Definitions of Camera Angle Shots

by Finn McCuhil

Every picture tells a story. Whether it's a still shot or a movie, camera angles influence the look, feel and mood of that story. Photographers and filmmakers know this and choose angles deliberately to shape and enhance the impact of their work. Knowing how and why these angles are created can help amateurs make more compelling pictures or films.

Eye Level

The eye-level angle is the most common shot. The camera is positioned so the subject can look directly into the lens without moving his eyes up or down -- whether or not the subject actually looks into the lens. It is considered to be emotionally neutral and is best used for straight, factual presentation.

Bird's Eye

This shot is taken from directly above the subject. Often used as an establishing shot to set the location of a scene in films, they can also capture action or objects that may be obscured by other figures on a ground-level view. These shots are frequently taken from cranes or aircraft. Amateurs with lower budgets may need to be satisfied with a tall ladder or a rooftop.

High Angle

Taken from well above the height of the subject, the high-angle shot establishes the dominance of the camera. It is used to make the subject look weak, intimidated or frightened.

Low Angle

The low-angle shot, taken from below the eye level of the subject, gives the opposite impression of the high-angle shot. It makes the subject appear dominant or in charge.

Dutch Tilt

The Dutch tilt is achieved by tilting the camera so the horizon is no longer level. Used judiciously, it can provide an unusual or dramatic perspective. When overdone in film, it can irritate the viewers.

Point of View

Effective mostly in narratives, the point-of-view angle is used to give the viewer the impression of seeing action happen through the eyes of a character. To achieve this effect, the camera is carefully controlled to mimic the actor's motion and viewpoint. An eye-level shot of an actor glancing at her wristwatch, for example, may be followed by a P.O.V. closeup shot of the watch face, apparently revealing to the audience what the character sees there.

About the Author

Finn McCuhil is a freelance writer based in Northern Michigan. He worked as a reporter and columnist in South Florida before becoming fascinated with computers. After studying programming at University of South Florida, he spent more than 20 years heading up IT departments at three tier-one automotive suppliers. He now builds wooden boats in the north woods.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images