What is a medium shot?
A medium shot (MS) is when the subject's waist and head fit the frame. The lower half of the frame shows from above the waist and not higher than the chest. The top of the frame ends just above the head. That's a general description of the medium shot. There are many variations of this shot for different purposes. The most common ones you can read about in the section below. It's a middle ground between a close-up and a long shot.
Different types of MS
• Medium close-up: shows a character from chest to just above the head and a very little background.
• American shot/cowboy shot: Almost the same as a medium-long. The bottom of the frame shows where cowboys would park their guns on their waist. The top of the frame ends above the hat.
• Medium long shot: shows a subject from knees to just above the head and more of the set than the Medium close-up.
• Over the shoulder shot: You need two characters. One to be in the frame, another one to position the camera over or behind the shoulder.
• Two-shot: shows two characters usually side by side or facing one another.
• Point of view shot: Shows action through the eyes of a character.
• High angle shot: camera angled down on a subject.
• Low angle shot: camera angled up towards a subject.
If you want a more visual look, the Media collage shows a variety of shot types.
Why use a medium shot?
The medium shot is the most common one used in films. It's close enough to see facial expressions and wide enough to see the setting. You know who is where and what is going on in the background, which gives a nice balance. It's a great way to capture conversations and a few characters at once. The shot's nature makes it an excellent middle ground when cutting between a wide and a close-up.