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TASK 1 - Framing & Composition

Framing is the act of choosing what will be included within the frame of the cameras viewfinder - while composition relates to how the elements included within the frame are arranged to create an aesthetically pleasing image. Filming like all aspects of screen production involves a series of choices that will help determine a finished piece's effectiveness including: What part of the scene will I film? What elements will I include within the shot? Where will I place the camera in relation to the subject? What shot size will I use? How will I move the camera? These questions can be overwhelming even for the most experienced media practitioners and therefore students must understand the foundational concepts of framing and composition before they begin filming.

Shot Sizes

View the images below for an overview of the 8 typical shot sizes. Shot size is judged in relation to the person within the frame, and the images below will serve as a reference for you as you compose and shoot your own images. It is essential that you learn the various shot sizes in order structure and to tell your visual stories effectively.

Extreme Long Shot

Usually used as an establishing shot in a scene to give the viewer a broad sense of the world they are entering into. These shots can be so wide that the human element is often very small and sometimes indistinguishable - it gives the viewer a very broad picture of the scene.
LS Long Shot

The long shot it is still quite wide but the human element is clearly visible. Again this type of shot is often used to establish a scene.
MLS Medium Long Shot

Characters can be seen from approximately the knee up. This shot gives the viewer a sense of the surroundings as well as the character and can often be used in scenes with a group of people interacting and also in action scenes.

MS Medium Shot

The medium shot would typically feature the characters waist to the top of their head. This is a good frame to use when introducing dialogue and is often used at the beginning of a conversation between two characters (two-shot) before cutting to close ups.
MCU Medium Close Up

The characters expression is much clearer in this shot and it can be used for a tight two-shot if the characters are in close proximity.

Close Up

As the intensity and emotion of the scene increases a director will often choose to shoot individual close ups to capture the intensity of the characters dialogue and subsequent reactions.


Big Close Up

This type of shot can be used to show extreme emotions, acting as an exclamation mark in a scene if a point needs to be stressed. The big close up is not employed as often as the regular close up.


Extreme Close Up

Used rarely but can be used effectively to create a sense of intrigue. Is also often used in cutaways to emphasize detailed character actions or focus in on a small object.

Camera Angles

As a general rule the camera will usually be positioned at the eye level of the main character/s. This helps the viewer enter the story at the characters level, thus helping them relate to the central characters on screen. However other angles are often employed to symbolise a characters internal feelings and their relationship to the other characters.

High Camera Angles

High camera angles can be used to make the character being filmed look inferior and powerless. This in turn gives the viewer a sense that they are in the position of authority looking down at the character (usually along with other more powerful characters). This in turn may serve to help the viewer empathise and feel for the powerless character. A higher angle can also be used to separate elements within the frame and create a sense of depth especially in wider angled shots.

Low Camera Angles

Low camera angles tilted up towards their subject can make the subject look dominating and powerful. This in turn places the audience in the position of being looked down upon and can add to the authority of the character on screen. Orson Welles famously took this to the extreme in Citizen Kane when he ordered his crew to dig a hole in the studio floor! This was so the camera operator could get lower than ground level to look up at Kane from the lowest possible angle making him seem as powerful as possible.

Canted Angle (or Dutch Tilt)

This is an off axis tilted shot that is sometimes employed to give a sense of a how a character is feeling on screen. It can be rather unsettling for the viewer and give them an unbalanced feeling which usually mirrors the inner turmoil of characters in the film. This shot is used (with just about every other technique explained on this page!) in a German film called Run Lola Run when she is frantically trying to save her boyfriend.

Compositional Technique

How all the elements are arranged (or composed) within the frame by the camera operator is pivotal as to whether an engaging image will ultimately be produced. The decisions of what to include in the frame and what to omit, the height of the shot, the angle, the camera movement, the lens selection, the lighting, the aperture settings, the shutter speed settings and the specific decisions as to where objects of interest should be placed all play a role in the final shot produced.

Although this may seem overwhelming at first, once understood the variety of creative opportunities available are exciting. Although there are no set 'rules' there are some widely accepted guidelines that will give beginners a solid foundation from which to develop their own style.

The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is not a rule as such - it is a general guideline that if adhered to will usually give a well balanced picture. Students often fall into the trap of framing everything in the center of the frame with too much headroom (space between the subjects head and the top of frame). When everything is divided in two and framed in the center it can make for a very uninteresting image. It is much better to think in thirds. Firstly imagine the frame is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically - the rule of thirds states that objects of interest should be placed on the intersecting invisible lines. Sound confusing? It's not really - hover over the image below for a clearer picture:


Use of foreground Images

A great compositional technique that helps create a greater sense of depth in an image is to include foreground elements in the frame. In the image at the market below we get a greater sense of depth and the environment with the foreground fruit included in the frame. A shallow depth of field is created using a zoom lens and an open aperture (f 2.8) with the clear focus being on the shop owners eyes (notice the rule of thirds is being adhered to as well with the subjects eye line on the top horizontal third and face on the left vertical third). Even though we are working in a two dimensional medium we can create a sense of 3 dimensions using this technique.


Depth of Field

Another way to draw attention to a particular part of the frame is by using selective focus utilising the aperture settings on your camera's lens. This technique can be quite aesthetically pleasing and encourages the viewers eye to focus on a specific part of the frame. Simply put - lower f numbers (i.e. f1.8 to f4) will perform well in low light and create a shallower depth of field (separation between foreground and background elements). This particular shot was taken in a dark room with the aperture set to f1.8. If this was a video an effective technique would be to 'pull focus' and draw the viewers attention from the child in the foreground to the group of children in the background. Although it must be noted that using 'wide open' aperture settings on video can create focus issues as the subject will shift out of focus very quickly if they move.

Depth of Field

Leading Lines

Another compositional technique used to draw the viewers eye across the frame and toward an object of interest is by using 'leading lines'. These can either be naturally occurring (see field below) or man made lines (i.e. architecture). These lines lead the viewers eye across the frame taking in the scene and landing on the desired point of interest. It is often a good idea to try and get the line to begin one of the corners of your frame. It can be seen in the image below that the viewer will enter the frame in the bottom left and follow the yellow line of flowers all the way to the old barn door.


Now that you understand the important foundational concepts regarding framing and composition it's time to move onto the first task - Click here to access the task description

Click here to access a powerpoint presentation that summarises the above information

Framing & Composition

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