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Scenery vs. Set: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 2, 2023
Scenery refers to the natural features of a landscape ideal for a background, while a set is an artificial construction designed for a theatrical production or film.

Key Differences

Scenery describes the natural environment or landscape that surrounds us. It is the visual background one might see while in nature or even looking out a window. A set, on the other hand, is a constructed environment, often built on a stage or movie studio, to create a specific locale for a performance or scene in a play, television show, or film.
Scenery can enhance the beauty and set the mood in a natural setting, often inspiring artists and photographers. It refers to the picturesque elements of nature such as trees, mountains, rivers, and the sky. In contrast, a set is a carefully crafted artistic space that aims to support a narrative by providing a physical space where actors perform, which includes props, backdrops, and furnishings specifically chosen or designed for the production.
The term "scenery" is used more broadly and can refer to both rural and urban landscapes, or even interior views, when they are particularly notable or beautiful. It's about what is naturally present or appears to be so. A set, however, is temporary and changeable, often created for a particular production and dismantled after use. It's a key element of the storytelling in performance arts, built to transport the audience to different times, places, and situations.
When we talk about scenery, we might mention how it changes with the seasons, offering a dynamic and ever-evolving backdrop to daily life. A set, conversely, is static during the performance, though it may change between scenes or acts. It's designed to evoke a sense of place that's critical to the viewer's suspension of disbelief during a play or film.
The appreciation of scenery is a subjective experience, a passive enjoyment of what one finds visually pleasing or dramatic. In contrast, a set is an active creation, a designed space with the purpose of conveying a certain atmosphere, time period, or setting that is central to a scripted performance. Both terms, while related to visual environments, serve different purposes in our experiences and interpretations of space.

Comparison Chart


Natural landscape.
Constructed backdrop for a play or film.


To be observed and enjoyed.
To support a narrative and performance.


Changes naturally with seasons/weather.
Designed to be changeable, as needed for scenes.


Natural or existing structures.
Artificially built or assembled.


In real-life vistas or photography.
In theatrical, TV, or film productions.

Scenery and Set Definitions


A picturesque view that is often the subject of a painting or photograph.
She captured the coastal scenery in her latest artwork.


A collection of objects that belong together or are designed to be used together.
She bought a new chess set.


The visual environment in a theatrical performance, usually not including the actors.
The play’s scenery was reminiscent of a Victorian London street.


A group of repetitions of a specific exercise done as part of a training regimen.
He did three sets of ten push-ups.


The backdrop of a scene, real or painted, in the open air.
We admired the changing scenery as we drove through the countryside.


The arrangement of scenery and properties to represent the place where a play or movie is enacted.
The director changed the set for the final act.


The natural features that can be seen in a particular area.
The mountain scenery was breathtaking.


The posture or attitude of a person or thing, especially when deliberately posed.
The dancer’s set position was a marvel of balance.


The collective appearance of a place or landscape as seen by viewers.
Tourists flocked to the village for its quaint scenery.


To put in a specified position or arrangement; place
Set a book on a table.
Set the photo next to the flowers.


A view or views of natural features, especially in open country
Enjoying the varied mountain scenery.


The way in which something is set, fixed, or arranged.
The table was set for dinner.


Backdrops, hangings, furnishings, and other accessories on a theater stage or on a film or television set that represent the location of a scene.


What does set mean in theater?

In theater, a set refers to the artificial backdrop or stage arrangement where a play is performed.

How is a set constructed?

A set is constructed using various materials like wood, paint, and props to create a specific scene for a production.

Are sets always indoors?

No, sets can be both indoors and outdoors, depending on the needs of the production.

Is scenery used in films?

Yes, natural scenery is often used as the backdrop in films.

Does scenery only refer to nature?

Primarily, but it can also include urban landscapes and interior views when they are notably aesthetic.

Can sets be digital?

Yes, with modern technology, sets can also be created digitally using CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery).

What skills are needed to design a set?

Skills in design, construction, painting, and an understanding of storytelling are essential for set design.

Can anyone create a set?

In theory, yes, but designing a set usually requires knowledge of art, design, and the specific needs of the production.

How does scenery affect mood?

Scenery can greatly influence the mood of a scene or setting, eliciting emotional responses from the viewer.

What is scenery?

Scenery is the natural background or environment that surrounds us.

Can scenery include man-made structures?

Yes, scenery can include man-made structures if they are part of the landscape.

What is the importance of scenery in photography?

In photography, scenery provides a compelling backdrop and context for the subject.

Do sets include lighting?

Yes, lighting is a crucial part of most sets and helps to create the right atmosphere.

Can scenery be altered or enhanced?

Yes, scenery can be altered or enhanced, particularly in photography or film through various techniques.

How often do sets change in a play?

This varies by production; some have one set throughout, while others change sets multiple times.

What role does scenery play in tourism?

Scenic locations are often a primary attraction for tourists.

Do sets have to be realistic?

Sets can be realistic or abstract, depending on the production's style and requirements.

Are set designers important in film production?

Absolutely, set designers are crucial in bringing a director’s vision to life on screen.

Does scenery contribute to the identity of a place?

Yes, unique scenery can become synonymous with a particular location’s identity.

Is scenery static?

Scenery is not static; it changes naturally over time or with the seasons.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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