What makes a "good shot"?

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Avatar of Jonathan Shank
Jonathan Shank on June 30, 2012 at 9:23 am

Very new to films and I’m learning more and more how in depth it all is. What in general makes a “good shot”? I don’t know the first thing about cinematography and what one should strive for.

I’m currently reading a book on using my dslr and I’m finally getting to understand manual mode.

Avatar of Andy Thies
Andy Thies on July 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm

How do you define a “good shot”? I think the best definition would be a shot that accomplishes exactly what the director wants it to. That could mean drawing the focus to a specific action or thing, set a specific mood, quickening/slowing the pace of action, convey the emotions of a character, symbolizing, foreshadowing… and so on.
There are so many different things that go into making a “good shot” lighting, placement, framing, depth, focusing.. yada-yada. You kind of just figure it out as you go.
My advice would be to watch as many movies as you can (even ones you’ve already seen) and just pay attention. Scrutinize every detail in every shot. Think about what a shot accomplished then examine it and see what went in to making it. Just try to understand what whoever made the shot was thinking when they made it. The pros know what they’re doing and unlike in other industries, there are no secrets. The nature of film is that you can see everything that’s being done. Learn from it.
There are some rules and concepts that are commonly used that you may want to look up like the rule of thirds, the 180 degree rule, the strong and weak sides of an image, the names for the different distances of shots (super wide, wide, medium, close, super close etc.) and depth of field. But as you learn about these, understand that they are not absolute laws. They’re helpful as guidelines but your gut is more useful.

Avatar of Jonathan Shank
Jonathan Shank on July 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Thanks for the thorough answer!

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Jesse on July 4, 2012 at 3:58 am

Everything Andy said is spot on advice. I would also say to just start shooting and shoot often. Like Andy said, you learn as you go along. When I first started I had no real idea what a good shot looked like. But after lots of practice and time, I just sort of developed an eye for it after seeing what worked and what didn’t.

Avatar of O'Ryan McEntire
O'Ryan McEntire on July 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Great Answer Andy (@stapleshotz)

If the shot is composed, lit and held properly it will deliver what the story needs in that moment. Learning some of the common framing and shot rules you can better hone your skills and gut. Remembering also that rules are meant to be broken but, you must first understand them and why they exist to know how and when it’s good to break them.

Another tip I would add is to watch your favorite movies on mute this will allow you to focus on why the shots work and what they are saying with out the distraction of the audio/dialogue. This will also expose a lot of the edit points. It’s also very important to understand the edit process as a cameraman, as well. Understanding why you need certain shots will help you better decide how to capture them.

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