Human Centered Design: Telling A Visual Story With People

The visual aids we deliver to our clients as designers and suppliers are essential in effectively communicating important information to them. Throughout my years of being a photographer and designer, I have learned how to use humans effectively in interior and architectural photography to emphasize specific areas, details, and products.

By experimenting with photography composition, I have narrowed it down to 5 key areas where including humans in your photographs will enhance the image.

 1. Using Humans To Depict Life

Hootsuite YYZ - The Social Café | Photo by Alan Chakota

Hootsuite YYZ - The Social Café with People | Photo by Alan Chakota

These photos of a vibrant work cafe show how adding humans to your photo can depict life. But even with all the bright colors and playful elements, the image on the top can feel cold and uninviting. In the image on the bottom, I’ve strategically placed people in natural postures throughout the space. By suggesting the way the space could be occupied, the viewer is able to picture themselves in the space as well. As designers, we want people to feel comfortable in the spaces we create. And when trying to win over new clients we want to prove that those are the kinds of spaces we design. Especially in spaces that are the social hubs of the program, it’s important to include people. By adding people into these photos, I was able to bring life into the image while also demonstrating the function of the space. 

 2. Using Humans To Add Depth

BDO LLP - Multipurpose Room | Photo by Alan Chakota

BDO LLP - Multipurpose Room with People | Photo by Alan Chakota

These examples of a large meeting room show how humans can be used to add depth to an image. The first image is great, it showcases the furniture pieces beautifully, however it feels flat and static. In the second image by adding humans I’ve instantly added excitement to the image. I have drawn attention to the space beyond the meeting room and drawn attention to other interior elements such as the glazing partition. In this scenario, a full scene has been created that your clients can buy into. The main purpose of the photo has been maintained. But now the viewer is drawn into the image by implying the existence of life beyond the meeting room. This makes it easier for them to envision the product in their own space. 

3. Using Humans To Enhance The Subject

Wasserman Media Group - Collab Area | Photo by Alan Chakota

These examples of interior photography show how you can use humans to emphasize the subject of the photo. In the image on the top, the viewer may struggle to understand the purpose of the partition dividing one area in an open office layout. The image has a lot of design elements competing for your attention, which can make it hard to pinpoint the subject or purpose of the photo. In the image on the bottom, I am passively showing the viewer what the purpose of that partition is, without distracting from the design of the space. The less you have to say out loud to the viewer the better. This also helps harmonize the image’s composition by highlighting the function of the desired subject.

4. Using Humans To Clarify Proportions And Scale

Capital One - Reception Area | Photo by Alan Chakota

Capital One - Reception Area with Model | Photo by Alan Chakota

The images above show how humans can be used to clarify proportions and scale in interior photography. The first image, although defined in subject matter, lacks a sense of scale that would help the viewer understand the impact this reception desk has on the space. In the second image by adding in a receptionist the viewer can see for themselves the kind of presence this feature design element has within the space. The human scale is something that is easy for anyone to understand. If the goal of your image is to draw attention to the size of an object within the space, adding in a human is the easiest way to convey that message to your viewer. 

5. Using Humans To Demonstrate Function

Confidential Client - Open Office | Photo by Alan Chakota

Confidential Client - Open Office with Model | Photo by Alan Chakota

These photo examples show how you can use humans to demonstrate the function of a space or furniture piece when it’s not obvious at first glance. The image on the top shows a bank of workstations I photographed for my client. They wanted to highlight the desks’ height adjustable feature, which is not clear in the first photo. In the second image, I strategically placed the model in a standing position to show this function of the desk in a subtle way. Now the viewer can infer the desk’s height adjustability on their own, creating excitement about the possibilities for use in their own mind. I’ve found that by adding humans to your interior photography, your photos start to do more work for you. The power of suggestion is a strong marketing tool and the more you can sell yourself, your products, or your designs without saying a word, the better. By applying these principles when composing my shots I am able to offer my clients a fully realized image that they can use to help propel their business further.

Words by:

Alan Chakota and Emilia Majerus.