A film’s narrative relies on so many moving pieces to push it forward. And while writing, acting, and directing are top of mind during the planning stages, scene composition is one oft-overlooked technique you can use to engage viewers.
Below are 10 camera shots that will capture your characters and bring life to your scenes. Employing them at the right time will help keep your viewers interested, whether you’re shooting a feature film, a marketing video, or even making an animation.
We’ve organized this list from widest to closest frames. Scroll on to learn them all.
Table of contents
10 types of camera shots you should know about
Extreme wide shot
This camera shot is typically an “establishing shot” that determines your scene’s location. These types of camera angles remind us where we physically are, so have this in your back pocket for location switches.
Very wide shot
In a very wide shot, location is still very prevalent, but the subject will also be somewhat visible. This is great to contextualize your characters in their surroundings.
Wide shots are also known as long shots or full body shots. These frames put a more equal emphasis on your subject and their surrounding environment. Your character should take up as much of the frame as possible, while still fitting comfortably within the scenery.
The mid-shot takes a step closer to your subject. This composition shows body language, gestures, and personality — it’s all about them. With this almost full-body shot, we want to see less of the setting and more details of the actual person.
Similarly framed to a mid-shot, two shots include two subjects instead of one. Both are given equal stage weight in the frame (as you can see in the example above). Their body language, along with the distance between them, helps convey their relationship.
In between a mid-shot and a close-up, a medium close-up gives greater detail, but we still see some body language. Typically, medium close-ups depict the subject from the shoulders up.
Close-up shots focus on a part of the subject (usually their face) or object. This brings your character’s facial expressions front-and-center, and your audience can easily read their emotional responses.
The extreme close-up camera shot is exactly what it sounds like — the camera shows as much detail as possible. An extreme close-up also brings a degree of intensity to your scene. You can use it to achieve comedic relief, tension, and heightened emotions. This shot style can be incredibly versatile.
These camera shots frame a subject by peeking over-the-shoulder of the person they’re interacting with. These are strongest in scenes when two people are engaged in conversation — or a passionate fight (see above).
And finally, the POV shot depicts a character’s first-person perspective. Most traditionally, your footage is captured as if the camera is the subject’s eyes.
Remember — these are only a few of the many types of shots in film. As your skills and your projects evolve, you’ll quickly discover which shot types are your favorite as a filmmaker.
*Originally written in 2019 by Amy Horton. Updated 2021