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!

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