Extreme Long Shot: 7 Ways How Best Directors Use Extreme Long Shot

Have you ever wondered what merit can you bring to your film by using Extreme Long Shot? What function it has or what kind of emotions can you convey? Well, I am going to walk you through a detailed description of seven ways how extreme long shot influences the audience.


Its proper name is Extreme Long Shot, sometimes called wide shot. At the beginning of the film, it was the default size of the shot. In the early 1900s with the coming of feature-length films, the long shot became less frequent. During the “second avant-garde” in the middle 1940s Italian Neorealist were using this type of shot often to convey the existence of an objective world. Later in the 1960s, there was a bigger inquiry for wide screen and extreme long shots use increased because of competition with television, that couldn´t offer the same framing. In modern cinema, it became part of the film language that any director can use in the context of the story.


  • Extreme Long Shot – the human body is indistinguishable or very small
  • Establishing Shot – It is a rather function. A shot typically used to display a location and is usually the first shot in a new scene.
  • Master Shot – Shot where all relevant characters are in the frame for the duration of the whole scene.



If we show the whole landscape, interior from afar, we can immediately find orientation, on where will the next story take place, developed by closer shots. The panoramic shot usually hints there is an epic story ahead. Extreme long shot enables us to include the environment which will show in later shots only its part. It creates essential spatial relationships for a viewer who can travel around the environment by himself. It also affects acting style where the gestures should be theatrical to be visible.

  1. Extreme long shot functions as an omen in a story for example: If we show a house with many floors and stairs, and later in the story character dies falling out the stairs.
  2. Extreme long shot replaces a map, calendar, watches and weather forecast. For example: if we show a meeting of horse riders on a small station, we know it is Wild West, morning, spring and beautiful weather.
  3. Its informational function is that extreme long shot places human to the ratio of geographical conditions and in the context determines his relationship to the outside world, which is in this size of shot dominant.
  4. Another function of the extreme long shot shows a human lost in a landscape or architecture who are testing him.
  5. The last main function of a long shot is the special ability to open and close each film sequences and especially whole films. It is very effective because long shots have the highest information capacity and you can quickly establish a film story.
  6. Opening shots that are in a size of extreme long shots are called establishing shots and their only function is informational. This is a very basic technique, however, a lot of master filmmakers are avoiding this technique just to find their way how to do it. It is important to always look at the context of the whole scene to understand what it really means.
  7. Extreme long shot as the closing shot will give generalizing feeling to the ending. It will make characters let live their lives as normal people.

! Not enough long shots in the movie can cause disorientation; can make abstruse jumps in space and time. On the other hand, too many extreme wide shots can bore the audience because it doesn´t allow penetration into deeper meanings of each sequence.


An important part of these extreme long shots is shape and rhythm in composition. As you will see in picture examples director of photography is looking for a composition that will not only reflect the character but also how the image makes look alive.

  • PATTERN: A regular repetition of lines, shapes, colours, or values in a composition.
  • RHYTHM: In much the same way music does, a piece of art can have a rhythm or underlying beat that leads your eye to view the artwork at a certain pace. Look for the large underlying shapes (squares, triangles, etc.) and repeated colour and movement.

man taking picture of repetition model


In horror movies, it usually means huge alienation of the character, while in romance long shot can mean that they are in a happy place. In western movies, it established a harsh environment by the structure, lines and pattern of the background landscape.



woman in the dark landscape

This is a scene from “Jane Eyre” (2011) when she left Mr. Rochester. In the background, you can see the storm that symbolizes her confused emotions.


Lawrance from Arabia scene in desert

In this scene from “Lawrence of Arabia”, there is created a huge suspension of the man riding a horse coming towards the characters in the foreground. This shot hints at the complete story twist, introducing an entirely new thread of action.

In this shot, there is so-called composition inside a shot, where the size of the character develops from an Extreme wide shot to a medium-size shot.


Melancholia environment

This is an establishing shot from Melancholia by Lars von Trier, presage of the end. The shape of the environment underlines hopelessness, there is nowhere to go. I see it this way because the water usually symbolizes freedom but here you have a closed composition.


man running across a dry field

This scene from “The Master” by Paul Thomas Anderson, shows the protagonist runs away after he caused another problem. Dry soil he is running on symbolizes his empty character with no remorse.


jesus on the cross in jerusalem

This is a scene martyrdom of Christ from “Mary Magdalene” film, the climax of the film is established through the extreme long shot.


In this extreme long shot from the film “Seopyeonje” the character takes a last look at his leaving sister before running away from a cruel man. Director used this extreme long shot instead of close-ups of brother and sister to emphasize the upcoming two years they won´t see each other.


All in all extreme long shot communicate their meaning always based on the context of the film. I highly suggest you take your favourite film and look for long shots and see what the character is doing, feeling and thinking.


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