Every good filmmaker knows that mastering the basics (and lots of practice) will help improve their work. If you’re getting started in the world of filmmaking, then try out these beginner camera exercises to make sure your skills develop much faster.

What You Need:

  • A good camera (any model will do)
  • Actors (willing family members or friends would be great)

Camera Drill 1: Learning How to Frame Close-ups

You’ll need two actors for this. Start with practicing by doing a halfway close-up, just above the shoulders and about halfway to the forehead. Afterwards, practice doing extreme close up shots of your actors. Extreme close-ups are somewhere between the chin or below the lower lip and up just above the eyebrows. The actors shouldn’t be static. They should be talking or moving objects around while sitting down etc. The point is for you to get comfortable with framing and establishing framing quickly even if you have to move the camera around for a bit and quickly returning to the same frame shot.

This is a basic shot but experienced filmmakers benefit from drills like this and beginners will gain more confidence with it.

Camera Drill 2: Maintaining Framing While Subjects Move

You’ll need two actors for this practice. Let them have a casual conversation or tell each other jokes while walking or moving around. Practice framing an over-the-shoulder shot while doing this and maintaining the frame as much as possible. Of course, you can also inject your own style but for now learn to properly frame the shot even while your subjects move. Don’t worry if the footage is shaky, pick it apart and study your frame so you can learn what to improve next time. You can also create versions of this using different lenses and distances between subjects. The goal again is for you to be able to frame moving shots quickly.

Camera Drill 3: Learning Smooth Track-In Shots

You just need one actor to practice this shot. You can use a wide lens, a 25mm, and try walking up to your subject while ending with a close-up frame. Try practicing with a follow focus as well just to up your skills. Vary the speeds as well as the angles when you do variations of this shot. This will ensure you sharpen your skills much faster. Also try it out with different lenses. These shots will have a different feel from each other and your choices will depend on the mood and feel you’re trying to set or even the narrative you have.

Good filmmaking means understanding the basics. This includes knowing what good framing is and how it’s achieved. Every great director and filmmaker starts out as a beginner so make sure not to skip these practices.