Types of Camera Shots and Angles

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There are one or two things that you should know about filming, and one of the most important things there is to know is the different types of camera shots and angles that exist. You may want your character to look a certain way, for example powerful, and in order to do this, you need to be informed about the different angles and camera shots you can use to achieve this. They are super important and they need to be taken into account because they can help you enhance the narrative of your film. In this article, we will also give you some excellent examples of angles and camera shots used by super talented directors. Here are some of the most important shots and angles to know:

Long Shot

This shot shows the full length of the subjects, from head to feet. Also, this type of shot gives you information about the place where the character is. This way, you can recognize the subject and the place where they are and you can see how the character interacts with the elements in the scene. The long-shot can make you feel isolated when watching a film because there is a distance in this type of frame that can give you the sensation of separation between the film and the audience. It also works to make the character look small in a big surroundings. 

An example of a long shot is in the 2014 movie ‘Interstellar’, directed by the great Christopher Nolan. This movie uses a lot of long shots in order to show us the solitude of the characters who are exploring remote planets. In addition, this shot manages to show us how small and helpless the characters are in unknown territories. 

Medium Shot

This shot is widely used in film since it’s usually a really great tool for back and forth dialogue scenes. It shows the character from the waist to the top of the head. It also captures perfectly in detail the performance of the actor and the details of the setting. The medium shot provides us with significant details of body language and the way that characters interact with their environment. 

This medium shot is from American Psycho (2000) directed by Mary Harron. Here, in this frame, we can observe Christian Bale’s amazing actuation and details of his facial expression, also things like what he is doing, how he is dressed, what he is holding, etc. The medium shot can provide us with meaningful information that can help us understand the context of the situation. 

Close-Up Shot

Close-up shots are fundamental for any kind of movie. It usually shows the subject from the top of the shoulders to the top of the head, allowing the shot to perfectly capture the character’s facial expression. The audience, through this type of shot, is able to contemplate the emotion that is being conveyed. Furthermore, when using the close-up shots your audience will be relating to the story that is being told due to the intimacy that the shot carries; we are allowed to perceive strong emotions, for example, you can see the character’s frustration or sadness and understand their suffering. 

This close-up shot is from Hereditary (2018) by Ari Aster and here we can see the excellent performance of pure horror and dread by Toni Collete (Annie). We can notice here that facial expression is crucial for this type of shot and it can be very useful to understand the character’s story. 

High-Angle Shot

You’ve probably seen the high-angle shot multiple times in films. It is a very useful and meaningful shot in which the camera is positioned at an angle looking down at the character. The high-angle shots are used for different purposes, one of them is to add narrative information to a scene, which means that it can show something that may be impossible to perceive from another angle. Moreover, it is used to show a character in a vulnerable spot to make it look weaker and smaller, this purpose is one of the most frequently used in cinema. And last but not least, it can be used to generate the terrifying feeling of falling from heights since this angle manages to show us shots that can cause tension and fear. 

This high-angle shot from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) shows us the main character fighting a dementor. Here we can see Harry’s vulnerability against this creature and how small and weak he appears to be. 

Low-Angle Shot

The low-angle shot is also highly used in filmmaking since it has multiple connotations that can be helpful for your narrative. To achieve a low-angle shot, the camera must be positioned below the eye line, looking up at the subject. Commonly, this shot conveys power and strength, and depending on the character, it can be for the good or for the bad. It can also be used to increase the height of an object, but mostly it’s used to denote power and authority.

Casino (1995) by Martin Scorsese shows us exactly that. Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein (played by the talented Robert De Niro) is a mob associate and he is presented as a powerful character, he is in control of the business and this low-angle shot definitely lets us know that. 

Dutch Angle Shot

The Dutch angle is a well-known shot used in filmmaking and, let’s admit it,  it looks fascinating. To achieve this type of shot you’ll need to tilt your camera’s ‘x-axis’. But, what is all the fuss about this angle? Well, this oblique angle can help the viewers understand the skew or twisted mind of a villain, or make the audience feel uneasy and disoriented. This type of shot is a clear signal that something is wrong or that something bad is about to happen. 

Director Quentin Tarantino is known for using this angle, here we can see that something very bad is about to happen in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Eye Level Shot

An eye-level shot is incredibly important when it comes to filmmaking. It has not much science behind it but it basically consists in placing the camera at the same height as the subject. This type of shot helps the audience connect with the character, even when the characters are considered evil or bad. This shot was made to create an empathic and sympathetic reaction. 

This iconic final scene from Gone Girl (2014) by the accomplished David Fincher shows us the main character, Amy (Rosamund Pike), at an eye-level shot. We know what she did and we know why she did it. This shot is powerful and we can see that power in her eyes.

So, now you know a little bit more about camera angles and different types of shots. When making a movie it is important to combine all these shots that can help the narrative of your story unfold. The little details must be taken into account to make a great movie and knowing how to use all camera angles and shots correctly can really improve your film’s narrative. To make a great movie you’ll not only need a great script, but you’ll also need to know how to use angles and shots, how to edit, and how to combine music and sound effects with what we are seeing on screen (btw, we offer some exceptional tracks you should check out!). We’ve also talked about how to use a green screen and the rule of thirds, which can also help you learn more about filmmaking. 

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