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What is close up photography

Close Up Photography | Photography Mad

Often, the most rewarding photos are those taken with little or no preparation - there's something liberating about just grabbing a camera and heading off to see what you can find.

Close up photography is perfect in this respect, because we are surrounded by fascinating subjects. Practically every object you see has details that usually go unnoticed, but which make for some stunning photos.

Taking close up photographs is a great way to develop your creativity and an eye for a good shot, as it forces you to find something interesting in even the most mundane of subjects. It will also teach you to look for small details in other types of photography, such as landscapes and portraits, which can help you shoot traditional subjects in a unusual or unique way.

Choose Your Subject

Choose a subject which has an unusual or interesting feature which catches your attention. These details may be in the form of an eye-catching colour, a cool texture, an unusual shape, or something else entirely.

We are surrounded by interesting details; we just have to look for them. Image by Diego Sevilla Ruiz.

Really examine your subject and decide exactly what it is that interests you about it. This is what you will focus on in your close up photo; all other details will either be secondary or excluded entirely.


Get close up. Use a combination of zooming in and moving closer to crop in as tightly as you can on your chosen detail. You can include other details to provide some context for your photo if you wish, but remember that by doing so you may lessen the impact of the really interesting part of the shot.

Crop tightly around your subject, keeping only the details which make for an interesting close up. Image by Ion-Bogdan Dumitrescu.

Get closer. 99% of close up photos that lack impact do so because they are shot from too far away. If you camera won't focus on the subject when you get right up close, then zoom in as far as you can, and then you can crop the final shot later.


Composition in close up photography doesn't need to be rocket science - the subject should provide sufficient interest. Having said that, it is still important to study your scene and consider the best way to balance the elements within it. The usual photography composition rules apply, but don't be afraid to break them if you find a better way to frame your shot.

Keep your backgrounds plain to avoid distracting from the main subject. Image by Don Solo.

If there is a background visible behind your subject, try to make it as plain and unintrusive as possible so that it doesn't distract from the main elements in your close up. Because you are shooting so close to the object, the background will probably come out blurry anyway, which helps, but often with a bit of careful thought you can choose a viewpoint that does away with the distraction altogether.

You can affect the perspective of your photo by adjusting your camera's position and zoom. Move close and zoom out to give the shot depth, but be careful because it might end up looking like it's bulging in the middle. Move away and zoom in to give your close up a flatter perspective.

Pin-sharp focusing is key to a good close up photo. Use manual focusing or take extra care when using auto focus, and make sure you focus on the main point of interest.

Sharp focusing is key to a good close up photo. Image by ViaMoi.

Use creative depth of field to draw the viewer's attention to the most intriguing elements in your close up. Be aware that when shooting very close to an object, depth of field is at a minimum, so it is essential that your focusing is spot on.


Steady your camera using a tripod, mini tripod or some other solid surface. Blur from camera shake can ruin an otherwise perfect close up shot.

Take loads of photos with slightly different focusing, depth of field, viewpoint and composition. A small change can make a big difference to your close up photo. When reviewing photos on your camera's LCD screen it is extremely difficult to tell exactly where your shot is in focus or not, and it is easier to shoot plenty of images while you're there than it is to return to the scene and carry out a second shoot.

Close-Up Photography vs Macro vs Micro (What's the Difference)

By David Baxter

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So what is the difference between macro vs micro in close-up photography? Is there one? Are they all the same?

In our article, you’ll learn the differences between these three photography types. And we’ll also show you which equipment can help you with each.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM

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What is Close-Up Photography vs Macro vs Micro?

The term “close-up photography” has no scientific definition. It generally means any photo that shows the subject closer and in more detail than we’re used to.

So what does a close-up do? You can apply it to crop a headshot, a flower stamen, or even the moon. It’s not so much about the nearness of the subject as it is about the field of view.

Now, what lens do I need to take close-up photos? Any lens can take regular close-ups. All you have to do is either zoom in or get closer.

For instance, you can zoom in to get close-ups of the moon. Or simply shoot at a short distance when shooting small objects.

But most lenses eventually reach their minimum focusing distance. That means your subject will be blurry if you get too close.

