Best Angles for Documentary-Style Shooting


The release of Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, which is often considered the first ever film produced, in 1878, marked the beginning of filmmaking breakthroughs. Since then, photographers and moviemakers have broken out creativity and established professional cameras angles and shots for portraying emotions. Whether filming a fiction or a non-fiction story, angles and shots can make or break your movie. Hence, they should be done professionally. Below are some of the best angles to adopt while carrying out documentary-style shooting.


1. The Establishing Shot

This is the first ever shot that the audience sees, whose purpose is to set up the scenes. Typically, this shot is an extreme wide shot of the location, be it a building or a city. The shot gives the audience a realization of the time. 

The establishing shot serves several purposes. You can use it to set up a concept like in war films where flying helicopters are shown. Some filmmakers also use the establishing shot to depict the relationship between characters. Even though this type of moviemaking angle does not rely on the narrative, it suffices in telling the audience what they need to know about your film or photo.

A bird’s eye shot, where the audience is looking down at a particular angle scene, is often used with this type of shot. It also works in establishing the location or the surroundings where the scene takes place.


2. Extreme Long Shot

This type of shot is taken from a long distance. It serves as an impression to the audience, much like the establishing shot. They often show large building exteriors or landscapes. Extreme long shots conjure up the relationship of the surroundings and the character. This means the show of location, the distance, and the scale. If the image of a character is captured in the shot, the audience will be able to see the whole body, from head to toe.


3. Wide Shot

A wide shot is often known as the long shot. Much like the extreme wide shot, the entire body of a character is featured. From this full shot, the audience easily establishes the distance, the location and the scale of the character and the surroundings. Although it may seem similar to the extreme long shot, the character appears larger and has an almost full presence in the frame.


4. Medium Shot

Many people have different understandings of what a medium shot means around the world. However, the standard medium shot captures the character in a frame from the waist up. While using this shot, a filmmaker strives to capture several facial expressions as well as the body language. The medium shots are the most commonly used angles because they feel natural to the audience as if they were talking to one another.


5. Close-Up Shot

If you want to enhance your documentary-style shooting, another of the favorite shot to use is the close-up shot. It is used to capture or portray a character’s emotions. This shot is characterized by how the object or the image is tightly framed on the lens. The principal focus is usually the face. Apart from depicting emotions, the close-up shot also serves to show a particular action. As such, it is one of the most important shots on this list.


6. Extreme Close-Up

This is a close-up shot that only focuses on particular features of an object or a character. Professional cameras angle for this shot results in an image that tightly fills the frame with only a specific feature like the eyes or the mouth. Similarly, the shot can be utilized in filming specific actions, for example, using needles to sew up a bad wound. The extreme close-up, therefore, serves to create tension or build, if not to show emotions.


7. Point of View

The primary focus of this type of shot is what the character is looking at. A camera equipment is positioned between the character to show what he or she is looking at and what their reaction is.

There are also other types of shots and angles which include high angle, eye-level angle, a low angle among others. Incorporated in your documentary-style shooting, you will produce a masterpiece.