Camera Framing and Composition

The variation in framing one camera shot over another can be a very subtle difference.  However this difference can have a very powerful effect on the emotions that can be conveyed to your audience.

In this article I will outline the basics of what defines the various options when it comes to camera framing and camera composition.  These are important consideration for a videographer or Director of Photography to choose from when framing a camera shot.

As many opening sequences in film begin with an extreme long shot as the initial establishing shot, I will begin my list from the same place.

Extreme Long Shot or E.L.S. 

This camera shot provides the viewer with a complete overview of what exists in the scene.  The camera lens is zoomed to its widest point if the camera lens being used has a zoom capability.

The camera location should be in an area that will provide a good vista to witness all of the important aspects of the scene.

This shot can be used to give the viewer an introduction to a scene.  It may also be used as a final look before the viewer leaves the location.

Long Shot or L.S.

This camera framing can also be referred to as the “head-to-toe” shot when people are people framed in the shot.  This shot can also be used with a group of people.

The long shot is wide enough to see all of key images of the shot while still being close enough to allow the viewer to feel they are witnessing the action and interaction within the shot.

Medium Shot or M.S.

The medium shot brings the viewer close enough to the subject to start getting a sense of the emotion that the subject may be feeling.

The medium shot can have a few options.  It can be framed as tight as the “bust shot”, where the bottom edge of the frame would be situated at the chest shirt pocket level.  The average medium shot framing would be from the subject’s waist and up, and a looser framed M.S. could be from the knees and up.

Close Up of C.U.

A close up shot can be very powerful.  This shot is framed from the shoulders up on a subject.  This shot should still provide a small amount of space between the subject’s top of head and the edge of frame.

Extreme Close-up or E.C.U.

This is the most powerful of framed shots in terms of transferring a subject’s emotion to the audience.  An extreme close-up will frame a face from partway through the forehead on the upper edge of screen to the bottom edge of the subject’s chin on the lower edge of the screen.

A good rule of thumb to use whenever you’re shooting medium shots or close ups is to always place the subject’s eyes in the upper third of the screen.

The variety of camera framing and camera composition that can be used when filming provides a filmmaker with a multitude of options.  This list is by no means all of the choices that a videographer or Director of Photography has at their disposal.

Framing such as the “over the shoulder” shot of “point of view” shot are camera compositions that I will provide you with in another article.

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