Close-up vs Macro Photography

For regular photography, the image formed on the sensor is much smaller than the subject itself. For example, the image of a 10-meter tree might only produce an image 1 cm tall on the sensor. That’s a ratio of 1:1000.

A flower whose image is smaller when it reaches the sensor.

As we get closer to small objects, the image size on the sensor gets much closer to the real-life size of the subject. Eventually, we can get close enough and still keep the subject in focus. This way, we can produce an image the same size as the subject.

At that point, the ratio will be 1:1. You can call it life-size or just 1x magnification. It is the point at which we pass from general close-up images to true macro photography.

Here, macro applies to situations where the image size is equal to or greater than the subject. But it’s not uncommon to see a lens with a “macro” label that’s just a close-up setting.

For a lens to be true macro, it must produce a sensor image size at least as big as the subject. It is often bigger, up to a factor of ten to one (10x or 10:1). That’s about the highest magnification you can achieve without resorting to a microscope.

Now let’s examine a few options available to achieve macro in a range of 1x to 10x.

ExpertPhotography recommends the Canon EF-S 17-85mm lens. You can read our articles on macro lenses for Canon and Nikon for more options.

What Equipment Do You Need for Macro Photography?

Let’s take a look at all the necessary equipment for shooting macro.

Reversing Ring

The cheapest option for macro photographers is to use a simple adapter ring. It fits onto the front of the lens so that you can install a backward lens onto your digital camera.

The disadvantage is that you lose automatic control of the lens. It’s no longer electrically connected to the camera since the lens is backward.

The aperture is wide open once you remove the lens from the camera body. On some lenses, you can lock the desired aperture. Press the depth-of-field preview button while disconnecting the lens.

Doing so upsets the automatic metering, so you must set the camera to full manual mode. Adjust the shutter speed and ISO for the desired image sharpness and brightness.

You can use a crop sensor lens on a full frame camera with a reversing ring. Doing so allows you to achieve a magnification of 4x for close-ups.

ExpertPhotography recommends the Fotodiox Macro Reverse Ring.

Canon EOS 6D with a reverse mount adapter and a backward EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens.

What if you prefer to keep your lenses attached to your camera? You can use close-up lens filters on the filter thread of your standard lens. These generally come in a set of different magnifying powers (diopters).

Do you need to get a little closer to your subject? Just screw a +1 diopter close-up lens onto your standard camera lens. If that doesn’t get you close enough, swap it for higher magnification, or combine the filters.

Close-up screw-in lenses get you into the true macro range. But this is with reduced optical quality.

ExpertPhotography recommends looking at Amazon’s best sellers for camera lens diopters.

Extension Tubes

What happens if you get closer to a subject than the minimum focusing distance? The rays of light will try to come into focus behind the sensor. Consequently, your image will look blurry.

Extension tubes move the camera lenses farther away from the sensor. In other words, the focal plane once again lies on the sensor to produce a sharp image.

Without (top) and with (bottom) an extension tube.

The larger image produced using extension tubes is not as bright. It can be equivalent to a decrease of two or more stops at higher magnification. And since they have no optics, there is no loss of quality.

You can stack extension tubes to achieve closer focusing distances. They generally get you just into the true macro range.

ExpertPhotography recommends the Viltrox Metal Extension Tube Set.

Macro Lenses

What if you want to do macro photography without the hassles of using attachments? Then consider buying a macro lens.

A dedicated macro lens lets you focus close enough to achieve a 1:1 image size. That’s without additional attachments. This lens can also focus on infinity so that you can use it as a standard prime lens.

The below image was taken hand-held in natural light using a 60mm macro lens and then cropped to 3404 x 2269 pixels.

Do you want higher magnifications for macro photography? You can combine macro lenses with attachments.

Canon makes an unusual macro lens that can zoom between 1:1 a 5:1 magnification. The MPE-65mm f/2.8 macro lens has no focus ring – just a magnification setting.

To focus, you either have to move the subject or the camera. That’s why it can be challenging to do accurately at high magnifications. A sturdy tripod and some kind of focusing rack are essential.

ExpertPhotography recommends the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM and the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens.

Micro vs Macro

Microphotography applies to magnifications exceeding those you can get using macro photography equipment. There is no “micro” lens you can attach to your camera.

