Full shot

Filmmaker's Dictionary Feb 09, 2021

What is a full shot?

Also commonly referred to as a wide shot or long shot, the full shot shows the subject in its entirety. When it comes to a person, they must be visible from head to toe. Full shots might include the subject and not much else, or they can show the environment and let that dominate the shot.

Usually used for human subjects, they are a great tool to help introduce a character. Besides the faces being close enough to read, the actors may also use body language to convey their emotions. Full shots can include multiple characters to highlight their relationships as well.

What is a full shot used for?

One thing a full shot does perfectly is establishing character. Through posture, wardrobe, and movement they can provide a better overall impression than a close-up by itself ever could. When multiple characters are present, their relationships pan out more naturally and organically than if the viewers were to see it exclusively through dialogues.

The shot might be used with purely a character focus, or also to showcase context. The background and props can play a greater part, and the director can better utilize blocking and staging if they choose to do so. Scenes and movies with a deep focus often use full shots to fit as much information in the frame as possible.

Full shot vs wide shot

While often used interchangeably, technically a full shot and wide shot aren’t the same. A full shot refers to a shot size that frames the subject in a certain way, while wide shots include a wider angle of view, and potentially show a character from far away. It’s important to know the distinction to avoid potential misunderstandings.

Ready to help your audience get to know your characters better? Read how to shoot a full shot by the Nashville Film Institute.

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