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Types of Camera Shots and Angles in Movie Making and Their Impact

Shreyas Dasharathe
As cameras get more and more affordable, movies are being made in huge numbers around the globe. What lacks quite a few times is the look and feel of a movie that does justice to the story and its characters.

Did You Know?

In the early years of motion pictures, the cinematographer was the sole creator of the film, overseeing the whole production himself.
Cinema is a young art form, but probably the fastest growing one. Right from its advent, it has successfully taken its place as one of the most widely accepted mediums of story-telling. The reason why cinema is so popular and loved so immensely lies in the simple fact that it communicates with its audience audio-visually.
Audio-visuals are our primary source of communicating with and perceiving the environment around us. So, a beautifully shot scene or an amazing camera movement quite successfully invigorates our emotions. This is done by aesthetically appropriate camera techniques and the suitable collocation of the shots taken.
So, the grammar of cinema includes some standard shots and angles that have been used conventionally all these years. Some basic types of camera shots and angles are covered below, and a general impact they have on the viewer has been touched upon. Please note that the styles and impacts mentioned can always differ according to its use.


Extreme Long Shot

Covers a large amount of landscape or cityscape. These shots are generally called 'establishing shots'. They are often used at the beginning of the film or in an important sequence in the film to establish a certain location.

General Impact

Quite simply, it provides the audience with a cue to the setting of the story; the world in which the characters are living or going. Moreover, the impact is even more breathtaking when the locations are exquisite.

Long Shot/Wide Shot

A long shot brings you a bit closer to the subject matter. It is more centered on a particular part of the location. For example, a man standing at the edge of a mountain, or a particular house where the climax of the film is going to take place.

General Impact

As opposed to an extreme long shot, which generally just establishes a setting, a long shot can contain actions which take the story forward. It gives the viewer a sensation of grandness of the action that is taking place.

Full Shot

A full shot covers the whole character (from head to toe), or an object. It gives the physical description of the character, or the object. The background is not as profoundly emphasized as in a long shot.

General Impact

A full shot being tighter than a long shot, allows the viewers to witness the action much more closely and realistically.

Medium Shot

A medium shot (mid shot) shows the character from the waist-up.
Mid shots are very commonly used in scenes where characters are conversing. The definition of this shot is a bit controversial, and varies across film fraternities and teachers. But more or less, the purpose of a medium shot is enhancing an interaction between characters without compromising their expressions and actions.

General Impact

A medium shot gives a realistic perception to a setting. The viewer identifies with the characters and objects in a scene more if he can relate to how he sees them in real life.

Close-up Shot

A close-up shot contains the face of a character, or an object that takes up most of the screen space.
This is generally used to heighten an emotional scene by highlighting the actor's expressions. If a particular action by a character is to be shown profoundly, close-ups are a great way of showing it.

General Impact

A close-up puts away all distractions from the frame and grabs the viewer's attention instantly. It works very effectively to dramatize a particular dialog or expression, and intensify the feeling associated with it.

Extreme Close-up

An extreme close-up shows the details of a character's face (eyes, lips, etc.) or something on a particular object.

General Impact

An extreme close-up shot can be used to stylize an action or a movement. It brings a poetic turn to it. These shots are also used in horror movies to give a sudden chill to the viewer.

Over-the-shoulder Shot

An over-the-shoulder shot, as the name suggests, shows the subject from behind the person looking at it. It is an important shot in scenes of conversations between two people.

General Impact

It establishes both persons talking in a single frame, making it aesthetically consistent and logically clear for the viewer.


Bird's-eye Angle

This is used in extreme long shots to shoot a particular location.
This angle gives the viewer a perspective as though he is a bird looking down on the location. During a shot with this view, the camera looks down on a particular subject from a large distance during its motion.

General Impact

It gives the viewer an experience of vastness. For example, a bird's-eye view of a character stranded in a desert will immediately and successfully convey the general feeling of isolation.

High Angle

In this angle, the camera is above eye level, and looks down upon the subject.

General Impact

It makes the subject look small and powerless. It gives a powerful feeling to the viewer.

Eye-level Angle

This is the most commonly used angle, which puts the viewer on the same level as the character/s. Another way of understanding it, is that the line of sight of the camera lens perfectly parallel to the ground.

General Impact

It gives a subtle view of the characters, and a more composed image to the viewer.

Low Angle

The camera is placed below eye level, and looks up at the subject.

General Impact

This acts as the opposite of a high angle. It makes the subject or character look huge and powerful, as opposed to the viewer.

Dutch Angle

In this type, the camera is tilted at an angle. For the viewer, the whole frame/image appears tilted or leaned sideways.

General Impact

It creates a more dynamic composition,giving the viewer a disorienting experience. It is sometimes also used to highly dramatize a particular sequence.

Point-Of-View Angle (POV)

A POV angle allows the viewer to see exactly what a character is watching. It is as if watching through the character's eyes itself. A POV angle follows a shot that establishes the character's sight.

General Impact

It gives the viewer the same experience of limitations in vision and the type of motions as that of the character whose point of view is shown.

Worm's-eye View Angle

The principle of this shot is similar to that of the bird's-eye view angle. It gives the viewer a perspective as though he is a worm looking up on the location or subject.

General Impact

It makes the person or object look tall and massive. It is often used to shoot architectural structures or skyscrapers, to give the viewer a sense of its height.
The above mentioned shots and angles are basic parameters in the grammar of film. The meaning of different camera shots in movies vary according to its use and the context of the scene. Although filmmakers are always at liberty to experiment with them, these are the very basic elements that make up the foundation of shooting a movie.