To reach magnifications much greater than 5x, you need a microscope. This allows you to achieve magnifications from 7x to 100x or more, depending on the optics.

You can buy a microscope for less than the cost of a macro lens. Perhaps the most versatile for photography is an inspection microscope. This type has a ring light to illuminate the subject from above.

Some now have a built-in USB camera. But their resolution is far lower than even a cheap DSLR. Look for an instrument that has a C-mount port. That way, you can use your camera by way of an appropriate adaptor.

ExpertPhotography recommends the Celestron 44341 LCD Digital Microscope II.


Remember that close-up photography is a blanket term for regular close-ups, macro, and micro photography. Close-up means you’re just shooting at a short distance from the subject. You can use virtually any lens to achieve close-up photos.

Macro means you’re taking super close-ups of objects at 1:1. So the size of the image on your sensor is equal to the size of the item you’re photographing in real life.

Micro means the magnification is at a microscopic level. In other words, it deals with subjects you can’t see with your naked eye. All you have to remember are these three points to avoid any confusion. It’s not too hard, right?

Looking to learn more about macro photography? Why not check out our course Macro Magic next!

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM

Capture stunning close-up shots with this high-quality, professional-grade lens.

Buy from Amazon


Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Prime Lens



Buy Now!

Close-up portrait shot

It seems to be easier to shoot a person in close-up than in full growth. The photographer does not need to think about the position of the model's hands, does not need to select her pose. It seems that you can not even care about the costume - all the same, only the face will be in the frame. But all this is not so. In order to beautifully and competently make a large portrait of a person, knowledge, skill and careful preparation are needed. This is a laborious and complex matter.

Things to do before shooting

How to prepare for such a shoot? If we shoot a person's face, therefore, it should look at a decent level. Well, at least in terms of makeup. If you are planning a shot for advertising or for any other commercial purposes, it would be useful to hire a makeup specialist, a professional stylist. Only a specialist will be able to correctly mask all the disadvantages of the skin and the shape of the model’s face, and then you will practically not have to work with retouching afterwards. Don't forget about the hairstyle of the person you're filming. If this is a child or a young girl, it makes no sense to come up with a complex, artsy hairstyle. Naturalness at this age is much more advantageous. The more natural a person looks in the picture, the more interesting the picture! nine0003

Don't forget accessories. If you shoot in winter, even in a photo studio or at home, scarves, hats, and scarves will be useful in a close-up portrait. If the New Year holidays are approaching, you can also use the hats of the Snow Maiden and Santa Claus. And you can also offer models discreet jewelry: beads or earrings, do not forget about the uniforms of individual peoples.

What equipment is needed

What camera you will shoot a portrait - it's up to you. Much more important here is the lens. It is best to choose a lens with a fixed focal length, as it has a greater aperture than a zoom lens, which has a variable focal length. In no case should you use wide-angle lenses when shooting a large portrait - when shooting from a short distance, they significantly distort the proportions of the object. If you are shooting a portrait, the distorted face of the model in the picture is completely useless to you. In general, for such work, there are special lenses, which are called portrait lenses. nine0003

When shooting a close-up of a face, it is necessary to use all kinds of photoreflectors, light diffusers and various types of light sources. The camera must be on a tripod. The background - of course, should be monophonic. If you decide to shoot such a portrait on the street, then it’s better to look for a quiet and deserted place for this.


When you shoot a close-up portrait, light is very important. Getting on the face of the model, the light from its various sources creates the so-called light pattern. It is formed by the shadows that form on the face. The intensity of these shadows, their size, color depends not only on the placement of the light source relative to the model, but also on its type, on whether it emits warm or cold light. The light pattern favorably emphasizes the winning features of the face and hides its flaws. nine0003

If you are shooting in a studio, it is best to use the classic lighting scheme - three light sources. Set the camera to ISO 100, lens aperture - 5.6, shutter speed 1/100 sec.

Uniform illumination of the face can also be achieved using only two light sources directed to the side of the face.

