This is article #23 in the DSLR Video Weekly series.  If you’d like the whole thing in one shot, check out the book Creating DSLR Video: From Snapshots to Great Shots.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.

With film and video productions, a series of multiple shots are often used for each scene—a process referred to as getting coverage. Combining multiple angles can tell the story best (by letting you show interesting details or emotions). Using multiple shots lets you control the pace of action through editing. The different angles can also be used to cover up mistakes or condense a long interview.

Through the years, these shots have developed a language of their own. Knowing the most common shot types and their associated terminology allows crew members to communicate easily with each other on set. It’s essential that you frame a shot right when you shoot it because video is a low-resolution medium. Unlike photography, you cannot crop video after the fact.

Seeing the entire location helps give the viewer a sense of the environment. Photos in this series by Doug Daulton, Alex Lindsay, and Richard Harrington.

Master Shot


The most common shot to shoot first is the master shot. This shot is wide enough to see the location and all subjects who are involved in a scene. If the piece is scripted, the entire scene is shot in one take from a locked position. Additional angles (especially close-ups) are then shot and intercut with the master shot during editing.

The wide shot might be tighter than the master shot and is designed to show one or more subjects from head to toe.

Wide Shot (WS)

A wide shot is useful to show the entire subject. With a person as the subject, this usually means seeing from the top of the person’s head to the bottom of the person’s feet.

Although still relatively loose, this composition is a little more intimate than a standard wide shot because it lets you better see body language and facial reactions.

Medium Wide Shot (MWS)

A medium wide shot is usually used with a standing subject. The lower frame generally cuts off the subject at the hips or just above the knees. This shot is very common and even works well for small groups of subjects.

For a medium shot, the subject and the location are given equal weight.

Medium Shot (MS)

A medium shot typically frames the subject from the waist up. Usually, there is enough room in the shot to see hand gestures and arm movement. If multiple subjects are in the frame, the shot can be classified as a two-shot or three-shot medium shot.

A medium close-up is often used as framing for an on-camera interview.

Medium Close-up (MCU)

With a medium close-up, the bottom of the frame passes through the midpoint of the chest. You can still see the setting, but the shot is more intimate. This shot is also called a bust shot because it matches the composition of classic bust sculptures from the art world.

Using a shallow depth of field setting makes this close-up shot even more effective.

Close-up (CU)

You’ll use close-up shots to capture facial expressions and other details. A close-up shot can also be used to show a subject’s hands or interaction with an object in the scene. The goal is to isolate the subject and minimize (or even remove) the background.

Join us each Saturday for the next installment of this weekly series.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.