Find the Best Angle for Your DSLR Film - dummies

By John Carucci

The camera angle speaks volumes about the message your DSLR film is trying to convey. When you add these effective variations, it provides a nice supplement to the wide, normal, and telephoto shots of each scene. That comes in handy when you’re editing your movie.

Try including some of these shots in your next movie:

  • High angle: Raise the camera high and angle it down toward the subject. Besides a unique perspective, it can make the audience look down on the subject, perhaps to depict weakness.


  • Birds’-eye: Positioning the camera high and directly above the action allows the viewer to dissect elements in a 2D view, often making common objects unrecognizable.


  • Low angle: Setting the tripod as low as possible and pointing it upward provides another dynamic option for your movie. Low angle also privies the viewer with something they don’t normally see. But more importantly, it makes the subject seem superior.


  • Dutch angle: This creative device is a pleasant variation for your movies. Popular in horror flicks, indie films, and music videos, this perspective can depict alienation, uncertainty, and tension. Use it sparingly.


  • Over the shoulder: This shot puts the viewer in the heart of the action by positioning them behind one subject, while showing a full version of the other.


Employ camera angles effectively

Think of how to use the surrounding to your advantage. For example, climb up a flight of stairs and shoot downward. The same applies for low angle: Find a low position and shoot upward. Some tripods, especially those designed for still photography, allow you to spread the legs wide like a three-legged spider, leaving you with a perspective inches from the ground.

When you shoot a movie, the key is variation. Be sure to vary your angles and types of shots so that you can edit your movie in a cohesive manner.

Let the camera do the moving

Professional cinematographers make a statement by mounting the camera on a movable cart called a dolly and pushing it in and out of the scene.

Shots similar to a dolly shot include

  • Tracking shot: This has the camera moving side to side. This method eliminates the arc that you get from turning the tripod head on a circular axis.

  • Crane shot: Many variations to this shot exist, depending on the rig used, but all allow the camera to “float” into the scene. The version most accessible to the budget-conscious moviemaker combines a high tripod-like stand, balancing arm, and boom head. This shot treats the viewer to a bird-like perspective.

Here’s some suggestions for using items you may find in your own garage, or a garage sale:

  • A moving dolly: This wood frame with wheels and ratty patches of carpet on either side is most often seen helping movers get heavy furniture from their trucks to a house or apartment.

  • A baby carriage: Adjust each tripod leg so that the tripod head is level.

  • A child’s wagon: By positioning the legs in the corners, you can make an instant dolly with a handle to pull it.

  • Skateboard dolly: By taking the wheels from a skateboard and attaching them on piece of plywood, you can build a rolling base to place your tripod.

  • A wheelie bag: Just about any kind of bag can work, providing you can get a tripod to fit.

  • Human bi-pod: Essentially, this method balances your camera on two legs of the tripod with the third being the brace that you provide.


Use a dolly

Now you’re ready to roll your dolly with a tripod unsecured and positioned to its relatively lightweight base over an uneven surface.

Here are some valuable tips to consider:

  • Rehearse before each shot.

  • Make sure the front wheels are pointing forward.

  • Weigh the dolly down to reduce camera shake. It will make the shots smoother and help you control the dolly more deliberately.

  • Mount the tripod low. When you lower the center of gravity, you assure the potential for less motion.

  • Adapt to rough surfaces. Because you won’t have a heavy-duty track system, use a piece of plywood or thick mat to provide your own smooth surface.

  • Be smooth while moving. Use tape or markers for start and end points and push or pull with a steady pace.

Here are some types of dolly shots:

  • Push in: Brings the audience closer to the subject and can emphasize the character’s mental state.

  • Pull out: Exaggerates the environment by showing the character in relation to the background.

  • Expansion shot: When a character walks in or out of a moving shot.