You can think of long shots as your big picture shots. The job of this particular type of framing is to bring your audience into the world you’re creating on film. Unlike close-ups or medium shots, they show a comprehensive view of the scene.
Originally, long shots were part of the earliest filmmaking techniques in feature film because they function similarly to pulling up the curtain on a stage play. The audience sees everything, and they know where the story’s headed. “Long shots allow you to show your style — wardrobe, set, cinematography, camera angle — they let you fly your flag as a filmmaker,” says videographer Lisa Bolden.
While some long shots are establishing shots (scenes designed to be the opener of a new section of your film), this is not always the case. Long shots can convey a feeling — think Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, where you are often treated to long shots of characters running along plains and mountains, demonstrating the scale of their quest. “Typically, you’re only using it at the beginning of a scene,” says director Alicia J. Rose, “but it can also be used to work out other continuity issues or confusing elements in a scene.”
At the end of the day, a long shot is about giving your audience context to more fully experience the film you’re making. Here’s what makes for a good one.