Having the right film shots in a video can make a world of difference to how your viewers engage and feel about your content.
From adding close-ups to intensify emotional moments, to over-the-shoulder shots to emphasize character relationships, each film shot sets a different emotion, mood, and meaning for the audience.
But learning different types of shots can be hard. More so, if you’re starting as a video editor or content creator. To help you, we’ve compiled a list of 12 types of film shots you need to learn, so you can enhance your story’s message, narrative, and the overall mood of your project.
Jump to a specific section:
- Full Shot
- Long Shot/Wide Shot
- Extreme Long Shot/Extreme Wide Shot
- Mid Shot/Medium Shot
- Medium Close-Up Shot
- Close Up
- Extreme Close Up
- High-Angle Shot
- Low-Angle Shot
- Over the Shoulder Shot
- Dutch Tilt Shot
Basic Types of Film Shots
Video editors use a variety of film shots to craft a comprehensive film narrative. When you’re starting as a filmmaker or a content creator, consider experimenting with some basic film shots first to get a better understanding of your camera, lens, and artistic preferences. Once you nail down your basics, you can combine them, or mix them with advanced film shots by experimenting with different camera angles in film (we talk more about this later).
[#TOC1]1. Full Shot (FS)[#TOC1]
A full shot is a type of camera shot that captures the essence of a character while setting the context using visual space around them. In a full shot, characters are shown in the frame from head to toe within their surroundings. This allows cinematographers to incorporate a wide range of body language into the scene that they’d otherwise miss with a long shot or extreme close-up shot.
So, if you were to emphasize a character’s outfit or how a character moves, and interacts with other characters (friendly, awkwardly, etc.), a full shot would be ideal for capturing such scenes.
Full shots in film can also feature multiple characters in a single shot, like this scene from Game of Thrones where five characters are shown in their complete ensembles against a battle-like backdrop.
[#TOC2]2. Long Shot / Wide Shot[#TOC2]
The long shot, often referred to as the wide shot, is a filming technique that captures more of the surroundings while still keeping the subject in view. This shot is useful for capturing landscapes or portraying characters within a vast area, like a girl in a castle or modern skyscraper, to emphasize its scale and intricate design.
You can also use long shots or wide shots to specifically capture a landscape without a character. Think of transitioning scenes that introduce a new location like a different planet the main character is planning to explore, or a familiar location in a different state.
Here’s an example of the wide shot size from the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, where Harry fights off Voldemort on the Hogwarts Castle grounds, showing a familiar location in an altered state.
[#TOC3]3. Extreme Long Shot (ELS) / Extreme Wide Shot (EWS)[#TOC3]
The extreme long shot (ELS), also referred to as an extreme wide shot (EWS), is all about showing the world where the story takes place. It’s like offering a panoramic view to reveal a broader narrative without any characters or dialogues.
An extreme long shot is often used as an establishing shot in a film where it is used to give a sense of geography or environment, establishing context for the subsequent shots. Similar to a long shot, an extreme long shot may or may not have subjects in it, depending on your artistic preferences. But in case, you choose to add subjects in an extreme wide shot, they would be significantly tiny in context to the backdrop. In that case, you could have your subjects in front of a green screen and add VFX to create life-like extreme long shots.
In Mad Max; Fury Road, this scene is the perfect example of an extreme wide shot, showing the vastness of the desert juxtaposed with the tiny characters, evoking a profound sense of isolation.
[#TOC4]4. Mid Shot / Medium Shot[#TOC4]
A mid shot or medium shot is used to frame the subject from the waist up. It’s ideal for dialogue scenes as it maintains the sweet spot between the characters’ expressions and their surroundings. Since viewers can see the character’s facial expressions and body language, it gives them a better sense of the character’s emotions and mood.
From showing a character talking on the phone as they take a stroll in a park, to evoking a sense of confusion by showing a character in a new setting, a medium shot strikes the perfect balance between character, performance, setting, and sometimes action.
This scene from Creed III is a great example of a mid shot as it shows three characters, from the waist up, in a boxing ring.
[#TOC5]5. Medium Close-Up Shot[#TOC5]
The medium close-up shot focuses on the subject's face and upper body, intensifying the emotional connection between the viewer and the character. It is often used to convey subtle expressions, emotions, or reactions, enhancing the viewer's engagement with the narrative.
Most filmmakers prefer medium close-up shots for a majority of their scenes as they help convey a message without shocking the audience. This helps the creator preserve the impact and effectiveness of close-up shots better when they need to shock the audience with a certain message or information.
This scene from Inception shows how Christopher Nolan (the director) takes a medium close-up shot until the big reveal. This enables him to capture the actor’s emotions while taking a neutral shot with standard coverage.