If you're shooting at home, you can simply place the model near a window and use only one light source, which in this case should be placed parallel to the window. If the face of the model is not well lit, you can use a reflector, which is easy to make from a plain white sheet of paper or even a plain newspaper. nine0003

When shooting a large portrait on the street, the lighting is usually frontal, the light most often falls on the face of the model directly, in front. With this lighting option, the eyes of the model in the picture may turn out to be watery, narrowed due to bright light. That is why it is better to place the model so that the light falls on her face from the side. But here another problem pops up: in this case, one side of the face remains in shadow. But this problem can be solved by an assistant who will hold the photoreflector from the shadow side of the model's face. If you do not have an assistant, then the reflector can be strengthened in some way as you need. At least even with clothespins on the branches of the nearest tree. Another way to illuminate the shadow side of the model's face when shooting outdoors is with an external flash. You will have to hold the camera in one hand and the flash in the other. This, of course, is not very convenient, but still ...

If you are unable to implement any of the options above, then try to make a portrait in backlight, that is, when the light source is behind the model. But such a shooting is a very complicated matter. The point here is mainly that the light source can give glare. In order to get rid of them, we recommend putting a lens hood on the lens. And if at the same time you also use a flash, then you need to reduce the strength of its impulse. With backlight, you can shoot in the studio. In this case, you direct one light source to the background itself, and the second illuminates the face of the model. The first source, by the way, can be placed behind the background. nine0003

If you decide to use the shadow as one of the creative elements, we recommend using a simple lighting scheme when shooting in the studio. Direct the first light source to the face of the person being portrayed from the side, and the second, “bright umbrella”, to the light. The background can be chosen according to the mood of the picture.

It is best to shoot a close-up portrait in nature, that is, on the street, on an overcast, cloudy day. In such weather, there will be no rough, hard shadows on the face of the model, tonal transitions will be soft and gentle, which will easily emphasize the femininity of the model. nine0003

Angle and shooting point

Both the angle and the shooting point of the portrait mainly depend on the type of face of the model. If the face of the person being portrayed is sufficiently round, wide, it is better not to shoot it in front. It will look much wider than it really is. It’s good to shoot people with such a face in half a turn. If the model turns slightly sideways to the lens, her face will appear somewhat narrower. In this case, you need to take into account that the camera should be slightly above the level of the eyes of the model or at their level. This shooting option is applicable in principle to almost every type of face. But here we must not forget about the shoulder of the model, which in this case is closer to the lens. This shoulder in the portrait may turn out to be too large. Think about it, maybe get rid of it altogether, not include it in the frame? nine0003

Portrait composition

The composition of any picture depends primarily on the photographer, and not on what or whom he shoots. This truth also applies to close-up portraits. The model must completely obey the photographer. She must smile, show sadness, be able to express other feelings and moods, at the request of the photographer - look into the lens or in the other direction. When building a composition for a close-up portrait, you must first of all focus on the eyes of the person being photographed. The eyes should be at the top of the portrait. When working on a composition, it is better to cut off the upper part of the face, the forehead, than the chin. The absence of a chin causes psychological discomfort in the viewer, making the portrait disproportionate. nine0003

Feel free to include close-ups and hands in the portrait. But this also needs to be done wisely and carefully.

Try to work with color. With the color of the model's clothes, the color of the backgrounds, you can put some kind of color filter on the light source. A bright color spot can be, for example, beads or something else from accessories or costume details.

Experiment with aperture. It seriously affects the image quality. If you shoot at aperture 22, then all the details, including wrinkles, skin roughness, all kinds of defects, will appear in the picture very well, clearly and sharply. And this in the portrait is just useless. That's why you need to shoot a close-up portrait with a small depth of field. That is, with an aperture of 2.8 or 4. In addition, with such values ​​​​of it, the background will go into blur, which is very welcome in the form of shooting that we are talking about today. After all, the main thing here is to show the eyes of a person, because they are. As you know, and are the mirror of his soul. nine0003

Types of plans in the cinema | Size of plans according to Kuleshov

What is a plan in movies and videos? This is the ratio of the distance of the camera to the object being photographed. And it's important to learn how to handle them properly to make your videos come alive. After all, it is the angles and the change of shots that set the pace and mood of the story.

