I understand the film "grammar" of shot types, framing, composition etc but don't understand what camera settings have to do with it.

This is one of the assessment criteria for a university project, Successful application of visual grammar through camera technique (including aperture, ISO, WB and shutter speed).

What sort of "visual grammar" applies to those camera settings? Focus, light, depth and so on are controllable but not really grammar. Maybe on dolly or steadicam shots, but that's outside of our basic (handheld/tripod) project.

Are the criteria just confusingly worded or am I missing something?

2 Answers 2


I'm not able to state a conclusive definition for "visual grammar", but I'd say camera settings have a quite relevant role on building it. Depth of field (aperture) is crucial for focusing on a subject; ISO may be used for obtaining a noisy image which can be used to say something (to look like an amateur, or a security camera, for instance); WB might be used for creating a specific environment (to look like morning, or some 70's tv imagery).

All these settings may have, therefore, a role on the way you tell a story. A good exercise would be to watch scenes you like and try to imagine the settings used, and why these were chosen.


I would say that the criteria are confusingly worded. They mix ideas incongruously. Camera settings can't really affect the shot composition or framing, because those will remain the same whether you have a high ISO or a very wide aperture. ISO, WB, and shutter speed can only be used to affect how bright your video/image is. Aperture can be used to influence the depth of focus (smaller aperture, the background will be more in focus). But yeah, I would say that you should probably ask your professor for clarification on this one.

  • Whitebalance is not used to influence brightness, you got that wrong. Aperture let's you alter the composition, I'd say, because you could make objects outside the depth of field blurry and therefore less noticable. Shutter speed affects how motion will look, it's not only an exposure parameter but has more creative potential.
    – Matt
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 21:31

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