Camera Shot Framing Explained - Camera Shot Compositions and Cinematography Techniques

You’re looking for a list of the different types of camera shot framing in film, but you also want great examples that come with clear explanations of when and why to use specific shot frames. After our video detailing the main types of camera framing, we’ll provide you with downloadable shot lists that you can use for reference the next time you shot list a project. Lezgo.

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Camera Shot Framing

Camera framing explained

When you begin creating a shot list for a project, you first create a mental picture of each shot. Where are the characters positioned? Is the frame balanced or symmetrical? What about when there is more than one character in a shot? These decisions all add up to camera framing.

Before we jump into the specific types with camera framing tips, we'll begin with a camera framing definition. 

Camera Framing Definition

What is camera framing?

Camera framing is the placement and position of the subjects in your shots. Shots are all about composition. Rather than pointing the camera at the subject, you need to compose an image. For filmmakers and videographers, a major consideration for framing is the number of subjects you feature in your shots, and their physical relationship to each other and the camera.

Considerations when camera framing a shot:

  • Size — the size of your subject has a direct relationship to the importance of that subject
  • Relationships — when we see more than one character in a shot, we are meant to acknowledge their relationship (romantic, contentious, etc.)
  • Balance — a "balanced" frame includes elements on the left and right side of the frame

We've created two mood boards in StudioBinder's storyboard creator that features the most commonly used shot framing, all on one page. If you follow the links to each project, you can explore the full collections and download PDF copies as reference.

First up, we have the camera framing examples from our featured video above. Pictured here are the silhouette illustrations but can you recognize what movie each of these is from? You'll find the actual movie stills once you follow the link.

Shot Framing  •  Shot Listed in StudioBinder

Based on how you plan to position your subjects, you'll need to adjust your camerawork. You'll want to capture your framing details on a shot list well before you arrive on set. That way you have a clear idea for the scene and can communicate your vision with ease.

Shot Framing  •  Shot Listed in StudioBinder

Based on how you plan to position your subjects, you'll need to adjust your camerawork. You'll want to capture your framing details on a shot list well before you arrive on set. That way you have a clear idea for the scene and can communicate your vision with ease.

That's not to say that things may not change the day of the shoot. But, having a shot list at the ready showcases that the director and DP have done their homework and are well prepared.

SINGLE SHOT EXAMPLE

Single Shot

When your shot captures one subject it’s known as a single shot.

Here's an example of a single shot: 

Camera Shot Guide - Single Shot - X-Men Days of Future Past - StudioBinder

Single Shot Example  •  X-Men: Days of Future Past

Single shots can be set and framed in any shot size you like, just as long as there is only one character featured within the frame.

Now, why did I say featured rather than simply in the frame?

The reason is because you can have an over-the-shoulder single, also known as a "dirty single" that technically has more than one person in the frame, but the character in the foreground isn't featured.

Here's an example of a dirty single: 

A-Filmmakers-Guide-to-Michael-Bay-Armageddon-OTS-Shot-2-StudioBinder-Online-Shot-List-Software

Over-The-Shoulder Shot Example  •  Armageddon

Two SHOT Example

Two Shot or 2-Shot

A two-shot is a camera shot with 2 characters featured in the frame.

Here's an example of a two-shot: 

Camera Shot Guide - Two Shot - Lord of the Rings - StudioBinder

2-Shot Example  •  The Lord of the Rings

Two shots are often really useful for allowing performances to play out in a single take, which can be especially useful for comedy. 

THREE SHOT EXAMPLE

Three Shot or 3-Shot

three-shot is a camera shot with 3 characters featured in the frame.

Here's an example of a three-shot: 

Camera Shot Guide - Three Shot - Harry Potter - StudioBinder

3-Shot Example  •  Harry Potter

Three shots are really important in adventure films, or really any film that has a group of characters, because it is an enormous time drain to shoot 3 singles just to show every character, not to mention jarring.

OTS Shot Example

Over-The-Shoulder Shot (OTS)

Another element of camera shots to consider is the perspective of the shot. An over-the-shoulder shot shows your subject from behind the shoulder of another character. Because it emulates perspective, it’s common in conversation scenes.

Here's an example of an over-the-shoulder shot: 

Camera Shot Guide - Over The Shoulder Shot - Westworld - StudioBinder

(OTS) Over-The-Shoulder Shot Example  •  Westworld

Over-the-shoulder shots can help to provide scene orientation, and connect the characters on an emotional level.

Watch: The Over The Shoulder Shot in Film (and How to Shoot a Dialogue Scene)  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Over-the-Hip SHOT EXAMPLE

Over-The-Hip Shot (OTH)

An over-the-hip shot is similar to over-the-shoulder in that the camera is placed with a character's hip in the foreground, and the focus subject in the plane of acceptable focus. 

Here's an example of an over-the-hip shot: 

Camera Shot Guide - Over The Hip Shot - Minority Report - StudioBinder

Over-The-Hip Shot  •  Minority Report

You'll gain a similar effect from an over-the-hip shot as you would an OTS, but if you have one character standing, and the other sitting, kneeling, or any other configuration that places the subjects on "uneven terrain" it will often suggest a power imbalance. 

POV SHOT EXAMPLE

Point of View Shot (POV)

Now let's talk about choosing camera shots that show the point-of-view (or POV) of one of your characters. A POV shot is a camera shot that shows the view from a character or an inanimate object, like a bullet whizzing through the air or a bowling ball rolling down the lane.

Most POV shots will be from a character's perspective, but there is no hard and fast rule that requires them to be from living creatures.

Here's an example of a point-of-view shot: 

Camera Shot Guide - Point of View Shot - Kill Bill - StudioBinder

Point of View Shot  •  Kill Bill

A POV shot is generally sandwiched between two other shots:

  1. A camera shot of a character looking at something
  2. Cut to your (POV) point of view camera shot
  3. A camera shot showing the character's reaction

A point of view shot shows us exactly what the character sees, and we get to understand what's generating the character's reaction.

Insert Shot Example

Insert Shot

An insert shot can have many functions and often becomes the key shot is directing an audiences attention. If we see a character look at something, the subsequent insert shot shows us what they see. 

They can also be used to show the audience a detail that goes unnoticed by the characters, leading to dramatic irony.

In this video, we break down how the Coen Brothers have mastered the insert shot (and how you can too). It's not just what we see in an insert shot, it's how the information is presented.

Art of the Insert Shot  •  Subscribe on YouTube

UP NEXT

50+ Camera Shots: The Complete Guide

Camera framing is just one aspect to directing with the camera. There are also dolly zooms, crab shots, bird's eye view, rack focus, and more to consider. If you'd like to see our entire list of camera shots, this next post is for you. Camera angles, movement, focus, framing, equipment — you'll get everything you need to build your next shot list. 

Up Next: 50+ Camera Shots in Film → 
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