People or Places?

When it comes to vacation and travel pictures, photographers tend to fall into two camps: Those who want people in their pictures, and those who don’t.

It may seem funny, but people have some strong feelings about this! There are purists, who want their photos to be as free of people as possible. They want their pictures to be pristine portraits of the landscapes and the landmarks. Adding people to the mix just clutters the scene and ruins the shot. But for others, a picture is no fun unless it includes family and friends. It’s not about where you are, it’s about who’s there with you.

I used to be the former. For me, traveling was all about what I could see. I wanted to visit the Grand Canyon and snap a picture of the rock walls. Visit the Louvre and snap a picture of the Mona Lisa. Visit South Africa and snap a picture of a zebra.

However, as I’ve gotten older, traveled more, and had kids, I’ve begun to change my mind. Now, I’m more interested in what I can experience, not just what I can see. And the people are part of the experience. Take those above pictures of the Coliseum, for example. The picture on the right is nice. It shows the main features of this awesome landmark. But it’s a bit boring. I prefer the picture on the left, of my son and me. It brings back lots of memories of that day. It was his first visit to the Coliseum, and he was amazed. He was both scared of and in awe of the gladiators outside. And I also remember that I’d just been fussing at him, and I had to coax him into posing and smiling with me!

There are also times when the people are an integral part of the scenery. Rome’s Spanish Steps is a perfect example of this. No matter what time of day you go there, you’ll see loads of people milling about. There are large groups of tourists, teenagers loitering, and workers from the surrounding shops enjoying the outdoors while they’re on a break. It’s a fascinating tableau, made all the more interesting because of the diverse group of people. Whenever I go there, I try to take a picture from a new angle, and I love studying the people in my shot.

I still like to take landscape shots without people, though. It’s almost as if I consider natural beauty to be kind of sacred, and I don’t want anything to mess it up. I have been known to wait a VERY long time for crowds of people to clear out before taking a shot of a spectacular or famous view.

Sometimes, though, despite your efforts, people end up getting in your way. This picture below will always be one of my favorites. I was scoping out a view before taking some pictures, mentally composing the shots and checking the light. My husband suddenly ran up beside me, and posed like the goofball that he is. Someone grabbed my camera and snapped this shot before I could really even react.

It’s the perfect shot, really — a gorgeous landscape, but still full of personality.

So which do you prefer in your photographs, people or places? If you’re not sure, take the time to go back through your old vacation photos. I’m sure you’ll notice a pattern. You either prefer to remember the sights and the scenery of your trips, or you prefer to remember the people and the experiences. Neither choice is wrong or right, but it’s certainly interesting to consider how we choose to remember the big moments in our lives.

Amy Bradley-Hole is a freelance writer and speaker who covers tech, travel, business and parenting. She blogs at Freaky Perfect about the freakiness of her not-so-perfect life. When she’s not goofing around on the internet, she dreams up new ways to drive her husband and two kids crazy.


  1. Donna George says:

    People, since I am a mom of 6! A landscape or work of art is nice, and I will take those, but the pics that evoke the strongest feeling have people in them.

  2. I always love to add people in the pics.They make wonderful memories in themselves.Places you can see in picture books or on Tv.You can’t replace the memory of family or good friends smiling faces

  3. I honestly prefer people. I love watching and learning new people. To learn how they click, what makes them smile, etc. I specifically like to meet grumpy people because it’s like this challenge to make sure before they are done being around me that they are left smiling!

  4. Stephen A says:

    I prefer places

  5. It’s interesting to go back and see what my pattern has been. It’s nothing I’ve even thought about, but apparently I prefer to take pictures of people. :)

  6. I like both. I love taking photos of my family but a landscape or naturescape is my favorite thing to compose behind the lens.

  7. Heather Hayes Panjon says:

    I Like People Shows The True Culture And Captures The Exact Emotion Of The Photo :)

  8. As a photographer, I can’t help but love the scenic shots. I take a lot of them. But as a mom of 5, I also value the importance of taking pictures with people. So I just take double the pictures and have a little bit of everything.