creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close-up portraiture

close-up superhero photography

This month, let’s take a look at extreme closeups in portraiture. For purposes of this creativity exercise, we will be producing images in which the subject’s head/face (or part of the face) fills the entire frame; the head itself should be touching or nearly touching at least two of the four edges of the frame.

close-up portraiture photography tutorial
*image by Narelle Bailey ‘nbailey’

While a portrait need not be closeup to be intimate, it’s almost impossible to avoid intimacy in an extreme closeup of this nature. Depending on your chosen focal length and how close (from full face to even closer — partial face, some detail of the face) you’re framing, you may literally be getting “right in the face” of your subject. From this very close perspective, the viewer is much more likely to notice details about the face that is unlikely to be as apparent in a wider shot; use that to your advantage. Perhaps you’ll focus on the eyelashes, the texture of the skin, a scar, a birthmark, a chipped tooth, laugh lines, freckles, a cowlick, the language of human expression …. What can you convey about the subject’s personality, mood, or even his/her life experiences? What kind of story can you tell even when you’ve stripped out most or all of the surrounding environment and the contextual clues it provides?


1) Close down! Remember that the tighter you frame, the more shallow your depth of field. If you want to get everything from the tip of the nose to the tips of the ears in focus, you certainly don’t want to shoot wide open in these circumstances. I’d suggest closing down to somewhere between f/5.6 and f/8.0, chimping, and taking it from there.

2) Consider bringing in some additional visual interest. Although you are shooting very tight, there’s still room to incorporate texture, color, framing, and more. Consider incorporating a scarf, jacket hood, hair or jewelry accessories, working with the hair itself, etc. Also remember that the array of light and shadow can completely change the emphasis of particular features or details.

3) Try some creative cropping. Just because you’ve filled the frame with the head/face doesn’t mean the entire head or face need be present. Play with different crops — crop below the eyes, above the mouth, left side of the face only, hair curving around the jawline, etc. How does your crop change the image and the most attractive point of focus for the viewer?

editors’ choice

Creativite Excellence Award for Clickin Moms

Congratulations to the ladies below whose photographs were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices!

Aimee ‘amcnamee’:

close-up freckles photography

Mabel ‘mavie’:

close-up child photography

Kerri ‘odeya’:

close-up animal, pet photography

Carolyn Brandt ‘carmarie’:

close-up portrait tutorial

Elodie ‘elodie’:

freckles detail photography

Crystal Whitehead ‘crystal’:

close-up wizard of oz photography

Meredith Novario ‘mereditz’:

close-up emotive portraits

Lisa Benemelis ‘kemakida’:

black and white close-up photography

Valerie Rice ‘Val’:

close-up superhero photography

Thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!  We love seeing all the beautiful imagery!

Do you want to participate in the next Creativity Exercise?  Visit the forum here where Sarah has challenged us with the theme “A Classic Artist’s Exercise“.  Don’t have a membership to Clickin Moms yet?  Head on over here to sign up!  You can still participate in this Close-Up Portraiture challenge by either visiting the forum here or sharing with us in the comments below.  We’d love to see your work!

free creative photography exercises by Sarah Wilkerson for Clickin Moms


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