Basic Shots

Basic Shots

What We See

Every picture is viewed the same way. By understanding how people look at and gather information from pictures you can direct the eye and present a message without words.

Every visual, like every story, is made up of three key components. BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END. What you need to do is decide what is your SUBJECT and how people view it.

When looking at this picture what do you notice first, next and last?

Visual Storytelling Tools

Use the tools below to help you direct the eye and construct clear visual stories.

Focus Statements


Create simple three word statements. It's an effective and efficient way to ensure you know what you want to shoot.

Focal Point

More commonly referred to as where the camera is focused, is important because eyes are obviously drawn to what is sharp. Amateurs often rely too heavily on Auto Focus to capture their images which often leads to their subjects being slightly out of focus. Pay close attention to your focal point to ensure a quality picture.

Rule of Thirds

By creating an imaginary grid and placing your subject at one of the intersect points, you can help draw eyes to your subject. This tool also helps create a balanced picture.

How it Works

So how does this help you? Let's look at a couple of examples. Below are two pictures, both have the same general subject - a student is holding a container. However they both convey two very distinct messages using focal point or rule of thirds.


Depicts the idea that the most important thing is "what's in the container"


Sends us the message that the student who is holding the container is the focus of the image.


Our eyes are inevitably drawn to light. So if you want someone to look at something first make sure it’s lit well!


Our eyes are naturally drawn to the biggest objects in the picture. If you want people to notice it first, make it BIG!


Want people to notice your subject without using size or light? Contrasting colors and/or shapes can highlight your subject.

Fine Detail

​After the larger parts of the picture our eyes wander the photo looking for any other information that conveys the message.


Extreme Wide (Landscape)

An Extreme Wide helps the audience understand general location of a story. It also helps frame the period of time the story takes place in.

Wide (Environment > Subject)

A Wide shot establishes the subject in relation to the surrounding environment. It can also still hide specific details.

Medium (Subject>Environment)

A Medium shot will be used to emphasize the subject, while still allowing the audience to distinguish where things are happening.

Close Up (Details and Emotion)

These shots are used to bring details to the forefront of the audiences minds or when trying to convey specific emotions.

Extreme Close Up (Specific Detail)

Use this shot when you want to show only one detail. The audience will be forced to look at one and only one thing.

Control the Message!

Framing is such a powerful tool. It can drastically change the outcome of your photo and alter the messaging. Remember "with great power comes great responsibility".

Go Extreme!

Understanding the difference between the two extremes will help you frame the proper message. Can you spot the differences between the two example below?

Check the Fine Print

No matter how good the picture is sometimes those fine details can sneak in an distract viewers from the message. High production value can only be achieved by those who pay attention to the details.

Parting Shots

Before we wrap this lesson up and move onto our activity, lets review what makes great visual storytelling. It doesn’t matter if you’re a big Hollywood production, designing a poster, shooting a photo or video, “The Basics” are something everyone uses.


​Simple Statements to focus your message.


​What in your picture is in focus?


​An imaginary grid with intersect points.


​Simple tools to help focus messages.


Control the field of view.


Project Duration: 1 Day | Groups: 1 (max) | Media : 10 Photos | Difficulty: Beginner

Task: Choose one of the following focus statements to capture a photo using each of the five framing techniques. Compose each shot using the rule of thirds. Upload your photos for review.

Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of basic visual storytelling through 5 photos.


Focus Statements

  • Student drinks water
  • Student reads book
  • Student ties shoes
  • Student recycles bottle
  • Student eats snacks



  • Extreme Wide Shot
  • Wide Shot
  • Medium Shot
  • Close Up Shot
  • Extreme Close Up Shot