Our top tips for improving your shot composition: The ultimate guide.

The ultimate guide to shot composition in film

Framing and shot composition are integral to shooting a great film. It is essential to perfect the art of composition to ensure you capture the best possible shots for your film. 

It’s not just a standard function; there are art and nuance that comes with composing a shot. You need to find the right balance of depth and the correct elements within the frame to tell a poignant story so that the audience will be on the edge of their seats wanting more.

In this article, we will dig deep into shot composition as a critical element of filmmaking. We will discover what shot composition is and look at the key tips to improving your shot composition.

What is shot composition? 

Shot composition is the way in which you compose a shot for a scene. It refers to the way you arrange elements within the frame to help you convey a message to your audience. 

Our top tips for improving your shot composition

The ultimate guide to shot composition in film

Here are a few of our top tips to help you improve your shot composition. If you use these tips to help you picture your shot before filming, it will help you create a much better picture. 

Remember that what your camera will see the audience sees as well. That’s why you need to make sure you have your shot composition nailed on before production. 

Here’s the list below. 

Leading Lines

Leading lines in your shot composition are a subtle way to tell the audience where to look, and helps them to interpret the shot. 

Leading lines are everywhere, from the pavement to a river. These lines help direct you as a viewer but also work to produce depth to the frame. 

If you are looking to film a poignant scene that involves an approach or a character leaving, leading lines are a great way to direct the audience and add the depth you need to put a core focus on the action.

Symmetry and balance

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Symmetry itself is seen as perfection, and the human brain responds to this pretty well. It creates a sense of balance and tranquility. 

Symmetry is ideal for conveying a sense of perfection or beauty in a shot. It creates a focal point, and if you place your subject directly in the middle of the shot, it creates a strong focus on the subject while extenuating the beauty surrounding them.

It’s one of the only reasons you should break the rule of thirds. More on the rule of thirds below!

Remember not to use symmetry too often, as it can take away the poignance it brings to your shot composition. Using symmetry and balance will capture your audience’s attention and portray the focal point of that shot impeccably.  


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Depth is an exciting concept when it comes to shot composition. Why do filmmakers use depth to tell a story? 

Depth is used to establish your shot. It shows you what’s in your character’s world. It gives a bit of information to the audience about who the character is, and what world they live in.

Sometimes you will want the depth to be shallow and only show the character in the shot. This is when you want to add emotion and allow the audience to feel what the character’s going through.

The scene’s depth is affected by the lens type you use in the shot and the scene’s location. You’ll decide on what lens to use depending on the scene and what that scene entails. 

The choice of depth will allow the audience to focus on what you deem important, so if it’s an establishing shot – your audience will focus on where the character is. If it’s an extreme close up, your audience will focus on the character’s emotion. 

More on the different types of camera angles to tell your story can be found here in this article:

A guide to framing: 6 essential camera angles to tell your story

The rule of thirds

Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is quite a well-known principle when it comes to shot composition. This idea is that you put the points of interest within each third of your screen. 

These points are easy to access on your camera screen by altering your screen settings. It will produce nine squares, which are essentially three thirds, horizontally and vertically. 

The reason for using such a simple idea is not to overindulge the shot in unnecessary distractions. It enables you to pick three critical aspects of the shot and only focus on them. 

Framing at eye level

The ultimate guide to shot composition in film

Framing at eye level allows you to align the audience with the character’s eye level. It will enable the audience to ponder how they’d feel if they were in the shoes of that character. 

Subconsciously it makes you think that you are equal to the character and connects you to the character to consider your feelings if you were put into the same situation.


Headroom in your shot composition is to keep enough room in between the top of your frame and the character’s head. If you cut the top of their head off, it portrays a cramped, claustrophobic feeling. 

When you break this, it’s usually on a closeup or an extreme close up when you want to focus on your character’s emotions and feelings. 

Our Overview – The Snapshot

Overall, the more you follow these rules, the better your filmmaking will become. I mean, don’t always follow the rules, as they’re there to be broken, but make sure you understand the rule inside out before breaking them. 

Filmmaking is a creative art, and shot composition is an integral part of achieving your goal of filming a high-quality movie. 

Use the rules above, and you will improve your filmmaking skills no end. Happy filmmaking!

We hope this article was useful to you. Let us know in the comments what you want to hear about next, and while you are here, why not check out some of our best filmmaking articles below. 

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Jay Neill

Jay Neill is the founder, owner, and managing editor of iFilmThings and believes everyone should have access to the film resources they need to plan their filmmaking project, which is why he’s dedicated iFilmThings to helping all filmmakers.

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