Common shot types and how to use them

When you’re on the hunt for the perfect clip, think about more than its content — consider its role in the film’s narrative. Is the shot meant to convey a character’s sense of isolation? Look for long shots. Or will it emphasize their emotions? A close-up or headshot is best for that. Hone your search on dissolve.com by using the “shot type” filter. Here’s an overview of the kinds of shots and the role each plays.

Close-up

In a close-up shot, a subject fills most of the frame. This is useful for emphasizing a telling detail in a scene or the nuances of someone’s reaction or emotion.

Clip by Noravera

Headshot

A headshot or “talking head” shot features a person’s face and is familiar as the standard framing for TV news presenters. With the focus on the face, this shot also draws attention to a person’s expressions, emotions, and reactions.

Clip by Polina Rabtseva

Establishing shot

An establishing shot sets the broader context for the scene it precedes. It can show a location or environment, a time of day, season, or mood. Evening approaches in New York City, or winter grips a suburban neighborhood, for example.

Clip by Hatch 86 Films

Medium shot

A medium shot or “mid shot” shows a subject in more detail, usually from the waist up, and with more of the setting visible. Because it focuses on the character while still conveying surroundings, this versatile shot is one of the most common shots in films.

Clip by OatStudio

Long or wide shot

In a long or “wide” shot, you can see the subject top to bottom (head to toe). You see the surrounding environment and understand the subject’s relationship to it. Long shots can convey loneliness or solitude or be used as establishing shots because they portray the surroundings.

Clip by Kyle Couture

Wide-angle

A wide-angle shot captures a big scene — perfect for sweeping landscapes or dramatic skies — or a smaller scene in a confined space, such as a room.

Clip by Ryan Bouman

Dutch angle

A dutch angle, “dutch tilt,” or “slanted” shot is taken with the camera tilted on an angle, so the horizon isn’t level. It’s often used for dramatic effect, to show unease, tension, discomfort, or disorientation.

Clip by VideoFort Exclusive

For more information on shot types and examples, check out Dare Cinema’s video What Are the Basic Shot Types in Film Making?

And next time you’re searching for clips, experiment with filtering by shot types for more targeted results. If you need any help, hit up our friendly research team for free research.

All clips shown are from two of our exclusive collections, Dissolve Filmmaker™ and Dissolve Elements™.