I know it as the American shot or American wide, but what are some other names?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a term usually used in cinema (see wikipedia. Do you mean it in that context? I've never heard of it in a still photography context, although I suppose it could apply to group portraits. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 1:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Wikipedia article has a disclaimer regarding missing references, so it could be just one editor's opinion. There is a historical reason why the term developed in cinematic context, but as a notion of composition I don't see why these terms couldn't be used in photography (especially 3/4). \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a fun note, the American or cowboy shot was made to show the guns on the belt holster. \$\endgroup\$
    – philberndt
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 9:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ And the phrase was coined by the French filmmakers that detested American cowboy movies. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 18:23

1 Answer 1


First, those terms aren't exact synonyms. A 3/4 shot is any image where subject has been cropped at around the knees. American shot is sometimes used to specifically refer to composition where several subjects in interaction (e.g. partners in dialogue) have been cropped that way; and sometimes, it is indeed used more loosely as a synonym for 3/4 shot.

Richard W. Kroon's A/V A to Z: An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Media, Entertainment and Other Audiovisual Terms offers terms medium length shot and medium full shot as alternative to three-quarters shot.

The same dictionary suggests cowboy shot could be used when referring to an American shot. Both terms are inspired by the technique being frequently used American western movies in order to keep both face and gun (on belt) in the frame. Other sources, such as Ian Freer's list of camera shots or Videomaker, disagree and consider "cowboy shot" to mean depiction of a duel situation where one of the protagonists is very close to camera, large part of body cropped away but gun prominently displayed, and another is visible further away.

I'd probably call them knee-length portraits (example of the term used here).


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