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One of the first things that students of photography need to master is the various types of shots that they can employ to best capture the essence of their subject and deliver what they envisaged for the photo.
The long shot is used in both photography and videography. It is a powerful way of instantly communicating a sense of space and atmosphere in an image and can be used to great effect in many different contexts.
So what is a Long Shot?
A long shot is a photograph that includes the entire body of the subject of the image. Contrary to what the name might sound like, it doesn’t necessarily refer to the distance from which the photo is taken. So it doesn’t mean a photograph taken from a long way away, although it could be; instead it means a shot that frames the whole body of the subject.
The subject of a long shot can be anything from a person to an animal or even a building.
A long shot is a highly effective method of showing where the subject is and what the surrounding environment is like. This plays an important role in creating a strong narrative within a single photo.
Why is it called a ‘Shot’?
We take a ‘good shot’ with our camera, work on a ‘photoshoot’ and can use a long ‘shot’ to frame an image; but why is it called a shot in the first place? The reason for the near ubiquitous use of the word ‘shot’ in photography dates back to the early days of film.
In the past, cameras were operated with a hand crank which was compared to the old hand cranked machine guns of the Wild West! And so, just as a gunman with a machine gun would ‘shoot’ bullets, the cameraman would ‘shoot’ film! From the world of film the word quickly became a mainstay of the photography industry and today is used by people all over the world to refer to the act of taking a photo!
Long Shots in Context.
A long shot is only one of many types of shots and is best understood in the context of the others. Any photographer must consider the type of shot that they are going to use before they even take a photo! The kind of shot that is employed plays an absolutely central part of any composition because the entire meaning of an image can dramatically change depending on the shot used.
- Extreme Long Shot – the subjects of the photo are tiny in the photo and are dwarfed by their surroundings in the picture.
- Long Shot – captures the entire subject and gives the viewer an understanding of the environment in which they are in.
- Medium Long Shot – the photo does not include the entirety of the subject. If it were a portrait of a person the frame would be cut off around the level of their knees.
- Medium Shot – the frame only captures the subject from their waist up.
- Medium Close-up Shot – the subject of the photo is only shown from the shoulders upwards.
- Close-up Shot – the image is framed around the face and only the shoulder line is shown in the photograph.
- Extreme close-up Shot – a very tightly framed photo that only shows the face from the subject’s forehead down to their chin.
The Basic Long Shot – 3 Examples.
In a long shot the subject of the photo is always shown in their entirety and there’s always at least a hint of the environment that they are set in.
The woman standing on a pier on a sunny day. You can clearly understand the environment around her which sets the mood for the photo. The entirety of her body is shown in the photo making this a good example of a basic long shot photo.
The photograph of a horse in a meadow is an excellent example of a long shot. The entirety of the horses’ bodies are shown in the frame and the scene in which they are set is clearly laid out. The valley falling way behind the horses’ meadow gives a good sense of place and paints an image of a classically pastoral scene.
In this stunning photo of the Taj Mahal in the morning mist the real subject of the photo is the building itself, with the tiny human figures in the foreground making up part of the setting as opposed to be the central feature of the image. This photo is a long shot because it portrays the entire building and gives the audience a good feel for the gravitas of the architectural work.
What is the Difference Between a Long Shot and a Wide Shot?
Technically there is no difference between a long shot and a wide shot since the two terms are used interchangeably in both film and photography. A long shot is also called a ‘full shot’ sometimes, particularly in the context of portraiture.
Why Use A Long Shot?
When you are choosing what type of framing you want to use for a photo the answer will often come to intuitively, especially as you develop your skills and experience. When you use a long shot you are able to give the viewer more information about the scene in which the subject finds themselves and this allows you to create interesting narratives within your work. By using the environment, even in very simple ways, you can build pathos, a sense of tension or a feeling of foreboding.
Long shots are not only useful for delivering a narrative about a human or animal subject but are also frequently used in landscape and architectural photography. A great landscape picture, where a mountain might be the subject, is usually improved by including the sky around it. Similarly, to give a building context and to portray its place in the scenery you would also use a long shot.
By using a long shot you can illustrate the power of nature, the turn in a river or the beautiful patterns of the clouds at sunset.
The Long Shot – A Central Tool For All Photographers.
The long shot is not restricted to one or even a few genres and is used right across the board. Framing the subject using a long shot gives context to the photo, establishes their place in the scenery and gives the viewer an insight into their relationship to the space they inhabit. This universal technique is one of the most valuable tools for photographers, both hobbyist and professional, in creating atmospheric photos with engaging narratives and a strong sense of place.
Do you like taking long shot photographs?
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