In both film and photography, there are many creative ways to stage your shot. Various shot types help to convey specific perspectives and emotions differently, and mixing them in a particular way can help you to develop your own shooting style. Here are 13 of the most common shots and the various differentiating factors between them. Check out the video below for an overview of all 13 shots, then read on for more info on each one.
1. Long Shot
Also referred to as a “wide shot” or “full shot”, the long shot shows the entire subject, and is usually intended to put the object or person in some relation to the surroundings. For example, in this shot we can clearly see that the stage is the main subject affecting the surroundings and actions:
2. Medium Shot
Medium shots are usually filmed from a middle distance and move us a little bit closer to the subject compared to the long shot. Generally, this shot is used to display characters’ actions or objects acting on a character.
3. Close Up
The close up keeps only the subject or a person’s face full in the frame. It is, without a doubt, the most important shot type to show dramatic elements, reactions, or emotion.
4. Extreme Close Up
Also referred to as a “macro shot,” this shot puts the camera very close the subject and captures significant details that wouldn’t be visible from further away. In this extreme close up, we can see the mechanism of a watch and all the moving parts:
5. Establishing Shot
The best way to capture “the big picture” and establish geographical location. This can be a zoomed-out view, or something more specific, like a building exterior. This shot below perfectly sets the scene as taking place in Manhattan:
6. Point of View Shot
The POV shot shows what the subject is looking at, represented through the camera. This is heavily used to show sports action and moments of reveal when a subject finds something new in the scene. The widespread use of GoPro cameras has also made the adoption of these shots extremely popular.
7. Dolly Shot
Usually captured when the camera is on a special platform that moves on tracks — typically toward the subject (Dolly In) or away from the subject (Dolly Out). This is heavily used to create introductions to a scene, and the movement speed on the track can also dictate the pacing of the scene.
8. Aerial Shot
This refers to the technique of filming objects from elevated and not ground-supported positions. Aerial shots are typically captured while the camera is in motion and mounted on a helicopter or drone.
9. Pan Shot
A pan shot finds the camera moving from right to left or left to right, typically captured using a tripod. Using pan shots makes scenes more dynamic and is a great technique for revealing something or someone.
10. Tilt Shot
Basically the same as a pan shot, but in vertical motion instead of horizontal. When filming a tilt shot, the camera moves from down to up or vice versa. It also helps to achieve similar dynamics to the pan shot.
11. Steadycam/Stabilizer Shot
Steadicam is a brand of camera-stabilizer system for video and film cameras that mechanically isolates the camera from the operator’s movement. Think of it as a mechanized gimbal that allows for a smooth shot, even when operator is moving quickly over an uneven surface. This is typically used for tracking and follow shots where you can’t use dolly tracks due to the complexity of the motion.
12. Handheld Shot
This type of shot is simply produced when the camera is held by the operator in both hands. This technique is often associated with documentary filmmaking and TV/news productions, but modern cinema also heavily uses handheld shots to create intimate moments that pull the audience into the scene.
13. Crane shot
A crane shot is taken by a camera on a crane or jib (a mechanized arm with a camera on one end and a counterweight and operator on the other end). The most common use in modern cinema and TV is to view the actors from above or to move up and away from them. It’s also often used to mark the end of a scene.
Explore all of the clips used in this post in the Shot Types Overview collection below.