DSLR Film Shot Types - dummies

By John Carucci

You have many types of shots to consider when you’re making your DSLR film. Great filmmaking weaves a variety of shot types together to tell a story. Use these in-depth description of various shot types to decide what’s best for your movie.

Naming the type of shot is a bit more complex than you may imagine. The wide, normal, or tight part of the description is a relative comparison. (Be aware: A 16:9 composition is quite wide.)

  • LS (long shot): Also called an extreme wide-angle shot, this shot shows the subject in relation to his surroundings. Often this expansive view establishes the scene as the first shot. It’s not always necessary to include actors in this shot. An expansive shot of the landscape, with few identifiable subjects is an example of this type of shot.


  • VWS (very wide shot): A VWS is not as expansive as an LS, but it’s still pretty wide in the frame. It can also work as an establishing shot.

  • WS (wide shot): Also known as a full shot, a WS is the next logical step in the wide world of shots, but this type also includes one type of shot that isn’t all that wide. The subject is clearly seen, usually from top to bottom. It’s frequently used because it sets up medium and close-up shots.


  • MS (medium shot): Otherwise known as the normal shot, the MS shows a more pronounced view of the subject. Depending on the subject, it shows more of it than a wide shot and less than a close-up. When a person is in the shot, she’s shot from the waist up.

  • Two shot: This arrangement shoes the interaction between two subjects in a conversation or confrontation. Sometimes it shows the subjects’ full figures; other times, it’s only from the waist up.

  • MCU (medium close-up): One way to think of an MCU is as a close-up for people who don’t like close-ups. An MCU captures the entire face, but with a little bit of neck and chest. Objects shot in an MCU usually dominate the frame.

  • CU (close-up): A CU usually refers to a frame showing the subject from mid-chest up. It shows the head, hair, and face, usually without showing pores and blemishes.


  • ECU (extreme close-up): An ECU gets right in there to show detail on inanimate objects, or a range of emotions on the human face. Of course, it may also be the shot that gets you hit over the head with an inanimate object if your subject doesn’t approve.


  • POV (point of view): A POV shot shows the scene from the subject’s eye. It makes for great editing fodder.

  • CA (cutaway): If you watch reality television, you’ve seen CA shots. They’re the ones that have little to do with the story. Maybe it’s the subject’s home, some random inanimate object, or a city or village scene. Some even get creative and show a time lapse.

    On a red carpet, a CA can be the other television crews shooting the star or photographers taking pictures. Whatever the content, it informs the viewer of the subject matter as well as serving as a buffer to manipulate the passage of time.

  • CI (cut in): A CI shot shows details essential to the subject such as the subject cracking his knuckles, picking up a glass, tapping fingers — you get the idea.