Now let us address how the person’s eyes are looking straight at us. What might it mean if the person being recorded by the camera looks directly into the lens? How does it make you, the viewer, feel when you are addressed directly by on-screen talent? Of course, it may depend on the kind of project you are shooting or watching. If you are photographing a news reporter on location then it would make sense for the on-camera talent to look straight into the camera’s lens and deliver the factual report. The reporter makes a direct connection with you, the home audience, by looking you square in the eye and speaking the truth. Maybe you shoot a talk show host or footage for a do-it-yourself home makeover show with a crazy host — whoever it is, these television programming genres have an accepted rule that a person may look directly into the lens and address the viewer. Many call this style of camera work subjective shooting.
This is not so for scripted fictional narrative projects (at least for the most part — as you will grow to learn, there are often exceptions to the rules). With a fictional story, you have actors playing roles in a pretend world. The camera is almost always an observer, not a direct participant. The talent is not supposed to look directly into the lens — and often, not even near it. If an actor looks into the lens or addresses the camera, it is called “ breaking the fourth wall. ” If the camera were in a room recording the actions of a performer, the camera may see the back wall and the two side walls. The wall behind the camera, that is, the wall that should be physically in a place where the camera is positioned, is the “ fourth wall. ” It is the place from where the actions are being recorded and, ultimately, the place where the viewing audience is privileged to sit and observe the story. All on-screen talent behave as though the camera is not even there.
This style of camera work is often called objective shooting. For ease of demonstration, let us continue our medium close-up examples as though we are shooting for a fictional narrative film project where an objective shooting style is a goal. So let us take our subject’s eyes off the axis of the lens
This is a good start, but the face is still front on. This can cause a flattening to the facial features and is not always that flattering to talent or that interesting for the viewer. Let us put a small shift on how the talent is standing in relation to the camera.