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Camera Sniper

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Camera Sniper is primarily a Film and Television trope, although it does occur in other media.

The Government, or the spies, or the Private Detective, or the Intrepid Reporter is watching their target.

The target is seldom aware at this point that there's a camera scope on them, but the audience gets to see an indication of the watchful character(s) because we see a Follow Shot of them walking, sleeping or just eating breakfast — in short, just living their day-to-day life.

The shot goes into Freeze Frame (and may also switch from color to black and white), and is accompanied by a camera shutter sound and a blink or iris in shot to indicate that whoever was watching has just taken a photograph of the person targeted. The scene then resumes otherwise unchanged as the target goes about their business. This may happen two or three times in the same scene, indicating that there may later be a stack (or email) of photos presented to the watching entity's boss.

Expect the follow shot to be accompanied by a camera's viewfinder reticule. Bonus Points if it's the old-style microprism viewfinder (usually either a split circle or a circle-within-a-circle, with the two parts shaded differently) that few under the age of 30 are likely to have ever actually seen in Real Life.

Black-and-white photography these days is rather rare in the age of digital cameras... but the sight and sound are pretty much iconic now, so it endures even as technology and the trope march forward.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ghost in the Shell: Arise: In the New Movie, it's done without the lens click as it involves purely digital technology, but the freeze frame is used to show that Motoko is under surveillance.
  • Golgo 13: In the opening of the anime episode "Cross Angle", a paparazzi in a helicopter captures a royal having sex on the deck of a yacht, with the subsequent shots showing her fleeing into the cabin. His next target is an actual sniper — the world's greatest assassin at the moment he fires his shot.
  • This happens at the beginning of the fourth episode of Sherlock Hound, as Moriarty spies on Holmes to find out his weakness.

    Comic Books 
  • Commonplace in Spider-Man, but it's a subversion of the trope most of the time because it's Peter Parker's own camera on auto-shutter taking the pics of Spidey in action. But not always. Especially common in the animated fare featuring the Wallcrawler.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Act of Valor. A CIA operative meeting with her contact is photographed. A short time later armed men burst into her house, kill the contact and abduct her.
  • Vicki Vale, an intrepid reporter, does this to Bruce Wayne as he visits the spot where his parents died in Batman (1989).
  • Chinatown opens with what appears to be this trope, but as the camera pulls back we see the photos have already been taken and are being flicked through by the cuckolded husband.
  • The Equalizer. When the Corrupt Cops working for The Mafiya begin to suspect that Robert McCall is the man they're looking for, they put him under surveillance with this trope. Later on The Dragon goes through the photos and realises from Robert's interaction with his coworkers that he's on friendly terms with them, so he decides to kidnap them to force Robert into the open.
  • Seen in The '80s movie Gotcha.
  • In Grindhouse: Death Proof, there's a scene of Stuntman Mike watching the second group girls from his car. They walk in slow motion as Stuntman Mike adjusts the camera focus to follow them.
  • Jumpin' Jack Flash. Whoopi Goldberg's character delivers Jack's message to the British Embassy, but they claim not to understand it, telling her she must have been the victim of a practical joke. As she leaves, someone takes her photograph.
  • Played with in The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe - an ordinary violinist is marked as a spy as he arrives at an airport, and several real spies secretly take his picture. He'd popped a large piece of chewy candy in his mouth, and every shutter click/freeze frame catches him in a goofy facial contortion as it gets stuck in his teeth.
  • In the film There's Something About Mary, there's a scene like this after the main character hires a private detective to track down Mary.
  • The 2008 film WarGames: The Dead Code has a scene wherein the shot of Amy freezes into a photograph.

