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Portrait & Cinematic Shot Framing

by Bob Radcliff
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The below three tables outline the standard framing for portrait & cinematic shots.

Standard Portrait Shots

NameDescription
Head & ShouldersShows subject from shoulders up.
1/4Shows subject from mid chest up.
1/2Shows subject from belly button up.
3/4Shows subject from mid thigh up.
Full BodyShows subject from head to toe.

Standard Cinematic Shots - Subject

NameDescription
Establishing ShotUsually first shot of a scene used to establish location and environment, mood, and/or give the audience visual clues regarding time of day/year and the general situation.
Extreme Long Shot / Extreme Wide ShotShows a subject from a distance or the area in which the scene is taking place. Can be used for an Establishing Shot.
Wide Shot / Long ShotShows a subject within their surrounding environment. It tells the audience who is in the scene, where the scene is set, and when the scene takes place. Can be used for an Establishing Shot.
Full ShotShows subject head to toe roughly filling the frame. Tends to be more on action and movement vs character emotional state.
Medium Wide Shot / Medium Long ShotShows subject from the knees up.
Cowboy (American) ShotShows subject from the mid-thigh up. A variation of the Medium Wide Shot.
Medium ShotShows a subject from the waist up.
Medium Close Up ShotShows a subject from the chest or shoulders up.
Close UpFills the screen with part of the subject (e.g., person’s head or face). Emotions and reactions of character dominate the scene.
ChokerShows a subject’s face from above the eyebrows to below the mouth.
Extreme Close UpShows a small area or detail of the subject (e.g., person’s eye(s) or mouth). Also known as an Italian Shot.

Standard Cinematic Shots - Angle

NameDescription
Eye LevelShot taken with camera at human eye level resulting in neutral effect on the audience.
High AngleShot taken of subject from above eye level. Can make a subject seem vulnerable, weak, or frightened.
Low AngleShot taken of subject from below eye level. Can make a subject look powerful, heroic, or dangerous.
Dutch Angle/TiltShot take of subject where shot is not level with horizon. Can make a subject seem disoriented or an uneasy psychological state.
Over-The-ShoulderSubject is shot from behind the shoulder of another where subject is framed Medium to Close Up. The shoulder, neck, and/or back head of the subject facing away from the camera remains viewable. Useful for showing reactions during conversations.
Birds Eye View (Top Shot)Shot taken from directly overhead and from a distance. Useful for showing direction, that the subject is moving, to highlight special relations, or reveal to the audience elements outside the boundaries of the character's awareness. Often taken from a crane, helicopter, or drone.
Point Of View (POV)Shot intended to mimic what a particular character in a scene is seeing. Common examples are of a character waking up, driving into unconsciousness, or looking through scope or binoculars.

calendar Last updated 23-Nov-2021.

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