Encourage Team by Casting Vision Using Four Simple Strategies

Ansel Adams TetonsComposition was a strong skill in my photography tool belt when I was in college. It attracted weekend wedding jobs, numerous awards and my first cinematography gig with CBS. My ability to artistically capture images through a lens was due to an employer who encouraged me by casting a vision for my future.

Alta was a writer and a photographer who took over the management of her parent’s local camera store. When I was in high school, she hired me for my technical knowledge and ability to sell. It was her hope that I’d free up her time so she could fulfill her love of writing for the trade papers.

On one particular day, she reviewed customer photo packets with me and pointed out the problems most had in composing an image. She then raved about Ansel Adams and suggested that I improve my skills to match. Once she saw that I bought into her inspiration, she asked me to enter Polaroid’s national photo competition.

After winning the award for best composition, I realized Alta had casted a vision that drove my skill improvements. I owed her a good deal of thanks for investing a vision in me and inspiring me to step up to it. And, I made a mental note of how she encouraged me, which I’d like to share.

Every leader can learn how to encourage their team by casting vision using four simple strategies.

Acknowledge a Recognized Problem

I was able to accept Alta’s challenge because she first pointed out what I could see and understand. The pictures in everyone’s vacation photos had no artistic value. We both saw it and could relate to each other’s perspective on the poor quality of composition. In that moment we were peers.

Share a Vision of What the Solution Looks Like

Alta then pointed out the great works of Ansel Adams, who I admired. His sense of composition was breathtaking and made the mundane look priceless. Developing similar skills promised equal benefits. I was sold on wanting to develop my eye for composition.

Suggest a Course of Action for the Team’s Success

I was given instructions to study and practice my composition for the up coming contest. Alta handed me a camera and numerous rolls of film. She only required the right to watch my development process and make suggestions along the way. After several months of intensive shooting, I came up with one perfect shot that would’ve thrilled Adams.

Ask for the Team’s Commitment

To benefit from the process, which would help the store and give her more time to write, Alta asked me to commit to practicing and submitting my best photo. I agreed and took first place in the category of composition. It was a thrill to have my name associated (for a few weeks) with the real pros that included photographers from National Geographic, Sports Illustrated and the like.

I was amazed at how a little encouragement through casting a vision impacted my life. It made me realize how much power rests in the hands of a true leader that can directly impact her company. And, its not limited to a few leaders. Every leader can encourage their team by casting a vision.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers
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Directors Stage Shots and Block Actors with Triangles

The human eye moves around a room or watches a scene based on leading lines and points of focus. The art of capturing the eye and encouraging its movement in a specific direction is done through composition. There are many types of composition like “L”, leading lines, rectangles, spirals, etc. The study of these forms is typically taught using the rule of thirds, or the golden rule section or ratio.

The cinematographer is well equipped to use these various techniques, but he first must learn what the director is trying to accomplish with the actors as they rehearse or block out their movements. The director will try to create emotional energy within the scene and shift the power between characters. It’s the cinematographer’s job to capture that engagement by racking focus, using a crane, or creating movement with a dolly. The goal of the set up is to help the audience feel and understand what the actors are emoting.

The more actors on set, the more difficult the staging of the shot becomes. The simplest way for the director to capture the essence of the scene and leverage the ability of his cinematographer is to block the actors in groupings of triangles. This can be done by height, distance from the camera, or with three various groupings.

Director sets shot with triangular grouping of actors.

The director blocks the actors in three groupings within a triangle.

In “The Proposal”, during the engagement announcement scene, the cinematographer uses three groupings of actors (orange boxes of people grouped in a triangle with red lines) with one close to the camera, the next mid way, and the last group farther away. In the last grouping, the actors were grouped in a mini-triangle (blue lines) by the director.

Three-shots can easily be turned into triangle blocking based on distance from camera, actor height, and relative position if one actor stands while others sit. Sometimes the director uses a momentary triangle, as someone walks past in the foreground or background, to break up the obviousness of the blocking.

While still shots might reveal various compositions utilizing triangles, motion pictures will many times interrupt the posing aspect that the composition might encourage with movement. A cinematographer may also choose to rack focus between points of the triangle to create more eye movement.

Copyright © 2012 By CJ Powers
Photos © Touchstone Pictures