Cinematography is the art and science of capturing moving images on film or digital media. Cinematographers use their creativity to capture a range of emotions and elements that audiences can relate to when watching a movie.

Cinematographers are responsible for overall composition, lighting and focus of the film.

What Is Cinematography?

As the chief visual officer, cinematographers must convey a sense of emotion throughout each scene and ensure that the audience sees what the director intends to be seen.

Looking for help in creating a blockbuster? Here are some reasons why you should consider hiring an expert cinematographer:

Cinematography Enhances Storytelling Ability

When it comes to movies, viewers want good stories — not just good acting. A great cinematographer can make a good story even better by using lighting, camera movement and framing to enhance the plot.

cinematography film terms

What Are cinematography film terms?

As a director, you’ll need to work with a cinematographer on a film project. It’s, therefore, important for you to understand the terms that they use when talking about cameras and lenses.

In film, cinematography is the art and craft of capturing light with a camera, then reproducing it on screen.

Cinematography is typically used to describe the visual aspect of the filmmaking process.

Today’s definition of cinematography has expanded to include everything related to capturing images for moving pictures: lighting, lenses, digital capture, camera movement, and more.


jump into the world of cinematography with us as we unravel the language of film that shapes our viewing experience.

From the disorienting Dutch angle to the intimate close-up, each term is a key to unlocking the stories that captivate us on screen.

We’ll explore how these techniques combine to create the visual poetry that is cinema, helping you speak the lingo like a seasoned pro.

Whether you’re an aspiring filmmaker or a cinephile, mastering these terms will enhance your understanding and appreciation of the cinematic arts.


So let’s get rolling and decode the dynamic language of film together.

Dutch Angle

When we talk about the Dutch angle, we’re diving into one of the most stylized visual techniques in our filmmaking toolkit.

It’s a tilt of the camera to one side, creating a frame that is not level to the horizon.

This technique adds an unsettling, disorienting effect that enhances the emotional undertones of a scene.

Think of the tilted world in The Cabinet of Dr.

Caligari – it wouldn’t be the same without the Dutch angle.

Our use of the Dutch angle often conveys psychological unrest or tension within the characters.

It’s not just for horror or noir films though; even in action-packed movies like Inception, the Dutch angle amplifies a sense of adrenaline and disarray.

Here’s when we might use a Dutch angle to great effect:

  • To portray a character’s instability or confusion,
  • During action sequences to enhance the feeling of chaos,
  • In a suspenseful moment to suggest that something is amiss.

Remember, the key with the Dutch angle is moderation.

Overuse can numb the audience to its intended impact or cause unintended disorientation.

Making it count when we do decide to tilt that camera is crucial for the balance of visual storytelling.


When we jump into the fabric of cinematic storytelling, there’s a term that’s essential – close-up.

This technique involves framing a subject very tightly, often focusing on the face or detail of an object.

It’s an intimate shot that captures subtle nuances of emotion or brings attention to specific details that may otherwise go unnoticed.

The power of a close-up lies in its ability to reveal a character’s inner thoughts or underscore important plot elements.

By filling the frame with a subject’s features, we’re granted a front-row seat to their emotional state, allowing for a deeper connection with the audience.

In Jaws, the close-up serves as a window to Chief Brody’s mounting fear, while in The Godfather, such shots convey the gravity of Don Corleone’s decisions.

Here’s why filmmakers choose close-ups:

  • To highlight a character’s reactions that might be lost in a wider shot,
  • To focus on a small, yet significant detail, ramping up the film’s tension.

Close-ups don’t just anchor the viewer to the character or object on screen, they also bring another layer of meaning and context to the unfolding story.

Their strategic use is crucial – too many close-ups can make the piece feel cluttered, while too few might leave the audience emotionally detached.

Filmmakers often use close-ups sparingly to ensure their impact is maximized when it matters most.

The goal isn’t just to show a face or a detail, but to create a moment of true cinematic impact that resonates even after the scene transitions.


As with any cinematic device, it’s about finding that delicate balance.

The close-up must serve the narrative without overpowering it.

It requires thoughtful consideration of timing, composition, and the overarching mood of the story we’re striving to tell.

Long Shot

In the juxtaposition of cinematography film terms, let’s shift focus to the long shot, a technique often employed to set the scene and establish context.

Far different from a close-up, a long shot, also known as a wide shot, captures the subject within a broad view of their surroundings.

This shot is crucial for enveloping the audience in the world filmmakers craft, providing a fuller perspective of the setting, often communicating the scale and scope of a scene.

A classic example of the power of the long shot can be found in Lawrence of Arabia.

Director David Lean uses expansive desert panoramas to dwarf the characters against the vast landscape, underlining the theme of a small individual against the enormity of history and nature.

Long shots can layer in complex details about the environment, society, and the interiority of characters without a single line of dialogue.

These scenes tell us so much about:

  • The time period and location,
  • The social dynamics at play,
  • The emotional or physical distance between characters.

Contrary to close-ups that hone in on the emotive undercurrents, a long shot gives us a chance to breathe and absorb the narrative’s expanse.

also, when we cut from a long shot to a close-up, the effect can be jarring, to dramatic effect.

