Smarter Shooting

How do you decide what lens to use? Experience will guide you, but if you apply the basic precept of ‘do with the camera as you would with the eye’ you won’t go far wrong.
Here are a couple of Medium Close-Ups; the one on the left was shot with a medium wide lens – the one on the right shows the girl the same size, but using a narrow lens and the camera moved backwards. Because the depth of field is reduced, the background becomes blurred and the concentration goes on the girl’s emotion, not on the flowers behind her.

More on Lens Angles

A television or film screen is two-dimensional. The picture it shows has height and width but no depth. The director and cameraman can imply that depth. We get depth information in many ways; the most important of them is perspective. Things which are near to us look much bigger than things a long way away. The road or railway line is a classic case.



Have a look at this two shot. It’s okay, but it’s rather flat.


The same shot, but the lady has been re-positioned nearer the camera. Of course, she must have a reason to be where she is – looking out of the window, or pouring a drink or something. And it’s only the right thing to do if we’re more interested in her thoughts than the man’s.

Another small move to tidy up a shot. If the viewer is being asked to concentrate on the card trick the man is doing, it’s not a good idea to clutter the frame with the clock and skirting board.


Move the camera back a foot or so, and zoom in to compensate. Now it’s a much tidier shot.

Bring it to life

You don’t always want to eliminate things from shot, of course. An empty shot of a landscape may be OK but it’ll soon run out of interest.

There are many other shots, most of them obvious from their names. A two shot contains two people, for instance. How wide the shot is will probably depend mostly on how close together the people are. A useful interview shot is the over shoulder shot – the back of the head and shoulders of one person (over shoulder) plus the front of the other one. Here are two examples of two shots:
Put a herd of cows in it or a couple walking through holding hands and it’ll come to life and last much longer on screen. A little work like that can save you hours of shooting and editing time as well as being much more pleasing. Even a boring old chap with a briefcase can bring a shot to life (as long as the commentary isn’t all about child molesters!).