Cinematographer & Filmmaker
Corey Steib
Why Shot Composition is so important
by Corey Steib on January 29th, 2017

As much as I love technology their is nothing more important then shot composition. One of the best things I learned in film school is shot composition as my instructors drilled it into us with hours and hours of hands on training. Of course you only get better over time and years working on different projects. 

So what is shot composition you ask (It refers to the frame of the image and how the elements of the mise-en-scène appear in it. Composition guidelines must be observed when telling stories visually, as in filmmaking.)

Rule of Thirds

Placing points of interest along one or more of the imaginary horizontal and vertical lines, or on one or more of the four intersections, your image will be more pleasing to look at.

Leading Lines

These imaginary lines, also called vertices, help lead your viewer's eye into your image, which creates depth -- a must for our dimensional medium. It creates a sense of kinesis and movement, which adds to your image's aesthetic energy.


Like leading lines, diagonals are vertices that lead your viewer's eye, but instead of them being lead into your image, they're lead across, which creates "movement". This is probably more important for still photography, but if you're shooting a static shot even if elements within the frame are moving.


You can use something natural, like windows and doors to create a frame within a frame.

Figure to Ground

We tend to notice things that contrast -- in fact, it's one of the main ideas in Gestalt psychology. By creating contrast between your subject and the background, you can create depth, as well as help your viewer orient the subjects within the space.

Fill the Frame

Get close! According to many aesthetic theories, the size of an object within the frame directly determines how much aesthetic energy (i.e. importance) it has: the bigger it is, the more "important" it is. (Remember also that this will be the first thing that your audience is most likely to look at.)

Center Dominate Eye

By positioning the dominant eye of your character in the center of the frame, it gives the illusion that it is following you.

Patterns and Repetition

Humans are naturally attracted to patterns -- I guess we don't like, or can't easily make sense of, chaos. So, using repetition will immediately attract your viewer to your image, but including an element that breaks the pattern will keep your images interesting and your audience engaged.

All of these points are like guidelines as their really is no rule per say. I once owned four cameras as each one did something a little different but my framing and story telling through the lens is what mattered over technology. You can see below the past two projects I have worked on and my framing for each one. Both of these films were wrote, shot and edited in 48 hours.
If you are interested in a more in depth breakdown video then check out this one by videomaker
So for any filmmaker starting out I would say pick up any camera that you have and start lining up shots and work on framing your subject. If anything pick up your phone and download an app like pcam or panavision where is allows you to see your frame through different lenses.

Before I became a cinematographer I cut my teeth as a camera assistant and film loader. This allowed me to understand framing and story telling through the lens and how each shot represents or tells something about the story. So go out and shoot, tell a story and most of all have fun doing it.

Posted in General    Tagged with Shot Composition, Framing


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