15 Essential Camera Shots, Angles and Movements

What are the essential shots, camera angles and camera movements a filmmaker should know about? Here they are:

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I’ve divided 15 essential camera shots into three groups of 5 each: Angles, Shot Sizes and Motion. Together, you can create an infinite combination of shots for your film projects.

Camera Angles

  1. Eye level – camera points straight ahead. Intention is to be objective.
  2. Low angle – camera points up from a lower angle. It makes the subject dominating.
  3. High angle – camera points down from a higher angle. It makes the subject diminutive. A variation: Top angle or bird’s eye view – special case when you want to show the topography of a location. Aerial shots fall under this.
  4. Dutch – tilted angle. It draws attention to the fact it’s not a balanced frame. Something is literally off kilter.
  5. Over the shoulder (OTS) – not strictly an angle, but it’s a specialized shot that deserves its own place. Confrontational by nature.

Shot Sizes

  1. Close up – facial features and expression is more important than anything else. Variation: Extreme close up – you probably want to chop something off for an even closer look.
  2. Long shot – When you want to add action and location along with the subject. Variation: Extreme long shot – when the location is more important than the character at that moment.
  3. Medium shot or Mid shot – half of a person, roughly, where body language is important while eliminating distracting elements of the background.
  4. Single, two shot, three shot. etc. – Number of people in frame decide this. You can combine this with a CU, MS or LS.
  5. POV – as if the audience were the subject.

Camera Movement

  1. 360 degree – showcase the subject by moving around it.
  2. Zoom – when you want to get closer or further away without making an emotional statement.
  3. Pan and tilt – when you want to observe the space from a single vantage point, follow the subject so you feel like you’re a spectator observing. The movement happens on a pivot.
  4. Tracking shot, crane, dolly – when you want to follow the subject and be more involved with the space and location. The audience is drawn into the world.
  5. Random – camera shake or motion to provide energy.

Compound Motion

You can combine motion into more complex shots. The two most popular examples are:

  1. Dolly Zoom or Vertigo Shot – where the camera dollies in/our and zooms in/out (the opposite direction to the dolly movement) at the same time.
  2. Single take shot – where the action is a complex choreography of different camera angles, shot sizes and motion. The toughest and most time consuming to pull off.

That’s it! By using a combination of angles, shot sizes and motion you can create an infinite variety of shots. Happy filmmaking!

Take your filmmaking skills to the next level with The Ultimate Guide to Shooting Dialogue Scenes. Click here to learn how to find the best angles, deal with coverage in low budget productions and how to deal with actors.

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