What is a Zoom Shot - Featured - StudioBinder

If you’re an aspiring cinematographer or director, the amount of shot choices you have may seem overwhelming. This one won’t. The zoom shot is fairly straightforward, but knowing what it is and its purpose can help you avoid overusing the shot or even worse, misusing it. So what is a zoom shot?

Defining the Zoom Shot

What exactly is a zoom shot?

Before we jump into some examples from film, let’s define it.


What is a zoom shot?

zoom shot is taken by a camera with an adjusted focal length of the lens to give the illusion of moving closer or further away from the action. This is zooming and can be done best with a zoom lens. These lenses have larger ranges and can zoom in much closer than standard lenses. A zoom shot isn’t actually a camera move, it really refers to the adjustment of a lens’ focal length or the resulting shot using a zoom lens. 


  • Magnification directs attention to small details
  • Capture subjects from far away 
  • Camera doesn’t move

You’ve seen these shots a hundred plus times. If you need a reminder, this is what they look like in cinema. Keep in mind, in the video below some of the shots included are actually dolly zooms. Those are hybrid zoom shots and we'll break down the difference between a dolly, a zoom, and a dolly zoom in the next section.

Iconic zoom shots

Knowing the difference between the many zoom shots in Hollywood is important so you can figure out which one is best for which scene in your own films. 


A zoom shot is not a dolly zoom

They're not to be confused with the dolly zoom shot. As we've discussed, a zoom adjusts the focal length of the lens, and a dolly adjusts the position of the entire camera. When those two separate adjustments are combined, we get a dolly zoom.

Watch the video below for more differences between the standard zoom shot and dolly zoom. The video also boasts some tips on when to use one over the other.

Recognizing different zoom shots in Hollywood

Now that you know the difference, let’s go deeper into the hardware that makes this happen. It may be too pricey to go purchase a dolly, but zoom lenses might be reasonable.

Up Next

What’s a Telephoto Lens?

Telephoto lenses are one way to capture zoom shots. Not all telephoto lenses are zoom lenses, but using a telephoto lens can get you some incredible close-ups. Learn more below.

Up Next: What's a Telephoto Lens? →
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