I was trying to find out what a "wide shot" is. I figured it should be an industry standard term.

I searched Google with various search terms like:

  • photography what does it mean to take a wide shot
  • videography what does it mean to take a wide shot
  • videography photography what does it mean to take a wide shot

(In quoted material below, emphasis is mine).

I found this on Google (this was shown in full, at the top of the Google results):

Long shot - Wikipedia
In photography, filmmaking and video production, a long shot (sometimes referred to as a full shot or, and to remove ambiguity, wide shot) typically shows the entire object or human figure and is usually intended to place it in some relation to its surroundings.

Then below that, under "People also ask:", the next result I looked at was:

What does a long shot mean in film?
Definition: Long Shot - purdue.edu
LONG SHOT: In film, a view of a scene that is shot from a considerable distance, so that people appear as indistinct shapes. An extreme long shot is a view from an even greater distance, in which people appear as small dots in the landscape if at all (eg. a shot of New York's skyline).

And then I found this one:

What is the definition of very wide shot?
Camera Shots - Media College - mediacollege.com
EWS (Extreme Wide Shot) The view is so far from the subject that he isn't even visible. Often used as an establishing shot. VWS (Very Wide Shot) The subject is visible (barely), but the emphasis is still on placing him in his environment.

Then on another search:

Filmmaking 101: Camera Shot Types | B&H Explora
Extreme Long Shot (aka Extreme Wide Shot) Used to show the subject from a distance, or the area in which the scene is taking place. ... Medium Long Shot (aka 3/4 Shot) Intermediate between Full Shot and Medium Shot. Shows subject from the knees up.

Across all these definitions, there is very little agreement and a whole lot of conflicting statements.

I would tend to discount the Wikipedia definition, especially since some of the other results are about videography/photography/filmmaking education, but in this case, the Wikipedia definition seems to be one that could be correct.

Which is correct (for "wide shot"), and, what would be considered an "industry standard" source for terminology definitions?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Synonyms for long: telephoto, zoomed-in, telescopic, and tight. Synonyms for wide: zoomed-back, loose, full, and short. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stan
    Jul 10, 2018 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Long distance. Wide angle. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Jul 10, 2018 at 21:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about how terminology is used in a specific way by those who create motion pictures, rather than the different way the same terms may be used by those creating still images. This is a question for video.SE \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jul 11, 2018 at 3:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark - Other than the fact that I didn't say one way or another, I don't know why you assume my question was not about a still image, which it was. Why does the fact that long shot / wide shot can refer to still image photography and video / filmmaking make this off-topic. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2018 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KevinFegan Because all of the quotes in the question are in the context of motion picture usage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jul 11, 2018 at 17:55

2 Answers 2


[I need to come back to this with more time tomorrow & bring my almost famous bear & bookcase]

Long & wide are not polar opposites.

Either can be based on lens focal length and/or distance from the subject.

A wide shot is one that encompasses more than just the subject. It could be the whole room, an entire street, or a city-scape taken from a helicopter.
In video, this would be called an establishing shot, before closing in on the action of the next scene. Stills photography doesn't really have an equivalent, as usually each picture is meant to stand alone.

Let's take just 'a room' as a simple example.
One person standing in a room. You want to show a lot of 'context' i.e. the room, with a small subject.
In a large room, you can achieve a wide shot by simply moving the camera away. Done.
In a small room, where you don't have the space to create that distance, instead you would use a wide lens - one with a focal length under 24mm or so.

The opposite of 'wide' is, in fact 'tight'.
In our room example, just a shot of the subject's upper body, or even ECU [extreme close up] just the head, or eyes.

A 'long shot' can be simply one taken from a large distance.
In itself, it doesn't describe how long the lens is - so a long shot can also be a wide shot.
It could also be a tight shot taken with a long lens.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Saving my +1 for when the bear arrives :-D \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Jul 10, 2018 at 18:32

All these terms are relative to the image you see with your eyes, un-aided. The term for this is "normal." Mathematically, the number used to represent this in a ratio with other views is 1. The "angle-of-view" is normal (~55° horizontally.)

There is agreement that any view that shows a greater magnification than what you see unaided is referred to as "long." It is also referred to as a telephoto or a telescopic view. The "angle-of-view" is narrow (less than 55°).

Conversely, any view that shows less magnification than what you see unaided is referred to as a "wide" shot. It is also referred to as a wide view and sometimes a panorama if the view is extremely wide. The "angle-of-view" is wide (more than 55°).

Here's a simple simulation: Stretch your arms in front of you and make a window with your fingers. You see this done as people simulate "framing" a shot as if they're making a movie of something interesting. As you look through the window toward something in the distance, you are simulating a "long" shot.

Move (Zoom) your frame closer to you and your simulation view is getting wider as you do. When your fingers get to your face, you have a normal view. If you could push your frame further without hurting yourself you'd have a wider than normal view.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer misses the specific context of the question (the cinematic term of art, which isn't inherently related to focal length). \$\endgroup\$ Jul 10, 2018 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cinematic usage when different from usage with regard to still imaging is specifically off-topic here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jul 11, 2018 at 3:24

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