  • Able Team has a couple of literature versions of this trope.
    • In "Texas Showdown", Able Team are leaving a house with Hal Brognola when they are photographed by an army officer working for a drug gang. His superior is later shown going through the assorted photographs and trying to work out from their body language what the relationship between the subjects is.
    • In "Ironman", a member of the Guatemalan secret police photographs Carl Lyons meeting with Nate in a small village. Again we're shown his superior studying the photographs, only this man knows who Lyons is and arranges for the Big Bad to be tipped off.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Chuck: As Sarah makes a drop giving a bogus chip to a medium bad, we have a POV shot of someone taking pictures. Turns out it's an operative for the CIA, who believe that Sarah has had a Face Heel Turn and is selling the real chip. Super huge spoiler: Except it's really an operation to justify her going double in the Big Bad's employ in order to take him down and rescue Chuck's mother.
  • Hunter. The episode "Avenging Angel" opens with this trope, as an unseen person is shown taking photographs of Hunter going about his everyday business, in a montage to the song "Every Breath You Take" (I'll Be Watching You) by the Police. He's then shown developing the photographs and putting them up on his wall.
  • The pilot episode of Jessica Jones (2015) opens with this trope of an adulterous couple, accompanied by the requisite Private Eye Monologue of the title character who is taking the photos.
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • A few suspects in "Sins of Commission" are seen through a camera lens like this. It turns out a housekeeper is photographing people for several reasons.
    • In "A Climate of Death", a blonde walks out of the Green Man wearing a trench coat, looking at her phone and arranging her hair. Someone is taking photos of her. She puts on her helmet and gets on a scooter. Someone follows her on a bike. The blonde girl arrives at the edge of town on the scooter and someone still shoots photos of her. She hops in a beat up old truck and drives off leaving a cloud of smoke.
  • The New Avengers: "Complex" opens with a man atop a skyscraper seemingly taking aim with a sniper rifle on a man leaving the building opposite. It is then revealed that the 'rifle' is actually a camera gun and he is taking photos of the target.
  • Happens a lot in Person of Interest, given that each POI has to be put under surveillance by the protagonists, either for protection or to expose their criminal activities. However in "Firewall" they're on the receiving end. Finch warns Reese not to reveal too much to the POI, as it's important that no-one find out about them. The next scene has Alicia Corwin taking Finch's photograph as he walks down the street.
  • Phoenix. Our introduction to the Dogs (the Victorian police surveillance unit) is a white van with dark windows and the sound of a motorized camera clicking, accompanied by this trope as several criminals get out of a car and enter the building under surveillance. One of the Dogs is then shown slipping the film to a couple of Major Crime officers, with the Majors flicking through the developed photos later.
  • The Professionals
    • In "Hunter/Hunted", Bodie and Doyle think they're being followed by a black Porsche on the highway. After some vehicular maneuvering the Porsche drives past with the unseen driver waving at them, so they assume it's the usual road rage Cock Fight. Then the Porsche turns up unnoticed at their destination, a telephoto lens extends out the car window and takes several photographs of Bodie and Doyle.
    • In "Stakeout", Bodie and Doyle are checking out a bowling alley for anything suspicious after a CI5 agent is murdered near there. We keep getting closeup shots of a camera lens clicking, which a middle-aged man is keeping hidden under his overcoat. But instead of a spy engaged in Sinister Surveillance, he's revealed to be a pervert taking upskirt shots of women bowling.
    • In "Need to Know", the KGB are planning to snatch a prisoner from CI5 custody. As the KGB agents tasked with the assignment arrive at the Soviet embassy, this trope happens and we see Doyle and Bodie with a telephoto lens camera, showing that CI5 are onto their plan.
  • Project Blue Book. At the end of the pilot episode, Dr Hynek and his wife Mimi think they hear a prowler, but decide It's Probably Nothing. Just before Hyneck goes back inside the house, someone takes his photograph; not a mysterious Man In Black but a woman who'd befriended Mimi earlier.
  • Happens in Torchwood: Miracle Day - Gwen is in Venice Beach, and we see that someone's watching her through the shutter of the camera they're using to photograph her. The shot even pulls back to show the person with the long range lens.
  • Veronica Mars: At least half the episodes have this, though that's unsurprising considering the character is a private eye.
  • Happens a lot on The Wire, particularly in season one. For instance, the scene where Bubbles is doing his red hat trick and Kima is on the roof photographing the heroes.

  • This happens briefly in the music video for Rod Stewart's "Infatuation".

    Video Games 
  • The opening to Beyond Good & Evil has this.
  • In the game Dead Rising, this is used in cutscenes, and is also implemented into gameplay. It's quite fitting, seeing as the protagonist is a photojournalist.
  • Team Fortress Comics #3 ends this way, using an actual sniper rifle (obviously from the Sniper).

    Visual Novels 
  • Implied with Daniela in Double Homework. It turns out that she’s supposed to be recording his sexual experiences with his female classmates.

    Western Animation