Frame your messages like a photographer

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a professional photographer, or some would argue even a good photographer. But I love great photos. Having worked for two decades in journalism, I’ve been around some great shutterbugs.

A worker guides a beam being placed on the Mountain Parkway. (Photo by David Stephenson)
A worker guides a beam being placed on the Mountain Parkway. (Photo by David Stephenson)

As a result, I’ve learned a few things about taking pictures. The process starts much the same way as good communications – with framing.

For photographers, framing is how to compose a photo. It’s what you include and don’t include in the picture. Framing draws attention to the photo’s subject, defines the image and provides context.

Framing communications is very similar. It allows you to set the tone of a message and how you present it. You create the words, decide the medium and messenger and provide the context to make your message convincing.

To frame your message like a photographer frames a photo:

Focus on the main subject. Ultimately, most communications have only one or two main points to convey to your audience. Stick to your focal points and make them central to your communications. Like a photographer, make sure the subject is clearly evident. Without focus, your audience’s attention will stray.

 Cut out unnecessary information. Often minor points and information that are not pertinent surround your subject. In communications, we sometimes describe this as noise, and it can interrupt or disrupt your message. Like a photographer, cut (or crop) the information that doesn’t complement your main message. If that means remaining ultra-focused on the subject – like a close-up photo – do it. Save useful additional information for later messages.

 Choose the right moment. A big part of getting the right picture is taking it at the right time. We’ve all seen this. You snap a photo just as everyone’s eyes close. Sending a message at the right time is just as important. If it’s too early, you probably don’t have all the information you need or your audience isn’t ready to receive it. If you’re too late, you might miss the chance to be convincing or guide a discussion. Timing really is everything.

Communications is an art much like photography. With careful attention and practice, communicators too can compose beautiful pieces of work.

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