Little Details Make a Big Difference


“God is in the details” — Gustave Flaubert (1821-80) … or “the Devil is in the details” (a variant of the proverb). However you choose to look at it, there’s no question that little details make a big difference in your work.

The ancient Greek artisans took this so seriously that the statues they carved are complete all the way around, even though they knew their carvings would be in places where no one would ever see those details. This attention to detail is perhaps one of the reasons we marvel at their art thousands of years later.

A Photojournalistic Approach to Corporate Training Materials

Recently I was working on a crew creating training materials for a restaurant chain. We decided to approach the assignment photojournalistically rather than stage the photos. This approach, showing the employees doing their jobs properly, made the photos more believable than set-up shots. These pictures will be used to train other employees and show them in detail how things should be done.

Even though we didn’t stage the shots, we still had to set the stage by cleaning up the place. We had to make sure it looked as the company said it should look, that everything was in its place.

In past training programs, the photos occasionally showed that a store didn’t always follow the company line in every detail. It may be as small as some item not being in its normal place, or something that’s not present in every location.

Insignificant, but incorrect, details are not insignificant to those responsible for training employees. In the Nixon/Kennedy debate of 1960, it was the sweat on Nixon’s brow that’s remembered — not what anyone said.

On most high-investment photo shoots, stylists are employed to catch the small details that can distract from the message.
Attention to the details is the fine distinction that separates the professional from the amateur.

Communicating Clearly, Without Distractions

I’ve told you this story before, the one about sitting by a grandmother on a flight from Dallas. She showed me a snapshot of her grandchild standing in front of a house. The child was a mere speck in the picture, but the grandmother, so intent on the memory of the child, was not even aware of all the distractions in the photo. She remembers what the child looked like and so she saw her clearly, but only in her mind’s eye.

Musicians, poets, writers and photographers are well aware of how important a detail can be. Musicians listen as they play to keep themselves in tune. Poets search for the one precise word. Writers look for the verb to carry the action. Photographers look at the subject, plus scan the complete frame to eliminate details that distract or add ones that compliment.

As professional communicators, we must show what we want people to see and show it clearly and without distraction.

If a trainee is sidetracked by a detail that should not be there, he or she may miss a point being taught. If there are too many distractions the trainees may not be trained as they should be.

It is our job to make certain the message does not fail due to things overlooked. That’s why details make the difference.

[tags]photojournalism, photography advice[/tags]


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