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Introduction to camera shots

Over the next six steps, we will look at camera shots, camera positioning and camera movement, their impact on the viewer, as well as how camera can be used to create meaning.

Shots are the building blocks of film. Shot selection has a huge impact on the way a viewer interprets the action on screen, for example, a close up produces an intimate feeling, allowing the viewer to see the actor’s emotions. A long shot, by contrast, presents a character in the context of their surroundings but doesn’t generally facilitate the portrayal of emotion as effectively.

It’s important for us to understand and be able to name different shots and what each may be used for so we can use shots within a literacy context. Take a look at the shots below before completing the activity in Step 3.3, which will help test your knowledge.

Extreme Long/Wide Shot - The terms long shot and wide shot are used interchangeable. Also known as an establishing shot when used at the start of a film or scene. Shows the full body in relation to their surroundings. Used to contextualise the character within their surroundings

Long shot - Shows full length of the body from feet to top of head. Used to show a character in relation to their surroundings.

Medium long shot - Shows the body from mid thigh to top of the head. Used for facial expression and showing the character in relation to their surroundings.

Mid shot - Shows the character from waist to the top of the head. Used for facial expressions in combination with body language.

Close up - Shows the character from the shoulders to the top of the head. Used for capturing character's facial expressions.

Extreme close up - Where an object, item or body part fills the film frame. Used for heightening emotion.

Can you suggest a scene from a famous film with a great variety of camera shots, which would be good to use for this task?

Add to the comments section below.

The images on this page are available to download in the Camera shots guide below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Literacy Through Film

The British Film Institute (BFI)

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join:

  • Why use film to improve literacy?
    Why use film to improve literacy?

    Watch this short video to discover how and why learning through film improves literacy.

  • Foley sound
    Foley sound

    This step is an introduction to Foley art, and has a video clip with Foley artist, John Fewell.

  • Stills from The Girl and the Fox that show different shot sizes.
    Developing writing through camera shots

    Linking camera shots and positions to still images in this activity, can provide a great writing stimulus in creating narrative.

  • Record and Playback
    Record and Playback

    An introduction to the technique of Record and Playback, a simple but very effective tool for curricular learning.

  • Two images each showing samples of a shoe box set design.
    Shoebox set design

    Making a shoe box set takes your pupils on a filmmaking journey that produces literacy outcomes, and is a great tool for assessment. PDF provided.