. United States and international locations; Corona del Mar & Orange County CA.

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