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Top 10 Camera Angles: A Guide for Filmmakers and Screenwriters

Understanding camera angles is crucial for both filmmakers and screenwriters. Not only do they influence how your audience perceives a scene, but they also shape the story’s emotional impact. So, let’s dive into the top 10 most used camera angles, their purposes, when to use them, how to write them into your screenplay, and how to capture them perfectly.

Eye-Level Angle

What is it?
This angle positions the camera at the character’s eye level.

Purpose
It creates a neutral perspective, making the audience feel part of the conversation.

When to Use
It is ideal for dialogue scenes or to portray equality between characters.

EXT. CAFÉ – DAY
JANE and JOHN sit across from each other at a small table, sipping their coffees.
CAMERA AT EYE LEVEL
JANE
(softly)
I can’t believe it’s been five years since we last saw each other.
JOHN
(smiling)
Time flies, doesn’t it? So, how have you been?

A woman sits across the table from a man as they drink coffee.

Filming Tip
Position the camera at the height of the character’s eyes, keeping the horizon line in the middle of the frame. Use a tripod or adjustable camera stand to maintain this height consistently.

High Angle

What is it?
A high-angle shot is taken from a higher vantage point, looking down on the subject. Keep in mind, though, that it is not directly overhead. It can also be used to capture a broader context of the scene without losing sight of the primary focus.

Captain America and Thor staring up into the skyPurpose
Makes the subject appear smaller, weak, or vulnerable.

When to Use
Use in scenes where a character feels overwhelmed or powerless.

INT. OFFICE – NIGHT
MARK sits at his desk, surrounded by stacks of paperwork, looking exhausted.
HIGH ANGLE SHOT
MARK
(sighs)
How am I ever going to finish this by tomorrow?

Filming Tip
Mount the camera above the character using a crane, drone, or high stand. Ensure the camera is securely fastened and adjust the angle to capture the desired level of intimidation or weakness.

Low Angle

What is it?
The camera is placed below the subject, looking up.

Low angle shot of two men staring down at the camera with bad intentions.Purpose
Makes the subject appear larger, powerful, or intimidating.

When to Use
Perfect for scenes showcasing authority or dominance.

Screenplay Tip
Specify, “LOW ANGLE SHOT” to signal the need to portray the subject as imposing.

EXT. BACK ALLEY – NIGHT
A gang leader, TONY, towers over a frightened individual, SAM, who is cowering on the ground.
LOW ANGLE SHOT
TONY
(intimidatingly)
You think you can just walk away from us?

 

Filming Tip
Place the camera close to the ground, angling it upwards. You can use a low tripod or even place the camera directly on the floor. Ensure the lighting complements the angle to emphasize the character’s dominance.

Dutch Angle (Tilted Angle)

What is it?
The camera is tilted to one side, creating a skewed horizon.

Bruce Willis in a mental ward. This is the scene from the movie 12 MonkeysPurpose
Conveys unease, tension, or disorientation.

When to Use
Ideal for dream sequences, fight scenes, or moments of confusion.

Screenplay Tip
Mention “DUTCH ANGLE SHOT” to let readers know this shot needs a tilted perspective.

INT. DREAM SEQUENCE – NIGHT
SALLY walks through a distorted, surreal landscape, unsure of what is real.
DUTCH ANGLE SHOT
SALLY
(confused)
What is this place?

Filming Tip:
Tilt the camera sideways on its axis using a tripod that allows for such adjustments. Experiment with different degrees of tilt to achieve the desired effect of disorientation or tension.

Over-the-shoulder (OTS)

What is it?
It shows a character’s point of view from behind their shoulder.

Purpose
Establishes a connection between characters and their perspectives.

When to Use
Commonly used in conversations.

Screenplay Tip
Specify, “OVER-THE-SHOULDER SHOT” to direct focus on one character’s perspective over another’s shoulder.

INT. INTERROGATION ROOM – DAY
Detective BROWN sits across from the suspect, LUCAS, who looks nervous.
OVER-THE-SHOULDER SHOT (FROM DETECTIVE’S PERSPECTIVE)
DETECTIVE BROWN
(calmingly)
Just tell us where you were last night.

Filming Tip
Frame the shot to include the back of one character’s shoulder and head while focusing on the other character. Use a tripod or handheld camera for a natural feel, adjusting the focus to keep both characters in context.

Point of View (POV)

What is it?
Shows what a character sees, from their perspective.

Purpose
Puts the audience directly in the character’s shoes.

When to Use
Use it for moments of discovery or to immerse the audience in a character’s experience.

Screenplay Tip
Write “POV SHOT” to indicate the camera should adopt the character’s perspective.

INT. BASEMENT – NIGHT
LUCY approaches an old, dusty box and slowly lifts the lid.
POV SHOT (FROM LUCY’S PERSPECTIVE)
Inside the box, a faint glow emanates from a mysterious object.

Filming Tip
Position the camera at the character’s eye level and mimic their movements. Use a handheld camera or a body mount to create a realistic POV effect.

