Filmmaking Techniques – Shot Selection – Wide Shot vs Close Up

When making your movies, you can use different shot sizes to tell your story. Here we will cover just two contrasting shot sizes, wide shots and close ups and their relationship to each other. You can choose to use these shot types creatively to elicit a particular feeling in the mind of your viewer.


Wide Shots


These are sometimes called “long shots”. You use a wide shot to establish the scene, and show the setting and position of the characters in relation to each other. It gives a sense of geography to your scene. For this reason the opening wide shot is sometimes also called an “establishing shot”. Generally, when telling your story, you will begin with wide shots, and progress to closer shots as the story develops.

But you can use a larger number of wide shots creatively. For example a wide shot can create the feeling that the subject is being observed or make the scene seem a bit more impersonal. It can create a psychological sense of distance from the subject or show their connection to the environment. It can also make a person seem insignificant if they are small in frame.

If your shots are too wide, or you use too many wide shots in one scene, your viewer can begin to feel disconnected from the story. This can be used very effectively if you wish to create this feeling in the mind of your viewer, or make them feel like an observer.


Close Ups


A close up can show the viewer more detail than can be seen in a wider shot. It is also a lot more engaging to your viewer, as they can see your subject’s expression or what they are doing. It can also show little details you want to draw your viewer’s attention to. You will often use more close ups after establishing your scene using wide shots, to draw your viewer into the story.

If you use a lot of close ups and no wide establishing shot, this can disorientate viewer so they don’t really know what is going on. A close up on a face can show the state of mind of your character. This can be used very effectively to create some tension, in a scary movie for example.

Observe how wide shots and close ups are used in your favourite movies.


Lotti Kershaw is a former integration aide/education support officer who has a background in broadcast television Learn filmmaking from an industry professionaland runs her own video production company. She started Rock Paper Video to teach filmmaking and animation skills to children, so they can tell their own stories and make their own movies.

She is passionate about bringing video, special effects and animation into schools, and linking her incursions and resources to required curriculum outcomes, enabling teachers to teach media arts and cross-curricular activities through filmmaking. 

Lotti has worked in broadcast television in the UK, on programs for the BBC and major network television channels. She has credits on various TV programs, and has worked in many genres including documentary, drama, music, entertainment, live talk shows, reality TV, music programs and feature film, at different stages of the production process from pre-production to post production and even broadcast.

Rock Paper Video runs film making and animation workshops for children. See our latest workshops here

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