Filmmaking 101: Camera Shot Types


One of the first things students are taught in film school is the nomenclature of the basic types of camera shots. This common language is essential for writers, directors, camera operators, and cinematographers to effectively communicate visual elements of a shot, particularly the size of a subject—often a person—within the frame. Provided here is a list of the essential shot types that you need to know, along with a brief description. For the purpose of this article, it will focus mostly on subject size and camera angle and ignore camera movements, such as tracking shots, dolly in, etc.

Shots indicating subject size

There are many ways in which you can frame your subject, from seeing their entire body to only their eyes. Generally speaking, we can break this down into three main shot sizes: Long, Medium, and Close. Long shots (also commonly called Wide shots) show the subject from a distance, emphasizing place and location, while Close shots reveal details of the subject and highlight emotions of a character. Medium shots fall somewhere in between, putting emphasis on the subject while still showing some of the surrounding environment.

It’s important to note that the following shot types only relate to subject size within the frame, and don’t directly indicate what type of lens is used to capture the scene. The choice of lens—and, thus, the distance of the camera from the subject—remains an artistic decision for the Director and/or Director of Photography. With that in mind, on to the list!

Extreme Long Shot (aka Extreme Wide Shot)  Used to show the subject from a distance, or the area in which the scene is taking place. This type of shot is particularly useful for establishing a scene (see Establishing Shot later in the article) in terms of time and place, as well as a character’s physical or emotional relationship to the environment and elements within it. The character doesn’t necessarily have to be viewable in this shot.

Long Shot (aka Wide Shot)  Shows the subject from top to bottom; for a person, this would be head to toes, though not necessarily filling the frame. The character becomes more of a focus than an Extreme Long Shot, but the shot tends to still be dominated by the scenery. This shot often sets the scene and our character’s place in it. This can also serve as an Establishing Shot, in lieu of an Extreme Long Shot.

Full Shot  Frames character from head to toes, with the subject roughly filling the frame. The emphasis tends to be more on action and movement rather than a character’s emotional state.

Medium Long Shot (aka 3/4 Shot)  Intermediate between Full Shot and Medium Shot. Shows subject from the knees up.

Cowboy Shot (aka American Shot)  A variation of a Medium Shot, this gets its name from Western films from the 1930s and 1940s, which would frame the subject from mid-thighs up to fit the character’s gun holsters into the shot.

Medium Shot  Shows part of the subject in more detail. For a person, a medium shot typically frames them from about waist up. This is one of the most common shots seen in films, as it focuses on a character (or characters) in a scene while still showing some environment.

Medium Close-Up  Falls between a Medium Shot and a Close-Up, generally framing the subject from chest or shoulder up.

Close-Up Fills the screen with part of the subject, such as a person’s head/face. Framed this tightly, the emotions and reaction of a character dominate the scene.

Choker  A variant of a Close-Up, this shot frames the subject’s face from above the eyebrows to below the mouth

Extreme Close Up  Emphasizes a small area or detail of the subject, such as the eye(s) or mouth. An Extreme Close Up of just the eyes is sometimes called an Italian Shot, getting its name from Sergio Leone’s Italian-Western films that popularized it.

Shots indicating camera angle/placement

In addition to subject size within a frame, shot types can also indicate where a camera is placed in relation to the subject. Here are some commonly used terms:

Eye Level  Shot taken with the camera approximately at human eye level, resulting in a neutral effect on the audience.

High Angle  Subject is photographed from above eye level. This can have the effect of making the subject seem vulnerable, weak, or frightened.

Low Angle  Subject is photographed from below eye level. This can have the effect of making the subject look powerful, heroic, or dangerous.

Dutch Angle/Tilt  Shot in which the camera is set at an angle on its roll axis so that the horizon line is not level. It is often used to show a disoriented or uneasy psychological state.

Over-the-Shoulder Shot  A popular shot where a subject is shot from behind the shoulder of another, framing the subject anywhere from a Medium to Close-Up. The shoulder, neck, and/or back of the head of the subject facing away from the camera remains viewable, making the shot useful for showing reactions during conversations. It tends to place more of an emphasis on the connection between two speakers rather than the detachment or isolation that results from single shots.

Bird’s-Eye View (aka Top Shot)  A high-angle shot that’s taken from directly overhead and from a distance. The shot gives the audience a wider view and is useful for showing direction and that the subject is moving, to highlight special relations, or reveal to the audience elements outside the boundaries of the character’s awareness. The shot is often taken from on a crane or helicopter.

Other common shot types

Cut-In  Similar to a Cutaway, but shows a Close-Up shot of something visible in the main scene.

Cutaway  A shot of something other than the subject and away from the main scene. It is usually followed by a cut back to the first shot and is useful for avoiding a jump cut when editing down a section of dialogue, or editing together two separate takes.

