Work the Scene
Presented by Glenn Springer, TIF, RHCC

Something made you stop to take a picture.
Are you sure that's the only — or the best picture there?



After the storm, I had moved a couple of hundred meters and found this image.

While I was waiting for the sky to clear a bit, I looked around and found this flower just asking to be photographed.

What stopped me here was the simple expanse of green fields. When I stopped it was a plain sky, but then a storm developed. So this was the picture I came for.


The previous articles in this series have, for the most part, been about the mechanics of taking pictures. How to prevent blurry images, making better exposures, shooting with a flash, recognizing what kind of light there is, getting a tripod… thank you all for reading them and your comments and questions. If you missed any of these articles, go to and click on “Tips”. All of the articles are there, with supporting photos and ideas.

Today, we’re going to approach it a little differently: we’re going to talk about “MAKING” pictures instead of “TAKING” them. What’s the difference?

When you take a picture, you’re just capturing the scene or the moment. But when you MAKE a picture, you create something that represents your vision of what you saw, not just a record of something. And when you CREATE an image, a small part of you goes into it, more than just photons of light bouncing into your lens or pixels on a screen. Emotion. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. Guys, for us it’s a bit more of a stretch…

I was in Old Montreal just after sunrise one day. This is the shot I had in mind when I got up at 5 am (OK, I lie. I woke up at 4:30, then went back to sleep for too long and had to rush to get down there while the light was still good.


By now (if you’ve followed my articles), you know what the camera does and how to work it. If you’re not there yet, there are plenty of courses available to help you. Go to the same website and click on “Workshops”. By now, you’ll spot something that would make a great picture and you have an idea how to make it work. I don’t know if you like taking pictures of landscapes or action sports, of flowers or people: it doesn’t matter, “whatever turns your crank”, as they say. Whatever it is, some of you are ready to take the next step, to make an image that tells a story or speaks to you and people seeing your pictures.

Nobody can make you into Michelangelo. But I promise you, you will get far more satisfaction out of your pictures if you put some emotion into them. I can’t even begin to tell you how to do that, except to start to be aware of what’s around you.


If you keep your eyes open, completely different things happen. This older gentleman, whom I dubbed "The Traveller", limped along the street. Who is he, and why is he there in the dawn light?

Here's a rendered image of the church bell. I had mounted the long lens to try to get some birds-in-flight pictures and while I was waiting, I looked around for other interesting images.

Here's what was going on right next to me in the field

...and this was across the road

Try this. It’s a real-world exercise that might open some doors for you.

When you see something that you want to make a picture of, ask yourself what was it that caught your eye? Now try to capture and single out whatever that was, and exclude everything else that you can. Make a compelling image of whatever that was. Put your heart in it.

You’re not done yet. Look around you and find something different to focus on (I don’t mean your lens, I mean your mind, your eye). Capture that. Do it again. And again. I guarantee you will find many outstanding things right there, totally different things to photograph. Shooting a sunset? Look how the light hits a canoe on the lake. What about the reflections in the water? What about your companion’s face? A leaf or blade of grass? Open your eyes and see.

I came to shoot this rural church in Irondale, Ontario. This is the shot I was after, but I wasn't done yet.

What about editing your pictures? One of the huge advantages of the digital era is that you now have the ability to correct and creatively edit your pictures in your computer or mobile device. Purists will argue that you should get it right in camera and not play with it on computer, but why? It’s about what you make, not how you make it. We just have a different set of tools than the oldtimers had; they used smelly chemicals and stuffy darkrooms, we use digitizer tablets and software.

Most people don’t want to get into all that complicated computer stuff. It’s fine, you don’t have to, but you CAN. I warn you, though — it’s addictive! Just one more little tweak…

The interior of the church. Worth waiting for!


I got up before dawn to shoot Furnace Falls at sunup. When I got there, there was nothing going on. I decided I wasn't leaving without a picture, so I tried all kinds of things to come up with something. I was rewarded by this shot, a slow shutter speed image that showed the mist rising from the river.



To paraphrase National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones, “nature doesn’t present you with just one excellent picture, one photographer captures it and everyone else is wrong… there are a million right answers”. Google him and watch some of his videos. You will be a better photographer if you do.



This may not look like it, but it's a "work the scene"type shot. I was teaching a workshop and this motorcycle was parked across the road. I told the students to take 5 different pictures of the bike: different lighting, different perspective, etc. So I did the same thing. I shot closeups of the headlights, the leather seat, the dashboard... then I thought of trying this shot, exposing for the bright bike and reducing the background to black.

The other articles told you how to use your Left Brain to take sharper, better exposed, better composed pictures. I hope this one opens the door to making you see and capture images you will be proud of. Click the "Gallery” button below to view some of the images I care about.

Links to FACzen Photography:
We teach you how to become a better photographer. And we sell fine art images. Please check us out at the links below.


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