What is an extreme long shot?

An extreme long shot (ELS), or an extreme wide shot (EWS) is a framing that coves a very large area. The subject or objects are in the background of the shot if they’re at all present.

The emphasis is on the surroundings, may they be deserts, cityscapes, or even the vast emptiness of space, like in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. This type of shot conveys information about the location and time of the scene, and the character’s relationship to the environment.

Use of an extreme long shot

This shot is often used to help the audience place the character in their environment and help provide context. This could be done by showing the landscape, the scale of structures, the technology, etc. The ELS can capture a lot of info at once, making it a popular choice for establishing shots.

While close-ups or even standard shots tend to direct the audience’s attention, extreme long shots leave decoding the message up to the viewer. The longer the distance of the shot, the more complex meaning can be conveyed and discovered.

The audience isn’t given much guidance on what to observe and how to interpret things. They can gain a more overall understanding of the surroundings.

An ELS can also share several details very quickly, due to the sheer amount of information that fits in the frame. This is often utilized in epic action or battle scenes, usually with a huge number of extras. Two armies clashing from the two sides, and the viewer can barely keep up with all the action on the screen. This specific trope is common in both action and fantasy, for example in Lord of the Rings.

If there’s only one person or a few people in an extreme long shot, they can appear lost, lonely and small. The characters are dwarfed by the world around them, and this conveys a sense of insignificance to the viewer.

Summary

Be it the psychological aspect, or showing off the environment you’re looking for, an extreme long shot is definitely a choice to consider. Are you ready to take the shot? Check out Masterclass’s article on wide shots and extreme wide shots.