Medium Wide Shot

A guide to camera shot sizes for filmmakers

Medium wide shots are also referred to as medium long shots. Wider than medium shots and tighter than wide shots, they show one or more characters from approximately the knees up.

How medium wide shots can be used

Medium wide shots are often used for group shots and two shots.
A medium wide shot offers the opportunity to show the body language of the characters and imply their facial expressions while still being wide enough to include the characters’ surroundings. That makes them suitable for emblematic shots.

example for medium wide shot

The body language of the character on the right and the way the police officer is looking at him tell us that the character on the right is the one in trouble in this scene. The shot is wide enough to include the box on the left, i.e., the reason why he is being held in custody.

Combining characters and their surroundings

Medium long shots unite body language, a hint of facial expressions, and the characters’ surroundings. Therefore, they are often used if a narrative or expository point should be presented to the audience through the combination of those three visual elements.

example for medium wide shot

This shot points out that this is just another normal elevator ride in an office building, despite the appearance of one of the co-workers.

Two shots

The most common shot sizes for two shots are medium long shots, medium shots, and close-ups. By deciding which shot size to use for a two shot, you can add a narrative layer.
By offering enough space in the frame, the medium long shot is suitable for establishing the interpersonal dynamics between characters by the way they are positioned. The shot shows not just two people together in a frame but also how they are placed in relation to each other. Their facial expressions are recognizable but they are not the main focus in this shot.

example for medium wide shot

The positioning of the two people a little away from each other, in combination with their body language and facial expressions, tells you that this moment has a certain tension.

Group shots

Next to the long shot, a medium long shot is often used for group shots containing three or more people. Compared to the long shot, the medium long shot pays less attention to the setting the group is in and more to the individuals’ facial expressions.
The characteristics of a medium long shot for a group shot are similar to those for a two shot: The way the characters are placed within the shot composition tells the audience about the relations between them.

example for medium wide shot

Four people talking at a wedding: By the way they are positioned in the frame and what their faces and body language express, you can sense a certain tension between them.

Emblematic shot

Medium long shots, like long shots, are a suitable size for the concept of emblematic shots.
Emblematic shots intend to confer complex, connotative ideas into single images. By the arrangement of the characters and other visual elements in the frame, such as certain props or the shot’s setting, the image itself provides deeper insight into how the characters feel and what drives them.
A medium long shot is wide enough to include the characters’ surroundings and thereby contextualize the characters and their setting but also narrow enough that the facial expression is visible and thereby can contribute to the message of the shot.

example for medium wide shot

He unjustly suspects his neighbors of illegal actions and observes them while he calls the police. By showing parts of his orderly home and the neat way he is dressed, the shot increases the impression that this character tends toward anticipatory obedience.


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