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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meet Derek Armstrong McNeill
Derek McNeill has been telling visual stories most of his life. The Seattlite first honed his eye working as a photographer in the US Air Force, then worked in advertising art direction and design. He now divides his time shooting his own documentary projects and stock footage. “After carrying around a camera kit for years, telling visual […] Read more