Wide Angle (Establishing Shot)

What is it?
Captures a wide view of the setting or scene.

Purpose
Establishes context and geography of the scene.

When to Use
At the beginning of a scene, set the location.

Screenplay Tip
Indicate “WIDE ANGLE” to inform the crew that a broad view of the scene is needed.

EXT. CITYSCAPE – DAY
The camera captures the sprawling city with skyscrapers, busy streets, and people going about their day.
WIDE ANGLE
NARRATOR (V.O.)
In the heart of the city, millions of stories unfold every day.

Filming Tip
Use a wide-angle lens and ensure the entire setting is in frame. This often requires a steady tripod and careful consideration of lighting and composition.

Close-Up

What is it?
Focuses tightly on a subject, usually the face.

Purpose
Highlights emotions and details.

When to Use
In emotional or pivotal scenes.

Screenplay Tip
Note, “CLOSE-UP” to emphasize the need to capture a character’s facial expressions or detailed objects.

INT. LIVING ROOM – NIGHT
JULIA receives a phone call and listens intently.
CLOSE-UP ON JULIA’S FACE
Her eyes well up with tears as she hears the news.
JULIA
(whispering)
I can’t believe he’s gone.

Filming Tip
Position the camera close to the subject, focusing on their face or an object. Use a macro lens if needed, and ensure proper lighting to highlight the subject’s details.

Extreme Close-Up (ECU)

What is it?
It zooms in even closer than a regular close-up.

Purpose
Emphasizes specific details or emotions.

When to Use
To show intense emotions or critical details.

Screenplay Tip
Write “EXTREME CLOSE-UP” to specify the need for an even tighter focus on a particular detail.

INT. STUDY – NIGHT
JACKSON studies a map closely, looking for a hidden clue.
EXTREME CLOSE-UP ON JACKSON’S EYES
His pupils dilate as he spots a tiny, hidden mark on the map.
JACKSON
(excitedly)
There it is!

Filming Tip
Get as close as possible to the subject, focusing on a specific feature like eyes or an object. Use a macro lens and ensure the subject is well-lit to avoid any distortion.

Bird’s Eye View

What is it?
A bird’ s-eye view shot is taken from directly above the scene, looking straight down. It is an extreme version of a high-angle shot.

Purpose
It gives an overview of the scene, showing the spatial relationship between elements.

When to Use
For complex scenes or to show movement and geography.

Screenplay Tip
Mention “BIRD’S EYE VIEW” to instruct the team to capture an overhead perspective.

EXT. BATTLEFIELD – DAY
Knights and soldiers clash in a chaotic melee, the full scope of the battle laid out below.
BIRD’S EYE VIEW
The camera captures the strategic movements of the armies and the intensity of the battle.

Filming Tip
Use a drone or crane to capture the scene from above. Ensure the camera is stabilized and consider the layout of the scene to maximize the effectiveness of the overhead shot.

Why Filmmakers and Screenwriters Need to Master Camera Angles

Camera angles aren’t just technical choices; they’re the tools we use to tell our stories. Knowing how to use them can make your story more exciting and engaging. Let’s break down why understanding camera angles is essential for every filmmaker and screenwriter.

Enhance Your Storytelling

Camera angles can change how your story feels. An establishing shot shows where the action happens, a close-up reveals characters’ emotions, and a low angle can make someone look powerful. Using these angles lets you control how your audience feels and what they focus on.

Keep Things Interesting

Using different camera angles keeps your audience interested. Imagine watching a movie where every scene looks the same—boring, right? Mixing up angles makes your film dynamic and keeps people watching.

Show Hidden Meanings

Camera angles can say a lot without words. A high angle can make a character look weak, while a Dutch angle (tilted shot) can make things feel tense or strange. These little tricks add depth to your story.

Direct the Audience’s Attention

Good camera angles guide your audience to what’s important. A close-up might show a crucial detail, while an over-the-shoulder shot can make a conversation more intimate. Using these angles helps you control what the audience sees and feels.

Fit the Genre

Different types of movies use different angles. Horror movies often use close-ups and low angles to create suspense, while comedies might use medium shots and high angles for a lighter feel. Knowing these patterns helps you meet audience expectations and tell a better story.

Work Well with Others

Filmmaking is a team effort. When screenwriters know about camera angles, they can write clearer scenes. This helps directors, cinematographers, and editors understand and bring your vision to life exactly as you imagined.

Be Creative

Once you know the basics, you can start experimenting. Unique camera angles can make your work stand out. Think of the cool perspectives in movies like “Birdman” or “1917”—these bold choices make those films memorable.

Final Thoughts

Mastering camera angles is key for any filmmaker or screenwriter. They help you tell better stories, keep your audience engaged, show deeper meanings, guide attention, fit genres, work well with your team, and be creative. By understanding and using these powerful tools, you can create films that truly connect with your audience.

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Jay Carver

Jay Carver is a screenwriter, director and producer. Through his production company J-Style Films, he has done work for companies such as Turner Broadcasting. In the past, he has worked with Hollywood actor Omari Hardwick and won several film festivals including "Best Director".

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