Lessons from the Scene: Fine Tuning by Stanley Leary


 by Stanley Leary

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“God is in the details” - Gustave Flaubert (1821-80) … or “The Devil is in the details” (a variant of the proverb). Whatever one does should be done meticulously; details make the difference.
The ancient Greek artisans took this so seriously that the statutes 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.
Recently I was working on a crew creating training materials for Chick-fil-A. We decided to approach the assignment photojournalistically rather than stage the photos. The photojournalist 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
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 it had everything 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 in its normal place or something that’s not present in every store. Insignificant, but incorrect, details are not insignificant to those responsible for training employees.
In the Nixon/Kennedy debate 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.
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 spec 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. The musicians listen as they play to keep themselves in tune. The poet searches 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 one 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 they may miss a point being taught. If there are too many distractions the trainee may not be trained, as they should be. It is our job to make certain the message does not fail due to things overlooked. Details make the difference.