Capturing Confident & Professional Shots

Professional looking video footage is easier than you may think.  But it does take a little extra time and discipline to create an engaging shot.

This article was taken from Jonathan’s media tutorial newsletter, Media Momentz which is not currently published.  This article was taken from the August 2013 Issue.

You can’t afford for your learning video to look scruffy or amateurish.

You don’t want learners laughing at shaky camera shots or poorly lit video.  You want them moved to reflect on your learning objective.

Bad video distracts from your message.  It makes your content both more difficult to understand and harder to remember.

Or should we say, confusing and easy to forget?

Technical Issues

Many things can prevent your video from looking professional.  Most of the causes are either technical issues or down to art.

Some of the common technical problems include:

Professional videographers take specific steps to prevent these mistakes. We’ll discuss some of them in coming issues.

However, even if you get all the technical issues right, your pictures can still come across as dull and lifeless.

The Art of Your Shots

This is where we need to focus on the art of shooting good pictures.

It requires us to think about things such as lighting, camera angles, movement and of course framing.

This month I want to share an artistic technique known as the Rule of Thirds. It will help you frame shots so your video looks confident, artistic and visually appealing.

Following this rule will also help you communicate your message better by creating message clarity and increasing impact.

Assuming your lighting, audio and focus are set correctly, the rule of thirds will take your pictures to the next level.

They’ll draw your viewer’s eye, resulting in more engagement as they focus their cognitive energy on your message or learning content.

The Rule of Thirds

To many beginners, the rule of thirds is uncomfortable because it seems to fight against logic and symmetry.

When I ask beginners if we should position a person or object in the middle of the picture or slightly to the side, more often than not they suggests the middle.

It’s not surprising. After all, wouldn’t it be natural to position a person or object in the center of the screen when lining up your shot?

It stands to reason that a symmetrical approach like the shots below is correct, right?

Wrong. According to the rule of thirds, the answer is no.

Like to know why?  Look at the two pictures below.


Both people are in the middle of the frame which makes the shot look symmetrical.  A lot of people find comfort in framing their shots so they are symmetrical and look orderly and complete.

However while they may appear orderly, they actually look dull and boring.  Following the rule of thirds can change this.

The rule suggests we divide our screen into thirds both vertically and horizontally.  In the pictures below, you can see how each person is framed within the “the thirds”.

The lines between these thirds creates a grid that we can use to position people and objects in the shot in a place where they look best.

The rule of thirds states we will create a far more interesting shot if we position our subject or object at the point where these lines intersect.  Look at the difference below.


In the shot above, we have positioned the man playing golf on the vertical line between the first two thirds. His head is positioned on the line between the top two thirds.  And he is looking into the space on the screen.  The picture draws us in more than the first version where he was in the center.

In this shot, we have framed the pictures so the woman is positioned on the lower vertical line between the second two thirds.  Once again, by framing it so it is slightly off symmetrical, the picture is more focused and interesting. And it has more impact. Notice how your eye is drawn to what she is doing?

Some Theory

The great masters followed the rule of thirds in their paintings and many photographers also use it to compose their shots today.

One of the theories about the rule of thirds suggests that positioning objects so they are not symmetrical draws the viewer’s eye and gives the object or person greater impact.

This is because symmetrical shots – such as when the person is positioned in the exact center – are predictable and feel complete.  They can be yawn inducing.

The rule of thirds on the other hand makes the shot feel incomplete so your viewer waits in anticipation for the next shot. This keeps your viewer on the edge of the seat.

Further Tips to Follow

Here are a few other things to consider when following the rule of thirds.

  • When you have people in your shot, position their eyes on the line between the top two thirds. You can see this in the shot below.
  • Frame your shots so that the person in shot is NOT looking off screen. When an actor is looking off screen it feels impersonal as if the person has their back to you.
  • When you want an object to be in focus make sure other distractions are removed from the frame. Clutter undermines message clarity and increases cognitive load.
Extra Help

Some video cameras have a function where you can display the gridlines on your viewfinder/screen to help you position your objects and subjects well.

As you can see in this shot, the lines are superimposed over the image that is being shot. Check your camera’s menu to see if it can superimpose gridlines over your picture to help frame your shots.


About the Author

Jonathan Halls is a recognized teacher and consultant in the areas of media production and the dynamics or modern organizations. He has forged his knowledge through both research and real life experience. His leadership and change programs are based both on the latest thinking and his real experience leading large teams and facilitating organizational change. His media training is based on the latest thinking and his experience working with leading media companies throughout the world as well as his experience as a former journalist and talk show host.

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