Cinematography: Why Camera Angles Matter

How do filmmakers make use of camera angles?

4 min readJan 16, 2021

From Below

1. Ground Level Shot

Definition: A shot taken parallel to the ground
Possible Objective(s):
- To allow the subject to stand out from the background/crowd (compared to knee level shot, a ground level shot often captures the feet of other actors in the background)
Possible Representation(s):
- Construct a mysterious atmosphere
- The unique trait or interpretation of the subject

2. Knee Level Shot

Definition: A shot taken parallel to one’s knee level
Possible Objective(s):
- To feature the subject walking without revealing their identity
- Often applied when the subject is running/rushing
Possible Representation(s):
- Characterization: Often establishes a first impression of the subject through his/her walking and shoes characteristics (eg. high heels and face paced = Office lady impression; sneakers and splayed out foot = gangster impression)
- Depict the urgency of situation

3. Low Angle Shot

Definition: A shot from below eye level directed upwards
Possible Objective(s)
- Audience might feel looked down upon and overpowered
- Can increase perceived height of an object
Possible Representation(s):
- Convey the emotion of fear and disdain
- Express pressure and oppression

From the Horizontal Pane

1. Hip Level Shot/Cowboy Shot/American Shot

Definition: A shot from the subject’s mid-waist to right above their head
Possible Objective(s):
- To stress on objects and action that takes place around the hip (eg. drawing swords and guns)
Possible Representation(s):
- Express heroism and confidence
- Critical moments of the sequence

2. Shoulder Level Shot

Definition: A shot parallel to the subject’s shoulders
Possible Objective(s):
- May make subject seem shorter than reality
- Closing up as a third person perspective of a conversation (Sometimes from one of the character’s back)
- Amplify the (depth of the) relationship between the subjects
- Sometimes used in arguments
Possible Representation(s):
- Convey a discreet and secretive encounter
- Delivering key messages of the sequence/scene

3. Eye Level Shot

Definition: A shot from a camera angle of the same eye-level of the subject on screen
Possible Objective(s):
- Allow the audience to impersonate another character (when looking into the subject’s eyes)
- Drawing a closer relationship between the audience and the subject
- To communicate with the audience
Possible Representation(s):
- Contemplative moments, sometimes when the subject reaches an epiphany
- Grasping the attention of the audience paid towards the subject

From Above

1. High Angle Shot

Definition: A shot from above eye level directed downwards
Possible Objective(s):
- To expose the vulnerability of the subject
Possible Representation(s):
- Convey the feeling of superiority
- Higher position than subject (hierarchy)

2. Overhead Shot /Bird’s-Eye-View Shot

Definition: A shot directed at the subject from above, often with a surrounding scenery and environment
Possible Objective(s):
- To portray the situation from a third person’s perspective
- To establish a mood
- To follow the subject’s activities and movements (and the storyline)
Possible Representation(s):
- Frustration/desperation of subject
- To show the character’s concentration towards something

3. Aerial Shot/Helicopter Shot

Definition: A shot directed at the subject from way up high with a large expanse of scenery
Possible Objective(s):
- Often applied at the beginning of a film (to providing context)
- Often applied during narration (may convey setting and subject’s information)
- To create scale and movement
Possible Representation(s):
- Auteur Theory
- Surveillance, lack of privacy

Dutch Angle Shot/ Dutch Tilt/Canted angle/Oblique angle

Definition: A shot consisting of a noticeable tilt on the camera’s horizontal axis from the ground
Possible Objective(s):
- To create a disturbing visual and create an uneasy atmosphere
- To heighten tension in a sequence
Possible Representation(s):
- Depict something is going disarray or disorienting
- Undergoing transformation
- Injustice, or when things are falling apart

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