When composing the frame, an early thought to consider is what should be included and what should be excluded from the shot. In deciding this, choices regarding scale of the dancer become important. As a rule of thumb, the further away you are from the dancer, the smaller they will appear on screen. Vice-versa, the closer you are, the larger they appear. By using closer shots to fill the screen with the dancer’s form you focus the eye and increase the power of the moving image. The following shot descriptions and corresponding clips help to define the various types of framing with regards to scale.

Establishing Shot

An establishing shot frames the dancer’s full body along with their spatial relationship to other dancers, objects and settings. Generally, this shot appears near the start of a scene and identifies the dancer’s environment by placing them in a time and space. This contextualization can be an important aspect of your dance on screen. It may be helpful to also think about the frame in terms of positive and negative space. Compositionally, if we consider the dancer to be the positive space, then this framing contains the most amount of negative space.

Establishing Shots

Extreme Wide Shot

The extreme wide shot frames the dancer’s full body and surrounding. This shot allows for large movement phrases to be fully contained inside the frame without fragmenting the body. This shot does not contain quite as much negative space as an establishing shot, but the negative space still outweighs the positive in this framing.

Extreme Wide Shot 1 (Hands)

Extreme Wide Shot 2 (Quirky Phrase)

Wide Shot

In a wide shot, a standing dancer fills nearly the height of the frame. This framing maintains additional space at the top and bottom of the frame allowing minimal movement by the dancer in the vertical plane. Larger movement would likely spill out of the frame either in the vertical or horizontal planes. For example, if the dancer were to relevé, their entire body would remain in the frame. But if they were to raise their arms, a portion of their arms would exit the frame.

Wide Shot 1 (Hands)

Wide Shot 2 (Quirky Phrase)

Medium Wide Shot

Medium wide shots frame relatively ¾ of the dancing body, for example, movement performed from the knees up. This type of framing is helpful when capturing two dancers in the same shot.

Medium Wide Shot 1 (Hands)

Medium Wide Shot 2 (Quirky Phrase)


Mid-shots frame about half of a dancer’s body. As an example, a mid-shot would show movement performed from the waist up (torso and arms) or waist down (legs and feet). This shot can also be used to frame contact moments of partnering work to enhance the action performed.

Mid-shot 1 (Hands)

Mid-shot 2 (Quirky Phrase)

Medium Close-up shot

Tighter than a mid-shot, a medium close-up shot might frame the shoulders and head or the lower legs and feet. When framing two dancers, a medium close-up shot can be used to show an over-the-shoulder perspective or to capture intimate moments of partnering work.

Medium Close-up Shot 1 (Hands)

Medium Close-up Shot (Quirky Phrase)

Close-up shot

Traditionally, a close-up shot frames a person’s head with maybe a little of the neck or shoulders. In a dance for the camera a close-up is used to zero in on the essence of the movement performed by any part of the body. A dancer centered in the frame will fill most of the canvas leaving very little negative space.

Close-up Shot 1 (Hands)

Close-up Shot 2 (Quirky Phrase)

Extreme Close-up shot

Extreme close-up shots are the tightest shots possible while still allowing the body to be in focus and movement to be registered. Examples of extreme close-up shots would be the movement of an eye, a shoulder circle, or the opening of a fist. More than likely, there will be no negative space involved in the composition as the dancer’s form will fill the entire screen.

Extreme Close-up Shot 1 (Hands)

Extreme Close-up Shot 2 (Quirky Phrase)

Scale Comparisons

It is important when organizing your shot list to consider shooting the same movement material in various scales, as it may be difficult to predict which scale will be most effective when editing. Following are scale comparisons of two different movement sequences. Take a look to determine which framing seems to be of interest to you.

Scale Comparison 1 (All Hands in Sequence)

Scale Comparison 2 (All Quirky Phrase in a Sequence)