creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close-up portraiture

Picking up your camera, shooting, and challenging yourself is the best way to improve your photography.  The Creativity Exercises within the Clickin Moms photography forum are a great source for finding new ways to challenge yourself.  On the first Monday of every month the wonderful Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to shoot with the exercise in mind.  While the exercises are ongoing, at the end of each month we choose a few images as the ‘Editors’ Choice’ and share them here with you on the blog.  How fun is that?!  Today we are sharing October’s exercise with you below!

creativity exercise | 3 quick tips for close-up portraiture

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo
*image by Narelle Bailey ‘nbailey’

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.

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

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

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

Aimee ‘amcnamee':

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

Mabel ‘mavie':

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

Kerri ‘odeya':

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

Carolyn Brandt ‘carmarie':

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

Elodie ‘elodie':

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

Crystal Whitehead ‘crystal':

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

Meredith Novario ‘mereditz':

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

Lisa Benemelis ‘kemakida':

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

Valerie Rice ‘Val':

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

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!

Sign up for a risk-free membership!

creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close up portraiture photo

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25 Responses to “creativity exercise: 3 quick tips for close-up portraiture”

  1. celestejones
    Nov 07 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    beautiful work ladies. <3

  2. JSingleton
    Nov 07 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Amazing work, ladies!!

  3. Nov 07 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Lovely work ladies! I adore all the different compositions and focus points used to make your statements. You’ve inspired me today :)

  4. Nov 07 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Gah! So flattered to be among all of this amazing-ness! <3

  5. Nov 07 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I’m soo happy to be among these amazing photogs!!! Goegeous work ladies!!

  6. Nov 07 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    No other website inspires me like Clickinmoms. I always feel the need to get the camera out after i read your posts :-)

    • Nov 07 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      Thank you Stacey! Seriously one of the best compliments ever!

  7. Nov 07 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    These are incredible images. awesome and inspiring . thanks for sharing.

  8. Nov 07 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Beautiful work!

  9. Nov 07 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    I love Sarah’s creativity exercises. She always gets us to reach a little bit deeper to a place we didn’t even know existed. I’m honored to be one of the images on the blog today along side these other wonderful photographers. Thank you. <3

    • Nov 08 2012 at 1:02 pm #

      Lisa, you are so sweet! Thank you – and gorgeous image!!

  10. valerie
    Nov 07 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    So humbled right to see my image with these incredible photographers!!! Thank you CM, you are the best inspiration for a female photographer!!!

  11. Nov 07 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Love the idea of these creativity exercises. Great way to get new ideas for shooting.

  12. Elodie Brunel
    Nov 08 2012 at 12:57 am #

    I’m really humbled to see my picture here and sooo happy ! I can’t say ‘Merci’ enough to clickinmoms. This is such an amazing place to learn photography and to be inspired. Thank you.

  13. Sara Carlson
    Nov 08 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Love the freckle face….they are all inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Aimee
    Nov 08 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Such happiness I felt when I saw my sweet freckle faced niece! Honored and thrilled to have her portrait chosen amongst a sea of such beautiful entries. I just love you, CM.

  15. Nov 16 2012 at 4:42 pm #


    It is a keeper. I makes a person want to come back again and again for for lasting impression and for that something extra in life. It is not only endearing but also endearing.

  16. Nov 20 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    Rangers #45 Derek Holland Red Cool Base 2011 World Series Patch Embroidered MLB Jersey


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