Cinematography in Comics: Distance

Movies and comics are both visual mediums conveying a story; they both share image elements. A comic panel is like a cinematography’s camera shot, it’s the audience’s point of view. To effectively communicate an interesting, dynamic story, an artist must know the tools at their disposal. This two-part series discusses a few cinematography elements that can be utilized by comic artists. The series goes over the subjects of distance and height.


Extreme Long Shot- covers a wide area showing a considerable amount of background. It provides context for the scene, establishing location and character positions. I’ve mentioned an establishing shot before, they are an important visual device an artist uses to help the audience know where the action is taking place in a story.

The extreme long shot can convey different emotions, a bustling, crowded city gives an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, while a desert or desolate space station gives a sense of isolation.

Long Shot– shows the whole subject’s figure, from head to toe and displays a significant amount of background; placing the subject in relation to the environment and people around it.

The long shot is effective for action where the audience can see the entire tough, good guy punching out the bad guy.

Medium Shot- displays the subject(s) from either the knees or torso up, because who want to draw those pesky feet? It shows the subject(s) in relation to their environment.

The medium shot is useful when characters are conversing with each other. This medium shot is the most commonly used shot types.

This page from Phantoms’ Trail shows examples of long and medium shots. The first panel is an extreme long, the second panel is a long, the third is a medium, and the following are a variation of long and medium shots. It is common to start from a wider, long distance down to a narrower shot.

Example of Long and Medium Shots

Close-up- frames a single character’s face which fills the entire panel, capturing facial expression and emotions. It can also be used to draw a reader’s attention to a particular object relevant to the story.

The close-up is useful when only one character speaks and the focus is on them, the background is kept to a minimum.

Extreme Close-up-a zoom in showing a part of a larger object or character.

The extreme close-up is used to convey a single character’s raw emotion. You can really show how the character’s facial pores in these, yuck.

The following comic has a long, medium, then an extreme close-up, and concludes with a medium shot.

An example of a variety of shots.
The guys know better to let Yuki have that last piece of pizza.

Conveying a story with a mixture of cinematography distance shots creates an interesting, dynamic story. Sticking characters talking in a series of medium shots will bore your audience.

Next time around, I’ll cover the topic of height. Please send this article to those who would find it interesting.

Thanks for reading!

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