If during the whole video you give a plan of only one size, the viewer will get the feeling of a static picture, no matter how many events take place on the screen. The types of shots in movies can be completely extrapolated to amateur video or vlog clips: shot size is a very specific tool, and there's no reason why bloggers shouldn't use it. nine0003

Indeed, this science is worth mastering and adopting. Scroll in your memory any excerpt from a movie that you like, or a video from the same YouTube that makes you feel emotions. Most likely, it will turn out that plans change there, and not once or twice. Or, at least, the camera moves in and out, creating at least a small, but change of shot.

There are more than twenty types of plans in the cinema, but there are six basic ones. This is the so-called Kuleshov classification.

Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov is the first person in the film industry who rigidly systematized the size of plans. Even now, many decades later, his educational and methodological aids are in great demand due to their clarity and have become one of the foundations of film language. Let's take his recommendation as a basis.

So, the size of plans according to Kuleshov:

  • "Detail", focus on a separate small object or part of the face - the eye and eyebrows.
  • Large - portrait format, only a small gap above the head, under it - the top of the shoulders. The plan is good for the emotional involvement of the viewer, it allows you to create the effect of a dialogue conducted personally with him. nine0088
  • Medium bust - to the waist.
  • Medium shot - takes the presenter into the frame just above the knees.
  • General plan: the presenter is visible in full growth, above and below him - only a small part of the space.
  • Far shot: the leader is part of the overall picture, no larger than 1/7 of the frame height.

By alternating these when editing, you can achieve certain effects. How to shoot close-ups - below.

The most important thing: the change of shots should be comfortable for the viewer

And in this case, the concept of comfort has very clear criteria. Eyes and perception should be rebuilt between pictures without asking "What happened now?" and “What action does this kaleidoscope reflect?”.

And here the principle according to which we would see a picture in real life does not work: first from afar, and then closer and closer, if we approached it. But such a montage is too conspicuous and only draws attention to the very fact of a frame change, rather, making it difficult to get an idea of ​​\u200b\u200bwhat is happening. nine0003

Comfortable editing by frame size

Good! Then maybe the best way to present is to give a long shot and then a close-up? In this case, the viewer will first see the hero (leader) and his surroundings, be able to understand what place the leader occupies where the action will take place, and immediately after that, a close-up of the face. Acquaintance took place, very well!

And the joint that is most harmonious for the viewer is after one step along the above gradation, and in any direction. Ideally, if at the same time the angle changes a little, the viewer will be more comfortable perceiving such a gluing. nine0003

Extended classification: other interesting shots

As already mentioned, other shots are used in cinema, for example: very close (larger than portrait shot), which allows you to see small details, super close - only the face is in the frame, very distant - the character is barely distinguishable in frame. There is also the second medium, the first medium (from the waist), the medium large, etc. ° from the previous frame, double - there are two key objects or subjects in the frame, "point of view" - a look "from the eyes" of the hero, and others. nine0003

Camera location when shooting

There is also a classification not in relation to the object, but according to the location of the camera in space. And it will also be useful to understand it, because the best shots of filming always carry an emotional charge, and it largely depends on the angle from which the viewer sees the object.

Thus, the camera at eye level has no specific effect on the viewer. The subject, taken from a high angle, looks weak or frightened. And vice versa, an object or subject, taken from below, seems majestic, heroic. The "broken" horizon conveys anxiety, a complex psychological state. Shooting over the shoulder of one of the participants in the scene so that it falls into the frame focuses the viewer's attention on what is happening and more fully involves him in the plot. nine0003

Mixed shots

Achieved already during editing using semi-professional and professional video editors, but they are no less a full-fledged tool for influencing the viewer. Among the most interesting ones, which should be taken into service first:

  • cut-in-cut-in - long shot + close-up of an important object that is located on the main one;
  • cutaway - general plan + something that is not on this plan.

As you can see, the plans are exposed from each other not only by the conditional division of space and the scale shown in the frame, but also by the mood, meaning, view of what is happening and, ultimately, by the thought that the author of the video would like to convey to the viewer. nine0003

And the success of this super-task consists of two things: a well-thought-out setting of the camera and competent editing of the footage.

In addition to knowing about perspectives in cinema, I suggest watching a video from the Movavi Vlog channel about types of perspectives.

Types of frame perspective

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