Horror Cinematography: How to Get It Right

Horror is one of the toughest genres to tap into, right after comedy. Creating a horror film or video can be quite complex. They have these “proprietary” elements that, sort of, set them apart. One such element is cinematography.

Horror movies boast their own brand of cinematography. In fact, they are kind of required to. You see, in a horror production, you need the viewer to relate to the protagonist and go on a journey with him/her.

One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through smart and creative camerawork. Good camerawork helps you go beyond the narrative and focus on experience. This includes making viewers relate to the emotional aspects of the production, such as the suspense, the breathlessness, the sensory shocks and so on.  

Let’s look at some of the cinematographic tips you can use to make your horror video production more impactful.

angst movie horror cinematography


Shooting through a glass window may not seem like much. But, in a horror production, the technique can add a certain sinister effect. It is common for horror filmmakers to use close-up shots. This isn’t bad as long as it’s done in a limited manner.

A better strategy would be to shoot from far. You don’t have to fill up the screen with the character’s face. You should try going wider. For example, if you’re shooting a person alone at home, focusing on the character’s face may communicate that he is scared or unaware.

However, when you shoot from a distance, you can highlight the character’s loneliness. This can cause some mild disturbance among audiences, which is exactly what you’re looking to do. More importantly, when you shoot through a glass surface, you also create this sense of voyeurism.

It’s like the character is being watched by a voyeuristic someone from afar, which can create an air of uncertainty and fear.



If you’ve seen enough horror movies, you know that haze is a standard trope in such films. So, we suggest you continue with that. However, make sure you use the right amount. The goal is to add some texture to the scene.  

In fact, haze has been added for that very purpose across genres. There is very little that can match haze for texture, and in horror, it is almost a mandatory requirement.

Of course, to do so, you will need a haze or fog machine. Just don’t cross the limit. Keep things to a bare minimum. A little haze is all you need to create a mysterious or creepy aura.

the nun horror cinematography



If you’re a DP, you’ve probably been told that the exposure needs to be perfect at all times. In fact, getting that “perfect” exposure is easier than ever, thanks to an array of modern tools. However, the fact is, exposure must be regulated in accordance with the story. This is very true for horror films.

If you’ve seen horror films, you’d know that underexposing works. It leaves out several areas from being covered and creates a sense of mystery.   

Though there are other techniques, such as color grading, underexposure is still technically better. This is because it tends to produce more natural darkness or gloominess. The goal is to light the scene in such a way that it looks authentic.



There are certain unique angles you can try to create a horror aesthetic. For instance, a Dutch tilt is a camera technique that is known to work wonders, especially for horror productions. Of course, there is a range of other camera techniques that you can try as well. There’s also the bird’s eye view or high angle shot.

Using such unique techniques provides the viewer with interesting perspectives. With the right angle, you can probably shock the audience into understanding the character’s personality.

The only rule you need to follow here is to use a camera angle that works with your scene or storyline. 



Colored gels are excellent tools if you’re trying to create a horror aesthetic. They can help you correct bad lighting and even correct the color temperature of the light to deliver a proper horror look.  

In fact, if there’s one genre that can benefit from colored gels, it’s horror.

Lucas Chu

Melty Cone is a full service video production company in NYC. We make commercials, corporate videos, branded content, brand videos and the best videos in New York!