Written By:

Top 5 Rules in Camera Composition Framing for Filmmakers

Filmmakers have a lot of options when it comes to camera composition framing and how they will arrange a shot. Understanding the most intricate balance and rules of professional camera composition framing is important for filmmakers because this is how professional films appear so unique and well managed. This requires paying close attention to the location of various elements within the shot, what’s occurring around the edges of the frame, and what’s happening in the background.

Videographer Prepping Camera Gear 199

Here are 5 rules in camera composition framing that we believe every filmmaker should know, and use:

1. The Rule of Thirds

Probably one of the most widely recognized rules in camera composition framing, the rule of thirds represents a core composition technique that really can’t be overlooked. But what does it actually mean?

The rule of thirds means that, when you divide your frame into three sections vertically and three sections horizontally, the subject should be placed at an intersecting point. So, for example, you can place your subject at the first intersection or the last, the top interaction or the bottom, as long as you’re using the intersecting points as a guideline for the placement of your subject.

2. Keep Subject Eyes on a Horizontal Line in Rule of Thirds

Videographer Prepping Camera Gear 205

As a general rule, when using camera composition framing, it’s a good idea to make sure that the subject’s eyes are on a horizontal lines.  What this does is creates a more natural appearance on the screen for your subject, even if the environment or scene is unnatural. 

Equally important, is to make sure that the subject’s eyes are along a horizontal interaction point because humans are drawn to make connections with human eyes, thus making sure that your subject’s eyes are properly placed on the screen will draw in the audience’s eyes.

3. Use Balance & Symmetry Sparingly to Draw Attention

Understanding the rule of thirds when it comes to camera composition framing also means you know how to break the rule of thirds, too! While breaking the rule, and using balance and symmetry in you shot to draw attention to the center of the screen can evoke a sense of tension among the audience. This rule can also be used to create an instant sense of overwhelmingness.

4. Use Angles to Guide the Eyes

Just as the camera composition framing of a shot that brings the subject to the rule of thirds, filmmakers can also use angles and perspective to draw attention or lead the eyes to a particular area of a scene. The use of a horizontal hallway, or some other angle can be used to create a perspective that naturally draws the eyes down the corridor. This is important if a specific point of the scene is of importance.

5. Let Distance Denote Power

Finally, camera composition framing isn’t always about thirds, or angles, or drawing the eyes. Sometimes the  use of a camera and the way that we capture the subject can denote power in a film. The size of a filmed object is directly connected to the importance of the object in a story. A bigger object, then, represents a more important role.

The same with distance. The further away something is, the less important it is. Closer distances denotes something more powerful and important. Camera composition framing can then be used to isolate a character, bringing a particular camera close while others are distanced in the background.

Think of all of these rules in camera composition framing before filmmaking to get the most out of your camera angles, shots, scenes, and frames!