Even though romantic scenes can be a little awkward for your cast and crew, setting up the shots you'll need can be relatively painless if you know what works. In this video, cinematographer Zack Wallnau, who lensed the CW series I Ship It , goes over a handful of different camera and lighting setups that are not only feasible on an indie budget but effective at giving your audience that much-needed climactic release after an entire scene of mounting sexual tension. Check it out below:
Though a couple of these camera setups might seem like no-brainers (namely the two-shot right at the beginning), there's actually a lot going on aesthetically that makes the composition work for the scene. Let's talk about a few of them.
The two-shot, though simple, gives the audience the most valuable information out of any of the other shots: there are two people in a space and they are interacting. I know, that seems ridiculously remedial, but I can't tell you how many times I've over-complicated intimate scenes like this by shooting over-the-shoulders, close-ups of each character, and some weird artsy thing I thought made me look like a real cool DP when all I really needed, at least to start, was a basic two-shot to show that there are two people interacting in a room. When it comes to romantic scenes, the two-shot is basically your establishing shot.
Now things are starting to get hot and heavy. Your two characters are on the verge of locking lips, their bodies quaking with anticipation, their hands yearning to ignite tiny infernos atop each other's skin (I was totally a romance novelist in a past life), but how do you show all of this passion and desire visually? Well, a simple way to do it is with a push-in. You can slap your camera on a dolly, mount it on a 3-axis gimbal, or just go handheld and slowly and smoothly move closer to your characters. The closer you get the more intimate your audience will read the shot.
Spinning kiss shot
Alright, this shot is either an oldie but a goodie or an overused cliché, but the 360-degree camera move is used all the time for kissing scenes. (Usually accompanied by rain, fireworks, or Nicholas Sparks fans' tears.) To pull this off, Wallnau lays down some circular track and uses a dolly, but if you're ballin' on a budget, you can also get yourself a decent and low-cost camera stabilizer and walk around your subjects. If you go that route, I'd suggest drawing a circle around your actors so you can at least try to repeat the shot as accurately as possible for each take, but even if you do it's still going to be tricky.
What are some other shots that are good to include in kissing scenes? Let us know down in the comments!