Shooting Composition

Shooting Composition: Click here for Shooting Composition PowerPoint


To shoot a simple sequence you need at least three shots –

  • A master shot showing the person engaged in their activity
  • A reaction shot of the subjects face
  • A cut away of the activity being preformed
  • If you are covering an activity that can be repeated, get the “Master Shot”. This is a good insurance shot. Then, if all else fails, you can just use the master.
  • If the activity can NOT be repeated, be sure to capture whatever can not be repeated – then go back and record what is not time sensitive.
  • The master shot should be wide enough to show the whole action – which (if repeatable) should be recorded from beginning to end.
  • As you get better at sequences you won’t need to record the action from beginning to end.
  • “Stop the action; change shot; and restart the action with some overlap.”
  • Keep a close eye on what the subject is doing – which hand did they use to pick up the phone – continuity errors can spoil a good sequence.
  • Hold a shot for atleast 10 seconds.
  • Shoot the cut-aways. i.e; if someone is painting a room appropriate cutaways might be of them mixing paint, close ups of the brush, shots of the ‘space’, ect.
  • Of your three sequence shots, the shot of your subject’s face concentrating on what they are doing is very important. This can be edited in almost anywhere – and may get you over a continuity problem.
  • It doesn’t look good to edit into or out of moving shots. Keep zooming, panning and tilting to a minimum. Hold the camera steady and let the subject provide the movement and visual interest.


Listed below are commonly referred to types of shots. A good variety of each type of shot will make for a very visually appealing production and make the editing process ‘easier’ as you will have a larger variety of clips to choose from. The most common of these shots are Wide Shot (WS), Medium Shot (MS), and Close-up (CU).

  • Establishing Shot (EST): Shows a broad view of the surroundings around the character and coveys scale, distance, and geographic location.
  • Wide Shot (WS): shows an entire subject from head to toe in the environment.
  • Medium Shot (MS): shows a character’s upper-body (chest), arms, and head.
  • Close-up Shot (CU) shows a character’s face and only the tops of their shoulders. It is close enough to show subtle facial expressions clearly.
  • Extreme close-up Shot (ECU) shows only a part of a character’s face. It fills the screen with the details of a subject. (rarely used)
  • High Angle: The camera is placed above subjects eye level looking downward. A high angle shot is used to make someone look smaller, younger, weak, or confused.
  • Low Angle: The camera is placed below subjects eye level looking upward. A low angle shot is used to make someone look bigger, stronger, noble, or give the impression of height.
  • Point of View (POV):  Shows a view from the subjects perspective. (i.e; think Jaws swimming under water)
  • Over the Shoulder (OTS): A shot of a subject as seen from over the shoulder of another person in the foreground.
For more information and detailed pictures of all shots, click here.


Listed below are commonly referred to types of camera moves. These terms are especially used in studio productions but do apply to field-produced productions as well. The most common of these moves are Pan and Tilt.

  • Pan: the horizontal movement of the camera from left to right; right to left.
  • Tilt: the vertical movement of the camera from up to down; down to up.
  • Pedestal: the vertical movement UP of the camera on a tripod (think of a giraffe neck)
  • Boom: the vertical movement DOWN of the camera on a tripod.
  • Truck: movement of the camera AND tripod from left to right; right to left.
  • Dolly: movement of the camera AND tripod closer and further from a subject.

The 180 Rule.

If you are using multiple cameras and plan to edit the different shots in a scene into a seamless sequence, an important rule to keep in mind is to place all the cameras on the same side of a line of action. A line of action is a path which your subject is traveling along or an imaginary line between two characters who are interacting. This rule is called “180 degree rule”.

Look at the following camera placements:

If Camera 2 and Camera 3 are used, the audience stays on one side of the line of action. These shots are called “reverse angle shots”.

Here is another view:

By placing the camera to the left and breaking the 180 Rule the current sequence will not make sense because on the right side (green), the subject in blue is on the RIGHT with the subject in orange on the LEFT. After breaking the 180 Rule, the subjects appear to have changed positions when they shouldn’t have.


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