9 Scenes from 'Jaws' That Will Show You How Spielberg Does Cinematography

Clearly Steven Spielberg is a legendary director with a style all his own, but compared to other filmmakers with cinematic techniques more -- flashy and pronounced than his (I'm looking at you Wes Anderson), it's easy to be unfamiliar with what gives his films that Spielbergness.

Probably one of the most notable cinematographic moves that just screams Spielberg is the tracking shot, namely ones that follow subjects sideways across the frame. However, there are so many others, like blocking changes, characters moving planes (especially into the foreground), and shooting a "frame within a frame."  breaks down a bunch of scenes from a film full of these quintessential Spielberg techniques -- Jaws. Check it out below!

If you want to learn more about the trademark cinematic techniques Spielberg used in his films (cinematography, themes, editing, etc.), you can check out some posts we've done in the past, including the editing done on Raiders of the Lost Ark, as well as a full breakdown of the lesser known long take, the "Spielberg oner"    

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Your Comment


Well, that's interesting. So rules are really meant to be broken down !

February 9, 2015 at 8:25PM


shouldn't at least some the credit go to Bill Butler, the CINEMATOGRAPHER of Jaws?

February 10, 2015 at 6:45PM


Interesting stuff! Analyzing Spielberg's blocking is always worthwhile. I would argue, though, that the axis is NOT broken at 30:07 -- it's re-established, in a great moment of surprise for Hooper and the viewer. When Quint grab's Hooper's hands his eye-line is right-to-left. In the next shot -- the one marked "Axis Break" -- it begins, on-axis, with Quint's eye-line continuing right-to-left, but Quint suddenly swings Hooper around to his left, in the same shot, creating a new axis with his eye-line now traveling left-to-right. Continuity is always maintained, but the shift in axis is used to great effect. A really clever, and simple trick there. Anywho, thanks for the video!

February 10, 2015 at 7:17PM


if you understand the rules then you can do whatever the hell you want!

February 11, 2015 at 2:13PM

Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op

This is awesome. Thank you sweet adorable baby Jesus for the internet.

February 11, 2015 at 9:27PM

Dantly Wyatt
Writer, Director, Content Creator.

"Handheld camerawork is usually avoided" -- sort of true, except that everything at sea in this movie was shot handheld. It's so skillfully done it doesn't look handheld. Spielberg was persuaded by his cinematographer that tripod shots on a boat would make the audience seasick, so they went handheld, compensating for the rock of the boat so that it's actually smoother.

February 21, 2015 at 2:44AM