In our toolkit as filmmakers, the long shot expands the vocabulary we use to communicate with audiences.

Their strategic placement in a film’s sequence helps guide viewers through the storyline, revealing just enough to keep them engaged and invested in the journey.

From Frances Ha to The Revenant, the long shot remains an indispensable asset in showing, not just telling, a story.

Remember, every shot selection conveys a different facet of the story we’re trying to tell.

In the complex language of film, the long shot is our panoramic statement, a broad stroke that frames the narrative canvas.

Through them, we draw the audience into our visual realm, setting the stage for the intimate encounters that drive the story’s heart.

Tracking Shot

A tracking shot is a dynamic filming technique that follows a subject through a set environment.

It’s achieved by placing the camera on a dolly or using a Steadicam for smooth movement.

This type of shot brings viewers along for the ride, creating a sense of immersion in the film’s world.

Whether tracking forwards, backwards, or laterally, these shots can be pivotal in driving narrative and building tension.

In The Shining, the camera tracks Danny’s tricycle rides through the hotel with an eerie precision that heightens the suspense.

It’s moments like these where tracking shots prove their worth in visual storytelling.

When planning a tracking shot, there are key considerations to ensure its effectiveness:

  • The movement’s motivation – it must serve the story,
  • Technical requirements – such as equipment and rehearsals,
  • Coordination with actors and camera operators to maintain focus and composition.

By understanding the intricacies of a tracking shot, we can better harness its potential to captivate audiences.

It’s not just about following the action but enhancing the emotional and psychological impact of a scene.

The beauty of a tracking shot lies in its ability to reveal details and maintain continuity.

Carefully choreographed, these shots can offer insights into character or subtly shift perspectives.

Our understanding of film language grows as we dissect the use of tracking shots.

Let’s continue to explore how camera movements shape our experience of cinema.

Point Of View Shot

When diving into the realm of cinematography film terms, it’s essential to grasp the concept of a Point of View shot – often abbreviated as POV shot.

This technique allows the audience to see the world from a character’s vantage point, providing an intimate portal into their experiences.

A POV shot is more than just a stylistic choice; it’s a narrative device that connects viewers to characters on a deeper level.

Through this, we’re given a window to understand motivations, reactions, and the internal psyche of characters within the bustling world of a film.

Consider the intensity of a scene in The Revenant where we witness a bear attack from the protagonist’s perspective.

Not only does this establish a visceral connection, but it thrusts us into the raw emotion of the moment.

Here are a few ways a Point of View shot can enhance storytelling:

  • Reinforces character development by providing insight into their sensory experiences,
  • Heightens tension and empathy by narrowing the audience focus to one perspective,
  • Offers a unique way to present key narrative information.

Crafting an effective POV shot involves meticulous planning.

The director, cinematographer, and camera operators must work in unison to ensure that the audience fully engages with the character’s point of view.

It’s important for us to note that not every scene warrants a POV shot; its use must be justified within the film’s visual language.

Overuse can lead to a disconnection from the narrative, while its strategic placement can elevate the storytelling to new heights.

The versatility of POV shots is further showcased through their ability to fit into various genres and scenes.

Whether in action sequences, intimate dramas, or horror films, the POV shot remains an indispensable tool in our cinematic toolbox.

With this technique, we’re not just watching a story unfold – we’re experiencing it through the eyes of the characters, and that’s a powerful component of film language.

Cinematography Film Terms – Wrap Up

We’ve explored the dynamic role of POV shots in filmmaking, unraveling their power to immerse audiences into a character’s world.

These shots are not merely aesthetic choices but vital storytelling tools that can elevate the emotional impact of a scene.

Remember, it’s the thoughtful integration of techniques like POV that can transform a good film into a cinematic masterpiece.

As filmmakers and film enthusiasts, we must appreciate the intricacy of these elements and how they contribute to the art of visual storytelling.

Let’s continue to embrace these techniques, ensuring our narratives resonate deeply with viewers and leave a lasting impression.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Point Of View (pov) Shot In Film?

A Point of View shot is a cinematographic technique that shows the audience the perspective of a particular character.

This method allows viewers to experience the scene from the character’s visual standpoint, creating a close connection with their emotions and experiences.

How Does A Pov Shot Enhance Storytelling?

A POV shot enhances storytelling by emphasizing character development, creating more tension, and fostering empathy with the character.

It also delivers important narrative information, making the audience feel like they are part of the story.

Is A Pov Shot Just A Stylistic Tool?

No, a POV shot is not merely a stylistic tool; it is a narrative device that serves the story.

Its use should be justified within the film’s visual language to ensure it contributes effectively to the narrative.

Why Is Planning Important For Pov Shots?

Careful planning and coordination are crucial for POV shots to ensure they fit seamlessly into the narrative and are executed effectively from a technical standpoint.

Proper planning maximizes the impact of the POV shot on storytelling.

Can Pov Shots Be Used In Any Film Genre?

Yes, POV shots are versatile and can be effectively used across various film genres and scenes.

Whether it’s to create suspense in a thriller or intimacy in a romance, POV shots can adapt to different storytelling needs.