CAMERA ANGLES: the Art of Manipulation

Whereas shot sizes direct who and what we see, camera angles affect how we perceive it. Is a character going to appear dominant and tall? Or short and weak? A strong weapon in the cinematographer’s arsenal is the ability to position the camera in relation to the subject or scenery.

Eyelevel Angle

An eyelevel angle is the one in which the camera is placed at the subject’s height, so if the actor is looking at the lens, he wouldn’t have to look up or down. Eyelevel shots are incredibly common because they are neutral. They often have no dramatic power whatsoever, thus they are ideal for romantic comedies and news casting.

eyelevel angle


Low Angle

Low angles are captured from a camera placed below the actor’s eyes, looking up at them. Low angles make characters look dominant, aggressive, or ominous.

low angle in matilda

High Angle

In a high angle, the camera is above the subject, looking down. This position makes characters look weak, submissive, or frightened. They are also good POVs of an adult looking at a child:

high angle in matilda

Dutch Tilt

Also called canted angle, a Dutch tilt has the camera leaning sideways, transforming the horizon into a slope. A Dutch tilt changes horizontal and vertical lines into diagonals and creates a more dynamic composition. Though rare, canted angles can be employed with great artistic effect to disorient and disturb the viewer.

dutch tilt rules of attraction

Point-of-View (POV)

As the name suggests, point-of-view shots are angles in which the camera incorporates a character’s eyes. POVs are usually preceded by a close-up of the character’s eyes.

The King's Speech POV microphone

Needless to say, cinematographers will choose different angles for different scenes within the same movie depending of the scene goal or purpose. When analyzing the camera angles used in a movie, it is wise to note how different angles are used in each scene.

Sometimes different angles will be chosen to emphasize different elements in the screen. For example, if an airplane flying overhead is of importance to the story, then filmmakers may choose to use a low-angle shot to show the sky and the plane.



  1. Janet Deaver says

    Without it being a true shot, how does the writer show an action that is a shot. The first line of my opening page has clothes that cover the lens, blocking the audience view then it pulls back to show the scene. I don’t use SHOTS in anything I write but try to incorporate it into an action. Help?

    • Gabe Moura says

      Hi Janet, thank you for your question. It’s always tricky when you want to direct the scene in the screenplay, as is this case. Here’s just one suggestion of how maybe you can incorporate the camerawork instructions without being too brash about it:

      “Some fabric obscures the view. [John] peels the [dress], tosses it on the floor, revealing a [messy room].”

      Now, I wasn’t really sure where the clothes “covering the lens” were in the story space… Are they being worn by someone? Are they just on the floor? Are they in a dryer? You will have to adjust to what makes sense in your story.

      Another thought: Don’t let questions like this slow down your writing. You may spend days trying to think of the best description for a scene that later on you realize will be completely different. Now, if you know you really want a scene to be shot a certain way, know that the omission of the camerawork will not diminish your screenplay. Even if you plant a nice visual in the reader’s mind, the director is likely to change whatever it is you suggest. So it is more important to focus on character and story, with a nice emphasis in writing style and pace. Good luck!

      EDIT: Also wanted to add that if you include too many references to shot and camerawork, that could indeed diminish your screenplay by hindering the reading flow as these detract from the story. It is safer to avoid them altogether. But if you are an avid reader of screenplays, you may learn just how much enough is enough, and more importantly, how to do it!

  2. Nik says

    Hey Gabe, quick question. I read your article about creating a shot list for a short film I’m working on and noticed under camera angle one of the boxes said “TH”. That’s the only one I can’t figure out. Do you know what it stands for?

    • Gabe Moura says

      Hi Nik, that’s a tricky one. I consulted with a friend, and we think “TH” stands for Tracking Horizontal. (Another friend guessed “The Hell” shot, but I think he was joking.)

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