What is an establishing shot?
Establishing shots are typically wide or extreme wide shots of buildings or landscapes. These shots might include signage, landmarks, or other obvious signals of place and time. They can help convince your audience that your film’s action is taking place in a cafe in Paris or a cantina on Tatooine instead of a soundstage in L.A.
What makes an establishing shot successful?.
For an establishing shot to work it needs to:
- Make it clear where the action takes place.
- Show the scene’s geography.
- Establish the mood.
These photographic elements combine to place your viewer in the film, providing them with context to understand what’s happening – sometimes without any dialogue required. Whether you’re working on a film, TV series, documentary or animation, a successful establishing shot is key to keeping the audience’s attention.
It’s similar to how the first few pages of a book need to be gripping to avoid the reader putting it down. The establishing shot must engage the audience from the start.