Cinematography Terms – If You Read One Article About It then Read this

Cinematography is art of motion-picture photography. Cinematographers must carefully analyze every shot, taking into account the angle, light, and camera movement, as there are an unlimited amount of options. Techniques and phrases used in cinematography include:

Close up: A close-up is a shot that focuses in on a character’s face or an item. When you want to expose a subject’s feelings and reactions, it’s time for a close-up photo. Close-up photography fills your frame with a portion of your subject. It’s usually their face if your subject is a person. Here’s an illustration of a close-up shot:

cinematography - closeup

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Extreme close-up: A close-up image with a small frame. The most you can fill a frame with your topic is an extreme close-up. It frequently depicts eyeballs, mouths, and gun triggers. Smaller items get a lot of information and become the focus point in extreme close-up pictures. Use an extreme Close up shots to draw attention to a specific aspect of your subject:

cinematography - extreme close up

Long shot: A shot that shows a character in relation to their environment. The long shot (also known as a wide shot, abbreviated “WS”) is similar to the close shot. If your subject is a person, the entire body will be visible — but not to the point of filling the frame. Here’s an example of a wide shot in action.

cinematography - long shot

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Extreme Long shot: A shot that is so far away from the character that they are no longer visible in their surroundings. A long shot (or a wide shot) makes your subject appear small in comparison to their surroundings. To make your subject feel far or unfamiliar, employ an extreme long shot. Generally, extreme long shots are used for representing landscape or introducing some concept in the video.

cinematography - extreme long shot

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To put it another way, there should be plenty of room around the subject. To maintain your subject in plain sight amidst bigger surrounds, use a long shot (or wide shot). The wide shot also allows us to observe the magnificent background imagery as well as the onlookers, adding to the cinematic quality of any major event. A long shot is one of the various camera angles that provides us a better sense of the scene setting and how the character fits into the environment.

Establishing shot: An establishing shot is a shot at the start of a scene that provides context for the environment. An establishing shot is a shot taken at the start of a scene that shows us where the action is taking place. This shot is commonly used to demonstrate where things will happen after an aerial shot.

cinematography - establishing shot

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Tracking shot: A tracking shot is a shot that moves sideways and captures a landscape or follows a subject as they move. Although they technically relate to separate actions, the terms “dolly shot” and “dolly shot” are frequently used interchangeably.

tracking shot

Dolly shot: A dolly shot is one in which the camera travels toward or away from a character while on a dolly track. A dolly shot technically only relates to backwards and forwards camera motion, but the phrase has evolved to apply to any camera movement tracking a character.

dolly shot

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Crane shot: An overhead shot in which the camera is hung in the air on the back of a moving crane. A crane shot is obtained by mounting a camera on a platform that is connected to a mechanical arm that can lift, lower, or move the platform laterally across space.

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Steadicam: Steadicam is a portable camera stabilizer that allows for smooth moving images. A Steadicam is either hand-held or connected to the camera operator’s body, allowing them to move more freely while recording.


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High-angle shot: A high-angle shot is one in which the camera is higher than a subject or object. A high-angle shot is a cinematic technique in which the camera stares down from a high angle on the subject, with the point of focus frequently “swallowed up.” The camera in a high angle shot is pointing down at your subject. It frequently makes you feel inferior, as if you’re “looking down” on your subject.

cinematography high angle shot

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Low-angle shot: A low-angle shot is one in which the camera is lower than a subject or object. This perspective might be used to convey that one character has more requirements or is of lower status than another. Surveillance, authority, and imbuing a subject with a subhuman personality are some of the other applications. The high angle shot is just one of the many camera angles that might impact the audience’s viewing experience.

cinematography low angle shot

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Medium shot: A medium shot depicts a performer from the waist up. One of the most common camera shots is the medium shot.  It focuses on the torso from the waist up. As a result, it draws attention to your topic while leaving their surrounds visible. Here’s an illustration of a medium shot.

medium shot

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Point of view shot: A point of view shot is a shot in which the action is seen through the eyes of a certain character. A point of view shot is a film viewpoint that depicts a character’s first-person perspective. To put it another way, the camera serves as a character’s eyes, and the viewer sees what the character sees. It’s commonly established by placing it between a shot of a character gazing at something and a shot of the character’s reaction.

cinematography point of view shot

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Panning: Panning is a shot in which the camera moves left or right along its vertical axis. Pan shots, also known as panning, are a simple but powerful camera technique that involves moving the camera horizontally from a fixed position to create a panorama. You can make a pan shot by turning the camera to the left or right without changing its position. There is no such thing as tilting or panning up or down, or zooming in or out, which can be accomplished with dolly shots or zooming. Panning is a vital motion for any aspiring photographer or cinematographer to master because it can be employed in a variety of circumstances and scenarios.

cinematography panning

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Tilting: a shot in which the camera rotates up or down on its horizontal axis. A tilt shot is one that employs the cinematographic method of tilting, in which the camera remains stationary yet revolves vertically up and down. The motion of tilting is comparable to that of raising or lowering one’s head. A panning camera, on the other hand, sits on a fixed position but moves from left to right. This vertical camera movement is made possible by equipment such as a tilt-shift lens.

cinematography tilting shot

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Cross-cutting: Cross-cutting is an editing method that switches between various events that are taking place at the same time. Crosscutting is a video editing technique used in film editing to switch back and forth between scenes, giving the impression that action is taking place in multiple locations at the same time. When two characters are on the phone, filmmakers frequently use the crosscut. As the conversation progresses, the camera goes back and forth, and there’s plenty of potential to experiment with dialogue and its relationship to the activity in the frame.

cinematography cross cutting

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Diegetic sound: Diegetic sound is defined as sound that both the characters and the audience can hear, such as speech, a knock on the door, or a phone ringing.

Non-diegetic sound: sound that only the audience hears, such as a narrator or the film’s music, that is added to the film after the fact.

Key light: The major source of direct light beaming on a figure or object is referred to as the key light. The term “high-key” refers to key light that is the primary source of light in a scene, whereas “low-key” refers to key light that is not the primary source of light.

cinematography key light

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Side lighting: Side lighting is used to illuminate portions of a scene that are not illuminated by main lighting. Light that falls on a subject at a 90-degree angle to the camera is known as side lighting. This means that one side of a subject will be lighted while the other remains dark. This is perfect for assisting in the communication of a subject’s shape and form. The strongest sensation of three dimensions is created by side illumination, which is the strongest of the three directions. However, there is always a catch. In this case, the catch is contrast. Your topic will not be uniformly lit if you use side lighting.

cinematography side lighting

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Backlighting: When the dominant light source emanates from behind a character or object, this is referred to as backlighting. Backlighting is when the main light source for an image is placed behind the primary subject. Backlighting is a common technique among experienced photographers, but it can pose unique exposure and composition issues. Backlight photography is a skill that amateur photographers should take the time to acquire, and expect a lot of trial and error on their first few efforts. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll find yourself employing it over and over to create great, dramatic photos.

cinematography backlighting

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Additional Reading: [Wiki]