Dealing with Extreme Close-ups


Tight crops make great, impactful shots. If the light is favourable and the expression strong, there is no better way to bring out the character of a person. Photograph/Anoop Bhaskar

You may have heard portraiture advice that one should leave enough space above the head of the subject, but try breaking the rules and get really close. Zoom into a person’s face and ensure that the frame has no space on the side.

Such extreme close-ups can be extremely impactful, but certain conditions must be met. Since the framing is going to be so tight, you must ensure that the picture looks pleasing technically. This means that focus must be accurate (on the eyes), camera shake should be absent and the light, pleasing. Soft light can really bring out a person’s textures and sometimes, even a slight tilt of the head in a particular direction, can completely change the nature of the shadows.

Don’t go physically close to the subject with a wide lens. This can make people look really awkward and funny. Instead, step back, zoom in completely and thus, fill the frame.

The face must have some character. It could be a really cute child with expressive eyes, or your grandmother with a sombre, but graceful expression. Eye contact is not necessary while making portraits, but in extreme close-ups, it can be of great help. If there is no eye contact, you can ask your subject to look sideways, but try to ensure that you manage to get a catchlight in their eyes.

—Anoop Bhaskar