Understanding the basics of cinematography is of paramount importance to any aspiring filmmaker. To do that, the basics of camera angles need to be known. The shots you choose have the power to change how viewers interpret your film. These are determined by either camera placement or focal length controls, or both.
1. Long/Wide shot: The wide shot, or long shot captures the entire character along with the scene information and surrounding atmosphere in a single shot. This is perfect for action scenes, and the establishing shot of a film. The purpose of establishing shot is to provide the audience with your film’s context through location and time. There’s also extreme long/wide shot which is to showcase the location and put visuals on an impressive display.
2. Medium Wide shot/Cowboy shot: If the long shot features the entire character, medium long shot frames the subject from waist up, and Cowboy shot frames roughly from thighs up. Both are variations of similar shots, and form the difference between long and medium shots.
3. Medium shot: This is one of the most common camera shots, which frames a person from roughly the waist up and through the torso. If a character or multiple characters need to be emphasized in a shot, while keeping the background visible, medium shot is needed. It can often be used as a buffer shot for dialogue scenes, intermingled with close-up shots.
4. Close-up: This shot is perfect for important points in a film, where the emotions and details on a character’s face need to be shown. The close-up camera shot fills the frame with the subject, which is mostly a character.
5. Extreme close-up: As the name suggests, this shot captures the most amount of details and fills the entire frame with the subject. This is perfect showing smaller objects in great detail and making them the focal point.
There are several other shots based on framing, angles, movement, mechanisms, and depth of field, and there are no hard rules to abide by as long as you can communicate your story in the way you want to.