5 Unique Camera Angles to Incorporate in Your Next Shoot
From negative space to odd framing, explore this video to discover five camera angles you’re probably not using—and should be.
In today’s video, we’re talking about five camera angles you need to know. Following the video, there’s a step-by-step transcript you can delve into, as well.
1. Negative Space
So, let’s hop in with number one—negative space. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. It’s basically that extra space within the frame that your character (main subject) isn’t using. Commonly, it’s seen within shows like Mr. Robot, where the director places the main character in a space, then creates negative space around that character—placing them in the bottom third of the frame, whether it’s the lower right half, the middle, or the lower left half.
Sometimes, it’s even done the opposite way, where you have more foot room than head room. Usually the extra headroom is a cool negative space element. Personally, I use this in a lot of my own projects, as well. In my short film “Companionship,” we used this as a framing mechanism to tell a little bit more about our character’s setting. When she was alone, we gave her more space within the frame, shooting from wider angles to make her feel more isolated within her scenario.
As the movie progressed, we started shooting her more narrow down the frame and giving her less headroom because she’s found true love and started feeling less isolated. As the film progresses, we show less and less isolation within the frame and more closure to make her feel comfortable. This is a creative way to tell the story of a character’s isolation, their environment, and establish a space.
Now, this can be overused, so I highly recommend using it wisely. Personally, I think it’s a fun way to tell a story, as well as reveal a character’s environment—whether they feel isolated, overwhelmed, or perhaps they’re just new to a space and you want to show that space in a unique way.
So, if you want to try something different, try giving your character a little bit of extra negative space, whether it’s more headroom or even playing against the rules of cinema. And remember, if you can show, don’t tell it.
2. High Angles
That leads me to the next bit of shots that you should start thinking about—high angles. High angles are some of my absolute favorites within film. It’s such a unique shot. My ultimate favorite is a bird’s-eye view of looking down at a building. So, this is known within a drone shot, where you just tilt the camera directly down. It creates a god-like view of whatever scenario it’s in, making everything look artistic.
And, while the bird’s-eye view is cool, it isn’t practical for shooting a dialogue scene. So, what I actually like doing is a high-angle close-up of a character. This is actually what I like to call a Diego shot, attributed to a cinematographer I’ve worked with on many different projects in the past.
Essentially, it’s bringing the camera very close to your main character, yet at a higher angle, almost looking down on your character. This angle creates a weird perspective of the character. When the camera is that close into the lens, you feel you’re a part of their thoughts, their environment, their scene. For example, let’s say something bad or intense is about to happen, you’re right there with your character in the action. It also gives your scene a little bit more depth and a different perspective than the typical dead-on-close-up with the lens.
3. Frames Within Frames
The next unique camera angle—frames within frames. So, when you’re shooting a scene, usually you’ll find your shot, line it up, and it looks pretty nice. However, if you want to give it a bit more depth, put something within the frame. Personally, I love using additional doorframes to make an extra frame within a frame.
It narrows the audience’s eyes and creates a bit of movement. Let’s say you have the camera on a slider, dolly, or gimbal, having something in the foreground moving past the camera gives it more of a dynamic flavor. And, if you’re able to get creative with what you put in your foreground, you can really elevate the story.
The more you put within your shot, the more of a message you can tell, therefore, propelling that message further by showing, not telling.
4. Static Camera Movement
You probably know the basics of camera movement—a little bit of movement provides more of a dynamic flavor, but also relays a message. Personally, I find camera movement is a good way to express change—whether that be a change for the character or the scene. For my short film, “Freelancer,” we used camera movement to show that my main character, Chase, was having a revelation, so we shot him static. As a result, while he was gathering information, we (the audience) were also gathering information.
But, as Chase gains information and begins to realize something isn’t right, the way we showed it visually wasn’t by putting an animated light bulb above his head. Instead, we added a little bit of camera movement to show that something was happening, the wheels were turning. If you deprive your scene from camera movement and only use it when it’s necessary, you can make a handheld action scene feel more action-packed.
It can make a dolly move create symbolism within a character’s development, a character’s realization, or it can just make things feel more energetic.
5. Zoom-In Camera Movement
With the movie I co-directed with Charlie Hamilton called “Lariat,” there was a shot that Charlie put in, which was basically this rush-in shot with the camera on a gimbal. Cinematographer Karl Janisse ran into the scene creating this fast-paced movement that put us into that environment. It hooks the audience right away and puts them into that scene without having time to really grasp what’s going on.
This zoom-in camera angle is perfect for action movies. Maybe the character is yelling at someone and we do a quick push-in. You can do a digital scale out to create a push/pull effect or a run-around effect for a Michael Bay-type feeling. So, depending on the genre of movie, the run-in zoom effect is extremely effective in establish a scene setting scenario, as well as setting the overall tone.
With these five camera angles, you can create a really unique style for your film. Remember, there’s no right or wrong frame. Filmmakers like Christopher Nolan treat IMAX cameras like a GoPro—if that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.
For additional filmmaking tips, tricks, and advice, check out these articles:
Cover image via Imagine Photographer.
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