Visual Literacy
How do I make meaning

Camera Shots
(Framing the camera to show emotion, detail and setting)

When a movie is made, a variety of camera shots are used to add atmosphere and create a mood for the story. The shot refers to the kind of image we see in a frame. A description and purpose of the shots used to create a film are listed below. The red writing indicates the most common types of shots. The other shots can be used for a special purpose or to create more tension and atmosphere.

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Extreme close-up ECU This is a very close shot showing the detail of an object or the physical features of a person. To make the viewer aware of some specific detail in the film. It can be used to heighten tension.
Very close-up VCU This is a face shot taken from the mid-forehead to above the chin. This shows the close detail of the character's eyes and mouth. It can be used to heighten tension.
Big close-up BCU This is full head height and the head takes up the entire screen. It contains little or no background. This shows the detail of the character’s face.
Close-up CU This is a shot taken of a person’s head from just above the head to the top of the upper chest. It can also be used to film an object at close range. It contains little or no background. This used to introduce a character and allows the character to show emotions. It can be used to heighten tension.
Medium close-up MCU This shows the upper half of the body. The shot is taken from the above the head to lower chest. Good for conversation between two characters.
Medium shot MS This shows half of the body. The shot is taken from above the head to just below the waist. This allows you to get to know the character more closely by viewing their facial expressions and body language.
Medium long shot MLS This shows the whole person as well as some of the background. Places the person in context.
Long shot LS This shows the whole person and other characters, but the background dominates the shot. This allows the viewer to understand the relationship between the characters and their environment.
Extra long shot ELS This shows the landscape of the film or a barely visible character in the distance of a background. This gives information to the viewer about where the action is to take place. It often sets the atmosphere of a film.