Exploring shot types
Suitable for year levels: 5-VCE
Learning areas: Drama, English, Media & Media Arts, Technologies
Capabilities: Creative and critical thinking, Personal and social capabilities
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.