a pretty girl holding her hands aside her face Photo by Yuriy Yosipiv on Unsplash

How to Use Close-up Shot in Portrait Photography?

A close-up shot in portrait photography can make a big impact. It can show the intricate details of your subject's face and can be used to capture emotions that might be difficult to convey in a full-body shot.

However, close-up shots can also be challenging to take. Because you're working with a limited field of view, it's important to be aware of the composition of your shot and to make sure that your subject is well-lit.

This article will give tips on taking close-up shots that are both impactful and beautiful.

What is a Close-up Shot?

A close-up shot is a portrait photography technique where the subject is captured from close range, usually within a few feet of the camera. This results in a tight frame emphasizing the subject's features, such as their face, eyes, and mouth.

Close-up shots often capture emotions and expressions, allowing someone to see the subject's face in detail. They can also create a sense of intimacy or connection between the person looking at the portrait and the subject.

Close-up shots are typically taken with a longer focal lens, allowing the photographer to maintain a safe distance from the subject while still capturing a tight frame. This type of lens also provides a shallow depth of field, which can help to further isolate the subject from the background.

4 Types of Close-up Shots

Let's look at four types of close-up shots, each with its purpose.

Extreme Close-up Shot

extreme close-up shot of an eye behind a plant hole

Photo by Drew Dizzy Graham on Unsplash

An extreme close-up (ECU) shot is an even tighter close-up shot that focuses on a specific feature of the subject's face, such as their eyes or mouth.

Medium close-up Shot

a medium close-up shot of a girl standing in front of a lake

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

A medium close-up shot is a close-up shot that shows the subject from their chest or waist up. While some backgrounds will be visible, your subject will continue to be the main subject, much like in a close-up shot.

Insert Shot

close-up portrait of a girl holding her head with a hand

Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash 

An insert shot is a close-up shot that focuses on a small detail of the subject, such as their hands, jewelry, or eyes. Insert shots are often used to add intrigue or to emphasize a detail that may be important.

Choker Shot

an extreme close-up portrait

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

A choker shot is a close-up shot that frames the subject's faces tightly, from the top of their brows to the bottom of their mouth. Choker shots are often used to create a feeling of intimacy or to show the intensity of someone's emotions.

The Power of Close-up Shots

A close-up shot can be a very powerful tool in your portrait photography. When used correctly, it can add impact and emotion to your photos.

1. Convey Different Emotions

 a man is crying by closing his eyes

Photo by Andrea Bertozzini on Unsplash

A close-up shot allows you to capture different emotions conveyed through a person's facial expressions and body language. You can use a close-up to show a person's happiness, sadness, anger, or other emotions.

2. Show Details

a girl with hat looking at the camera

Photo by Ben Scott on Unsplash

A close-up shot also allows you to show details that you may not be able to see in a wider shot. This could be a person's freckles, the wrinkles around their eyes, or the stubble on their chin. These details can add realism to your photos and help your subjects look like real people.

3. Draw Attention to the Subject

a close-up portrait of a girl looking at camera

Photo by Fabian Albert on Unsplash 

You can use a close-up shot to draw attention to the subject of your photo. This is done by isolating the subject from the background and making them the only thing in the frame. It can help your photo stand out and make your subject the focus of the shot.

4. Creates a Real-Time Effect

a girl smiling natural

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash 

You can use close-up shots to increase the intensity of a moment and create a sense of immediacy. The effect is more pronounced when the subject looks directly at the camera. By getting close to your subject, you can also reduce background distractions. This can help your portraits appear more focused and intimate.

How to Use Close-up Shot in Portrait Photography?

Now that you know the different types of close-up shots and their power let's talk about how you can use close-up shots in your portrait photography.

1. Use a Wide Aperture to Blur the Background

photo of girl slightly puting down her chin

Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash 

A wide aperture is a great tip for close-up shots in portrait photography because it allows you to blur the background and focus on your subject. This is especially useful if you're shooting in a busy environment with many distractions. It also allows you to shoot in low-light conditions without compromising image quality.

2. Fill the Frame to Focus on the Subject

a extrem close-up portrait of a girl's half face

Photo by behrouz sasani on Unsplash 

By filling the frame with your subject, you force people to focus on that subject. This is especially effective in close-up shots, where the subject fills the frame, and there is little else to distract someone.

When taking close-up shots, be sure to get close enough to your subject so that they fill the frame. This will ensure that someone focuses on the subject, not the background.

3. Pay Attention to Light to Avoid Harsh Shadows

a girl is smiling at a flower in hand with light behind her hair

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash 

Light is one of the most important aspects of photography, regardless of the subject. When photographing close-ups, pay attention to the direction and quality of light to ensure that your subject is evenly lit and that there are no harsh shadows.

Natural light is always best, so try to position your subject near a window if you're shooting indoors. Consider utilizing a reflector to direct light back onto your subject's face if you're using artificial lighting. This will make the light more equal and help to fill in any shadows.

4. Overexpose to Bring Out Your Subjects Features

an exposed photo of an old woman by showing her face features

Photo by Danie Franco on Unsplash

If you want to capture a close-up shot that is both flattering and interesting, try slightly overexposing your subject. This will help to bring out their features and make them pop against the background. Be careful not to overdo it, as too much exposure can wash out your subject's features.

5. Use Longer Focal Length to Draw Your Subject Closer

a girl puting her hand under the chin and smile to the camera

Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash 

A longer focal length will compress the features of your subject's face, making their features appear closer together. This can create a more flattering look or make your subject's features appear more exaggerated. When shooting close-ups, it's important to keep your subject's eyes in sharp focus.

Use a longer focal length to help ensure that your subject's eyes are the sharpest part of the image. If you're shooting with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, try using a longer lens for your close-ups. Lenses with a focal length of 85mm or longer will give you a flattering, close-up look.

6. Be Aware of Your Background

a girl taking half-body photo with Kate Abstract Cream/Abstract Blue Collapsible Backdrop Photography

Kate Abstract Cream/Abstract Blue Collapsible Backdrop Photography 

When taking close-up shots in portrait photography, be aware of your background. Try to find a background that is not too busy or distracting, and avoid anything that would take away from the focus of your shot, which should be your subject's face.

Sometimes a simple, solid-colored background can be the best choice. If you're outdoors, look for a nice, natural background like a tree or water. And if you're indoors, a blank wall or a plain piece of fabric hung up behind your subject can work well.


Close-up shots are a great way to add impact and emotion to your photos. When used correctly, they help to draw attention to the subject and reveal small details that the audience might not be able to see from a distance. If you're looking to add some intensity to your portrait photography, close-up shots are a great way to do it.

If you like this blog, please share it! Be sure to join our FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Katebackdrops/. to share your ideas! You can also receive free articles, updates as well as discounts information from https://www.katebackdrop.com/ and our FB Group. 

Back to blog