- Different camera positions can help tell your story
- Shoot from above or below, as well as from eye level
- Film from different positions around the subject as well
- Make sure your presenter or actors are looking in the right direction
Don’t just vary your shot size: use different camera angles and positions as well.
Instead of shooting everything from eye level, with the camera horizontal, try shooting with it pointing up or down. Crouch down below the subject, hold the camera above your head, climb stairs or use a tall tripod or ladder. If your camera has a swivelling screen you can use that to monitor the shot while the camera is in unusual positions. A remote control is also useful to start and stop shooting when the camera is out of reach.
You should also shoot from different positions around the subject, not just from directly in front or from the side. If they are moving, try shooting from in front and then from behind then editing the shots together.
Low angle shots, where the camera points upwards from below, make people (and things) look bigger, more courageous and more important.
These shots are also good for filming people who are looking down at things, so you’re filming their face rather than the top of their head.
High angle shots from above usually make people or things look weaker and less powerful.
You can put high and low angle shots together to show that one person (filmed from a low angle) is more powerful than another person (filmed from a high angle). You can be quite subtle about this, rather than using extreme low or high angles.
You can also use a high angle shot to give an overview of a scene as an establishing shot.
Birdseye shots, from directly above, can look cool. They give you another way to show how things in the scene relate to each other.
Wormseye shots, from below, are a bit more unusual but they can be useful if the scene above is interesting.
You can position the camera in different places around the subject as well.
A head-on frontal view makes us feel really engaged with the subject. It’s often used as a subjective shot, where we see the person as if we’re looking through the eyes of another character. (If your shot isn’t meant to be subjective, they should look close to the camera but not directly at it – see eyeline below).
With a three-quarter shot we’re a bit less involved.
In a side view its more as if we’re just watching them as an observer.
A back view can mean several things: we’re seeing them from the view of a watcher; they are ignoring another character; or they are upset and vulnerable and hiding their emotions.
Actors and presenters need to be careful about where they are looking. A presenter – or an actor in a subjective shot – should look directly at the camera. In a standard interview, they should look at the interviewer (who should be close to the camera) rather than at the lens.
For most drama shots, actors should look close to the lens but never directly at it (this is called ‘spiking’). Changes of gaze should be very subtle. Experienced film actors keep their gaze within a limited circle around the camera lens.
The 180 degree, camera position and eyeline match page has more information about how to use camera position when you’re editing different shots together.
I teach all kinds of people to make films. I provide training for businesses, arts organisations, nonprofits and education. I’ve worked on film education projects with Apple Education, the British Film Institute, Film Education, Film: 21st Century Literacy and many more. My publications include Making Movies Make Sense and Editshots.