If you are a newcomer to visual storytelling, you’ll need to master some simple shots that are at the heart of all good video journalism.

The human eye sees in ‘wide’ angle. So newcomers to video storytelling often shoot too many wide shots. But a variety of shots, including plenty of close-ups, will help bring your story to life. Here is a list of shot types and angles used by visual storytellers – from movie makers to tv journalists and social videographers.

Extreme Wide: Also known as the ‘establishing shot’ – it shows the viewer where the story is taking place.

Wide: Another popular ‘establishing shot’, and – when filming a person – refers to shots that show the full body from head to toe.

Cowboy: A shot of a human subject from their head to their knees.

Medium: Human subject shown from their head to where the legs meet the body or waistline. A common interview shot.

Medium Close-up: Human subject shown from their head to top of their chest. One of the most popular interview shots.

Close-up: Human subject shown from forehead to chin. Shot must not conceal the mouth. Also used to focus on objects of interest to the story.

Extreme Close-up: Used to focus on a particular part of the face – such as the eyes – and to focus on objects of interest to the story.

Interview shots

If you are filming an interview you can either capture your interviewee in a Medium or Medium Close-up shot. But if the journalist needs to be seen in the picture and the interview needs to be shortened, these shot types will help you when editing your material:

Two-shot: A shot where two interviewees of equal importance, or the interviewer and interviewee, are both shown in the shot.

Over the Shoulder: A shot from behind a human subject to show an activity they are carrying out. The shot may also show the interviewer, and can be used to hide cuts in an interview.

Reverse over the shoulder: A shot of the interviewee from over the shoulder of the interviewer. Can be used for variety, and also to hide cuts in the interviewer’s questions.

Eyeline

Where you place the camera, and where your interviewee is looking, can change the look and feel of your interview. If you film someone from above, they will look childlike. Filming them from below makes them look powerful. And if they have to look up or down to see the camera lens, this will also make the interview look odd. Follow this excellent advice and video from the BBC on getting your interview shots perfect.

Unique mojo shots

The small size of the smartphone makes it possible to capture new perspectives and creative angles that would be impossible with a bigger camera. For example, you can put your phone inside things – like a glass, an oven or – as in this package from Philip Bromwell at RTE News below – inside a coffee machine. Be creative!

Learn more

If you’re starting out on your journey as a visual journalist, there are plenty of free resources to help you – like this Pre-Production Course from the YouTube Creators Studio.