Establishing Shot  Usually the first shot of a scene, this is used to establish the location and environment. It can also be used to establish mood and give the audience visual clues regarding the time (night/day, year) and the general situation. Because they need to provide a great deal of information, Establishing Shots are usually Extreme Long Shots or Long Shots.

Master Shot  Term given to a single, uninterrupted shot of a scene. This shot can be the only shot used by a director to cover a scene, or edited together with additional shots. While it’s commonly a Long or Full Shot, a Master Shot can be a closer shot, or consist of multiple shot types if the camera is moving throughout the scene.

Point of View Shot (POV)  Shot intended to mimic what a particular character in a scene is seeing. This puts the audience directly into the head of the character, letting them experience their emotional state. Common examples are of a character waking up, drifting into unconsciousness, or looking through a scope or binoculars.

Reaction Shot  Shows a character’s reaction to the shot that has preceded it.

Reverse Angle Shot  A shot taken from an angle roughly 180 degrees opposite of the previous shot. The term is commonly used during conversation, indicating a reverse Over-the-Shoulder Shot, for example.

Two Shot  A shot in which two subjects appear in the frame.





\isfus9rh9uh9e45 h9ur gr87d r8g 8q7y gh-tht gt 8ygt 87gt4 7gt0ty t0y48y34t8 yt34 g8t 34y8 w4t8gg34 80g08w34 h 34 34tt4 874 rh8 48rh7tw4 w4 ttw48 t94 


Ilove this site, because it give much info

Giving much info is our prime directive. We are here to help yo make informed purchases. Thank you so much for reading and for your appreciation. 

You're very welcome. it's good to see our readers digging back into older articles. Justin Dise was a valued member of this team, a good writer and cinematographer, and we miss having him around since he left B&H.

Thank-you for the 11 Thoughts. My wife has the gift of creating beautiful compositions, usually involving people. She knows a few settings on my cameras: On, Off, Auto, Zoom, Auto-, or Manual-focus. Evidently, it's all she needs.

I fight myself to just take the shot. I spend too much time positioning. It's a habit from 40 years of film photography. The luxury digital photography affords us, a huge roll of film with instant developing, is something I neglect. I taught my children "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take," in sports and hunting. It applies to photography, too. Ya think I'd remember it.

Barry, we know you will. Thank you for reading and taking the time to post your comments. And remember to follow your own sage advice!

Hey, I know this off topic but do yall help on others stuff this i didn't even look up.

Wonderful! Thanks for this comprehensive summary:)

You're welcome, Elaine! We try our best to help you bring out your best. Thank you for reading.

This is so helpful I was studying this for a test and this really helped I got a A+ on it!

Excellent! We're pleased to read you scored high on your exam and that we helped, Malae L. Always glad to help our readers, especially students!

I call my shots; Bill, Fred, Susan, Fido, see-all, look-back, big country and eye-lashes. They make no sense? They do TO ME. It doesn't matter what you call the shots, unless you need to do so for an exam. If the names make sense to you, they will work.

One comment with the reverse shot. The example shows a reverse angle greater than 180 degrees which you usually don't want to do, especially when reversing an over-the-shoulder shot. It's called the "180 degree rule" or "jumping the line" and can cause some disorientation for the viewer.

I think the Medium long shot is fine.

One of the shots might be named incorrectly.  I think the "Medium Long Shot" is actually "Medium Full Shot".

all of these photos are creepy especially the girl with the coffe

I created an account so you could all have a bit fuller of a list. This link was given to me by my Film professor and I hope it helps. The info after the link is all about different lenses and when to use them...

Google "Film Studies 101: The 30 Camera Shots Every Film Fan Needs To Know" that should give you the article written by Ian Freer that includes pictures taken by Olly Gibbs. I could not include the link since the link itself is Blacklisted by this website...

Lenses and perspective relations:

o Long-focal-length lens: Character appears to blend with the background/distances are reduced

o Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969) Wide angle: short focal-length lens:  Emphasizes distance between subject and background or other characters

o Fish-eye: something appears not to be right o

-EXAMPLE-Touching the Void (Kevin MacDonald, 2003)

-EXAMPLE- Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

o Depth of field: distance in front of the camera lens in which objects are in focus: Incorporates long shot, medium shot, and close up, Links characters to background, Allows the spectator’s eye to wander around the frame

-EXAMPLE- Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

The pictures are quite good and the text too

What's an extreme wide shot? :/

You're killin me Smalls, it says it on the start of the page.

up,up,down,down,left,right,left,right,b,a,start. you're welcome.I just saved all of you.

Nice too see this from a photo equipment store site.

 I like the pictures I had to take a pictures.!!!!!!!!!!

I learned a few new shot names here, I'm going to use this article in my AV Tech class. THANKS!

the article is expressive, easy to undestand. I advice to upload more examples and summary with referrence incase for us who want to make research about it.

Show older comments