Watch any decent movie and you’ll see a variety of shots used to tell the story. One of the first is the Establishing Shot. This tends to be a wider shot that includes the environment in which the story takes place. It’s used to establish the spatial relationship among the films characters, objects and overall setting of the film.
In still photography, this is akin to the broader scenic images. As the story unfolds, you find the camera come in tighter on the main subject in the story. In a Long Shot, you’ll see the main character almost fill the frame.
With a Medium Shot, you may see the subject from the waist up. With each subsequent shot, you can see more details. All these shots are designed to help the filmmaker tell their story and engage the viewer.
As still photographers, we can learn from our video brethren. After all, photographers are the worlds best storytellers and this is just one way to enrich our story.
When we travel on our photography workshops, one thing we try to share with our students is the importance of capturing a variety of shots. We want to capture that broad establishing shot. But, we also want to start working our way into the scene.
Probably the most overlooked shot in our repertoire is the tight closeup. This is the shot that focuses just on the shape or texture of our subject. You don’t see the surroundings or the environment, so the image may lack context. But these can be some of the most impactful images that you can use to illustrate your story.
When you begin to photograph a scene, step back and think. What is it that makes you want to capture this scene in the first place. Then, after you’ve got your establishing shots, work tighter and tighter. Show the shape. Show the texture. The colors. You’ll discover that as you immerse your self into that world, you’ll create images that will capture your imagination and add impact and interest to your story.