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Shot types - extended

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Every film and television show you've ever seen is made up of a lot of what we call camera shots.

There are different ways of framing what the camera sees, and that's why we have lots of different shot types. A shot type is defined by how close the camera is to the subject that's being filmed. Sometimes these shots are also referred to as camera size. The subject of a camera shot is usually a character, but settings and objects can be as well.

Check out the shot types and examples listed below, then tackle one or more of the activities at the end of the page to create your own shots. The shot types are listed roughly in order of distance from the subject.

Establishing shot

Establishing shots are used to give the audience an understanding of where the scene is taking place, or where it’s about to take place – so they’re establishing where we are. They are usually a long shot, as you see the setting from a distance, but the point is not to focus on characters within a setting, rather establish the setting for the next scene. That’s not to say you can’t have characters in an establishing shot, but more often than not they don’t.

Here's a great establishing shot of the Hogwarts and its Quidditch stadium. Question: where do you think the next scene will take place? In Hogwarts Castle or at the Quidditch stadium? Explain your answer. (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Warner Bros. Pictures)

Wide shot or long shot (WS or LS)

If you want to see a character from a distance, a long shot is perfect. In a long shot you’ll see a character’s whole body from head to toe. In some instances the character might not be that far away from the camera, in others the character might appear extremely small in the landscape or space they’re in.

Here’s a really nice long shot from ‘The Hobbit’. We can see the character in full along with a significant amount of the setting he’s in. (The Hobbit, Warner Bros. Pictures)

Here’s another long shot but with the character seen from a little further away. As a result they look significantly smaller, dwarfed by the landscape. (Into the Wild, Paramount)

Mid shot or medium shot (MS)

Somewhere between a close up and a long shot, a mid-shot shows us some but not all of a character or object. With people, a mid-shot generally shows a character from the roughly the waist up, but it doesn’t have to be exact. Mid shots are great for showing us a character’s body language and character’s performing actions.

Here is an example of a mid shot from the world's most tragic romantic film Titanic. You could also call this a two shot because there are two characters interacting in the shot, so remember different shots can have similarities. (Titanic, 20th Century Fox)

Two-shot

In terms of framing, two shots are framed like mid-shots, but it can vary. A two shot is basically when you see two characters in the frame. They’re often a mid-shot because the two characters in shot are often talking or interacting in some way, or maybe we want to see the emotion of both characters face.

Here we see two characters who aren’t interacting too much, but are both looking at the setting in front of them. We can see their individual reactions to what they’re both looking at. (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Lionsgate Films)

Over the shoulder (OTS)

This shot is usually used when filming a conversation between two people. Rather than filming them in a two-shot, you film the conversation twice, once with the camera facing person one character, then again facing the other. By shooting over each person’s shoulder the audience remains quite close to the conversation whilst focussing on one character at a time.

Here is a conversation taking place between two characters (one of whom is Spiderman). We see a lot of Spiderman, not just his shoulder, so you can frame over the shoulder shots so we see little or a lot of the character who's shoulder we're looking over. (Spiderman: Homecoming, Sony Pictures)

Close up (CU)

Close-ups are great for showing emotion on character’s faces, be it during a key point in a conversation scene, or with the character by themselves reacting to something. Emotions captured in close ups don't always need to be extreme emotions like crying or absolute fear, a close up might show us a character trying hard to hide their emotions, or displaying strength or determination. There are a lot of emotions outside the obvious ones we can capture with a close-up.

Question: what emotion do you think the close up shot is trying to capture in this image from Wonder Woman? (Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. Pictures)

Extreme close-up (ECU)

Take your regular close-up and make it more extreme. Using a close-up we can usually see most of or all of a character's face and head. An extreme close-up often focuses on the eyes meaning other character features can't be soon. 

This is an interesting one: the top of Harry’s head and his chin are framed out so you could call this an extreme close up, but you could be forgiven for calling it a close up. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Warner Bros. Pictures)

This extreme close up is more obvious because the focus is really on Shrek’s eyes here. Describe the expression that’s being shown in Shrek’s eyes using an extreme close up here. (Shrek 2, Dreamworks Pictures)