6 Basic Camera Shots Every Filmmaker Must Know

Film Shots - Camera Angles

A Film is made up of scenes – a scene is made up of shots.

Shots, when combined (or let’s say edited) in a meaningful style make up the whole movie. Filmmaking is a language – and it has its own grammar. Filmmaking is spoken in terms of the scenes and shots.

A scene comprises of many shots.

Think of a scene like a sentence. What is a sentence made up of – words, right? True. But just randomly throwing out the words does not make the meaningful sentence. In order to make a sentence that makes sense – we need to learn how to put words together (which I am doing right now 😃)

In a similar way:

For a shot to make sense, we need to combine the shots (in fact, different kind of shots) in a proper way so that it makes sense to the viewer – and also moves forward your story.

… before that, we need to learn what each shot means to the viewers.

Let’s have a look at the various kind of shots and where it might be appropriate:

#1 – Wide Shot

Wide shot, as the name suggests is the shots that shows the wide range of the view. It’s generally used as an ‘establishing shot’ – which basically means to educate the viewer on the place or the environment that the action is taking place.

Wide Shot – Reveals the Whole Scene

It usually encompasses all the elements within the scene. It closely relates to the way we see the acts in the stage. We can see everything that’s going on within the scene.

Usage:

  • used as an establishing shot.
  • to show the high-level view of the action.

#2 – Long Shot

… also known as Full-body shot.

Long shot indicates that we can see the person from head to toe. In fact, it does not have to be a person, it can be an object as well. For example – we can capture the long shot of the car or building.

Long Shots can comprise of 2 person – also known as Two Body shot

These shots can be important when shooting actions where the character is moving. These shots provide a sense of location to the audience (although might not reveal every elements of the scene)

Usage:

  • Shoot the movements (when camera is moving along with the subject)

#3 – Medium Shot

Medium shot, as the name suggests is the half-body shot. It is generally used when the character is doing things. Maybe he is holding something, talking or reading something.

Medium shot is ideal for interviews (or people talking in general), where body language is still important and it also reveals expression of the character (something a long shot shot does not)

In these kind of shots, we are closer to the action – hence we become more involved in what the character is saying or doing – without focusing on a specific character’s emotions or any other particular details.

Usage:

  • used to shoot the general actions.
  • ideal when ‘body language’ and ‘expressions’ both are important

#4 – Close-Ups

Close-up shot refers to the shot that covers face of the person.

… also sometimes referred to as ‘head and shoulder’ shots.

Close-ups are generally used to emphasize the emotion of the person (or character). Since we are seeing the face clearly, the details of the face are clear – for example, how his/her eyes react to a certain situation.

These kind of shots are ideal when the character is moving.

… or when the character is doing some action. Since we cannot see below his neck – we do not know what his hands or legs are doing – hence any sorts of movement happening would not be perfect for close-ups.

Usage:

  • To emphasize on the emotions of the character.

#5 – Point-Of-View Shot

Point-Of-View shots are the shots as seen through the character’s eyes.

The character is going through some dramatic situation – and sometimes it’s better to make the audience look through the character’s eyes to help them feel the situation – for example, the height of the building. In case, our character is afraid – it’s not enough to use medium shots or close-ups of their expression – the audience needs to see what the character is seeing.

Seeing through character’s point of view helps us empathize him/her.

These kinds of shots add much value to the scene.

Since we want the audience to travel through the protagonist’s life, it’s better to make them live the character’s life – and POV shots are powerful medium to do so.

Usage:

  • To help the audience see through the character’s eyes.

#6 – Over The Shoulder Shot

Mostly used for conversation purpose, OTS shot is a variation of the close-up shot. In this shot, we shoot over the shoulder of one actor to the medium close-up of the other actor (the one who s/he is looking at)

These kinds of shots add depth to the scene – foreground becomes the actor who is not talking. Next, it helps our audience know that we are not shooting the character in isolation – there’s someone else in the scene whom a character is talking to.

Usage:

  • Used in conversation-style shots to make audience feel like the scene is not shot in isolation.
  • Used when the character is looking at something – for example – reading books

How to Combine The Shots?

A shot is a building block of a scene.

How we combine the shots together to build a scene determines what kind of emotions will the scene provoke and what does the scene contribute for the whole movie.

The general rule of thumb is to start with an establishing shot (or a master shot).

It provides the context, or the environment in which the action is happening. And afterwards insert the other shots of the scene so that the scene makes sense to the viewers and also it helps move the story forward.

In Conclusion

Camera shots are an important part of filmmaking.

The shots are the building block of the scene. Similar to the fact that a scene does not work in isolation, the shots don’t work in isolation as well. Every shots you take is adding something to the scene – which means that you need to have 100% clarity about the scene before you even touch the camera.

I plan to write next about the camera movements, please be tuned.

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Posted by Rajit Chaulagain

Rajit Chaulagain (Chief Executive Officer @ Swopna Digital) writes about SEO, Filmmaking, Blogging, Animation, VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality), and many other exciting fields.