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t can be hard to decide where to place the camera when you’re framing a shot. How do you make a character appear powerful in the frame? How do you make them feel vulnerable? One effective way is with the low angle shot.

Today, we’re covering the low angle shot and how it’ll help you add subtlety to your shot list.

Video Essay: The Low Angle Shot

Low angle shot definition

What is a low angle shot?

In cinematography, a low-angle shot is a shot from a camera angle positioned anywhere below the eye line, pointing upward. It can even be below the character’s feet which is called an extreme low angle shot.

The effect: In the end, the low angle shot purpose is to make the subject look strong and powerful.

low angle shot effect

Low angles can convey power

Everyone asks “what is a low angle shot” and “what is the low angle shot purpose?”

The low angle is used by directors to convey strength and power from the subject. 

Take this low angle shot of the Biker from Raising Arizona. He's hellbent on catching his man, and will stop at nothing to bring the Arizona baby back. 

Low Angle Shot - Low Angle Example - Raising Arizona

The demon biker providing an example of a low angle shot purpose (Raising Arizona)

Here’s a more nuanced use of a low angle shot from the Wachowski’s Matrix series.

We can tell that these Agents are in control here. We haven’t met them yet, but the low angle shot shows that they are in charge.

Low Angle Shot - Low Angle Example - The Matrix

Low angle shots from The Matrix

In this scene, we couple the low angle shot with a camera dolly shot to show the frenetic pace at which the Agents move.

It sets the film tone for who these characters become over the next three movies as well.

All of it is done with a camera angle, and a camera move the first time we meet them. The lighting and camera movement also set the film tone for the entire film. 

When you’re shot listing the low angle shot you have to keep all this in mind.

Low angle shot example in the Matrix. 

Low angle shot example

Low angle shot effect on audiences

There are many different ways you can use a low angle shot to accentuate your film. Let’s break down a few so you can see how master filmmakers put them into action.

Low Angle Shot - Low Angle Example - Pulp Fiction

 Jules and Vincent providing an example of a low angle shot (Pulp Fiction)

This low angle shot from Pulp Fiction certifies these guys as expert hit men. We’re in their trunk. We see them loading up on weapons. Even the dialogue is accentuated by the angle. These guys hold all the power, and they wish they had shotguns, which would make them even more powerful.

Tarantino loves the low angle shot. They pop up in a lot of his work to help the audience understand the subject’s relation to the world.

Sometimes it’s about setting up two characters as hitmen, other times it’s about the Allies getting revenge on a Nazi.

 The low angle shot appears in all his work. 

Therefore, the low angle shot helps him easily slip context into every scene. When you exhibit that kind of control over the audience, you can truly do anything within the story. And you can use it with any camera angle.

What about using a low angle shot to intimidate us?

intimidating LOW ANGLEs

Make your low angles intimidating

James Cameron uses the low angle shot in the first Terminator, immediately after the T-800 appears. If we weren’t intimidated by Arnold’s rippling muscles already, the low angle shot makes his movement terrifying.

This low angle shot builds suspense. 

As we mentioned above, the low angle shot can show how powerful a subject is compared to whoever is looking at them.  This works exceptionally well in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Low Angle Shot - Low Angle Example - Psycho stabbing

Slashing down at a low angle (Psycho)

This low angle shot provides cover for the film’s big reveal, and assures us that nothing can stop this maniacal killer. If you’re in the shower, you’re powerless to her advances. 

How about a more subtle use of the angle? 


CAMERA ANGLES

Get Inspired. Explore More Angles.

Master every camera angle, and learn unique ways to combine them with shot sizes and movements to take your storytelling to the next level.

EXPLORE CAMERA ANGLES


LOW ANGLE SHOT EXAMPLE

Make every low angle count

The Coen Brothers use slightly low angle shots throughout the entirety of No Country For Old Men. They actually built an entire character, and his power dynamic, around them.

Low Angle Shot - Low Angle Example - No Country 1

Anton has all the power. We are at a low angle shot in his presence (No Country For Old Men)

For instance, every time we see Anton Chigurh it’s from a slight or obvious low angle shot. This guy is an unrelenting killer. Much like the Terminator, he’s going to keep coming no matter what. It’s part of his code.

Low Angle Shot - Low Angle Example - No Country 2

 Anton Chigurh, low angle shot, moving like The Terminator.

The Coens use this as a theme in their movie. As Chigurh hunts, kills, and terrorizes the midwest we’re always viewing him from below. He’s almost always in power in these scenes. 

At the end of the film, Chigurh finally meets his match with Carla Jean. Chigurh has built his entire person on intimidating people. On the low angle shot. Carla has lost the love of her life and her mother. She has nothing else left to lose. Rock, meet hard place.

This is a low angle shot standoff. 

In this scene, Carla Jean has all the low angle shots and looks down on Chigurh. She eventually sits, and we stay eye level angle shot for the rest of the scene. No more low angle shot. These two are now equals. Two people who only believe in life and death.

Just remember, an entire movie’s worth of low angle shots comes down to one scene.

Chigurh only regains the power when he kills her and leaves. Yes, she’s definitely dead. That’s what the wiping of the shoes means. What a wonderful director’s touch.

SHOT LIST YOUR LOW ANGLES

Plan your low angle shots better

So, you need to use the low angle shot to set up the stakes in your own film? What do you do now? You need to put it in a shot list so your DP can anticipate and prep. Low angle shots take lots of planning.

Introducing Shot List Template and Storyboard Template Builder - Add New Shot

Add your low angle shots and storyboards to your shot list.

Are you combining your low angle with a camera move, or will it be static? You can track with someone on a dolly, or let a steadicam give you more maneuverability.

You want to capture all these crucial details in your shot list. With StudioBinder, these details are already listed as options, so you only need to check them. This allows you to create creative combinations that make your movie come to life.

How to Create a Shot List with StudioBinder - Shot List Creator Template - 6

Your signature low angle shot is only a click away.

Collaboration is fast and efficient. Send your shot list to the DP with the click of a button. The best part? We let you start shot listing for free.

This gives you more time to think about the intangibles. For example, what if you want to add a deeper level of story meaning to your low angle shot?


CAMERA ANGLES

Get Inspired. Explore More Angles.

Master every camera angle, and learn unique ways to combine them with shot sizes and movements to take your storytelling to the next level.

EXPLORE CAMERA ANGLES


Up Next 

The keys to a good medium shot

Now that you know how to use a low angle shot it’s time to figure out how you want to frame the character.

If you’re trying to accentuate the emotions behind the low angle shot, we suggest pairing it with a medium shot. See how you can mix and match them for the perfect fit.

We can’t wait to see what you do next.

Up Next: Noteworthy Medium Shot Examples →
Solution Icon - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows. 

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