A close-up shot is perfect for emphasizing a subject’s emotions and reactions, or an object’s details. It’s a tightly filled shot with your subject taking a substantial amount of your frame. So, it’s easier for the viewers to get emotional clues they’d otherwise miss in a medium close-up shot.
In addition to highlighting the emotion being evoked by a character, a close-up shot also reveals nuanced details about an object or the setting the action is taking place in. For example, if you were to create a YouTube video of your hiking experience, taking close-up shots of your face as you look above at the tall trees would help you nudge your audience to pay attention to the trees.
This scene from the movie Whiplash shows the actor’s facial expressions to generate strong emotions in the audience making it a perfect close-up film shot example.
[#TOC7]7. Extreme Close Up[#TOC7]
Extreme close-up shots are one of the most versatile film shots you’d observe in cinematography. In addition to focusing on characters, extreme close-up shots can be used for b-rolls, inserts, or even establishing shots for inanimate objects or places. The idea is to frame a subject extremely closely, to the point where the outer portions of the subject are cut off from the frame.
Whether you want to show the morning dew on a leaf of grass, sweat on your character’s forehead, or a hand touching a furniture piece, an extreme close-up shot will help you generate curiosity in your audience’s mind.
Take this extreme close-up shot for reference. It shows nothing but a person’s iris zoomed in all the way to focus on the character’s eyes.
Advanced Types of Film Shots (Based on Camera Angle)
In advanced film shots, camera movement plays a critical role as it creates a sense of movement and energy in a scene. These types of shots include cinematic filming techniques, such as panning, tilting, tracking, zooming, and more to enhance a video’s visual appeal and emotional impact.
[#TOC8]8. High-Angle Shot[#TOC8]
Captured from an elevated position, the high-angle shot is a filming technique where the camera looks down upon the subject. Depending on the context of the scene, camera angles in film, such as the high angle shot can be used to convey different emotions — vulnerability, weakness, a sense of inferiority, or danger. High angle shots are generally useful for portraying characters in a subordinate position or emphasizing their surroundings.
Many filmmakers also use high-angle shots as a creative expression to give the audience an overview of the scene itself, which helps viewers get a better sense of the setting of the film and the main character in a specific place.
This scene of Jurassic World shows a looming threat as the camera moves from a high-angle shot of the character, so the audience can sense the danger the characters are in.
[#TOC9]9. Low-Angle Shot[#TOC9]
A low-angle shot is where the camera is positioned down low at an angle looking up at the subject. These types of film shots are used to evoke a psychological effect from the audience and can serve two different purposes.
On one hand, they are used to make characters appear more powerful and dominant. On the other hand, they can also make the audience feel vulnerable and threatened, by putting them in the shoes of a more vulnerable character. Overall, you can use low-angle shots to establish a setting, highlight facial expressions, or increase the perceived height of a character.
In this scene from The Dark Knight, the camera starts at a low-angle shot and continues to drop even lower as the scene progresses. This highlights the power and dominance of the Joker as he walks closer.
[#TOC10]10. Over the Shoulder Shot[#TOC10]
Over-the-shoulder-shot or OTS is one of the most widely used POV shot types to highlight a dialogue between multiple characters. This type of film shot shows your subject from behind the shoulder of another character, mimicking a viewer’s perspective.
OTS shots can use different camera angles, foregrounding, and perspectives depending on your preferences and style. For instance, you could use an OTS shot to depict a connection between two characters or a character and a place.
This over-the-shoulder shot from Stranger Things shows two characters looking at each other while giving the viewers a perception of standing right behind them theatrically.
[#TOC11]11. Dutch Tilt Shot or Dutch Angle[#TOC11]
Dutch tilt shot or Dutch angle shot is a type of film shot where the camera is slanted to one side, giving a sense of disorientation. It is used mostly to create a dramatic effect within a scene to portray distress and tension, create a dark and ominous mood, or heighten emotion, especially when done in close-up.
Unlike other film shots, Dutch tilt shots are primarily used to convey an emotion or effect, rather than giving a sense of space or scale. They are also used to give viewers a sense of the character’s eyes or that the world is figuratively warped.
This scene from Mission: Impossible is a classic example of a Dutch tilt shot where the camera is tilted and focuses on the character’s expressions.
Take Inspiration from Your Favorite Movies
Whether you want to record cinematic videos like Nathaniel Drew for YouTube, storytelling videos like Ali Abdaal for Instagram, or short films like DUST, using different shot types in your video can significantly enhance your content’s visual appeal and emotional impact.
The best part is, you can learn film shots without being a pro. Take inspiration from movies, YouTube videos, short films, and even Instagram Reels.
Once you start experimenting with different film shots, you’ll be able to figure out your perspective on visual storytelling.
In addition, to make editing easier in post-production, you can opt for video editing platforms like VEED that come with built-in AI tools and easy-to-work-with editing timelines that let you make cuts and transitions, and achieve high-quality results with a single click.