What is an establishing shot?

An establishing shot establishes the setting of a scene.

When we see a shot of the sun setting behind the exterior of a building, and then we cut to the inside of that building for the scene, we have seen an establishing shot.

Establishing shots can be written into your screenplay, but they do not necessarily have to be marked as establishing shots.

For example:

EXT. VELJOHNSON HOUSE – NIGHT

Reggie’s room is perched silently above a glistening pool.

INT. REGGIE’S ROOM – CONTINUOUS

The FBI agents stealthily dig through his closet, careful to leave no trace of their presence.

Dialogue spoken over an establishing shot leading into the scene is called a “pre-lap,” and should be indicated as such.