Extreme Close-up. Impress with your Portraits

When we talk about planes in photography, we refer to the portion that our scene or protagonist occupies within a frame. Shots are used in film, photography, and drawing, and are capable of conveying completely different emotions and narratives from each other.

The extreme close-up It is one of the most dramatic shots when it comes to making us connect with the protagonist of a scene, it shows us a frame occupied by a face without context, so we are going to perceive the emotion of the protagonist intensely.

It is a very attractive plane both for your photographic portraits and for your videos, paintings, comics, etc., so let’s see it in depth, do you feel like it? Let’s go 🙂 .


What is an extreme close-up?: Definition

A very close-up It is a type of shot that is characterized by framing the subject from the forehead to the chin. It is widely used in film, photography and comics, and is characterized by its drama and emotion due to its proximity to the subject’s face.

This plane is also known as big close up either PPP, so if you see it written like that, you already know what it means 😉 .

Types of planes for portrait

The very close-up is framed within the portrait shots. The main differences between one and the other are the portion of the frame that the subject occupies and the emotions that derive from it in the viewer.

Here you can see the most used planes in short portrait:

Bust shot or short medium shotClose-up Extreme close-upDetail shot

Although you have other more open plans such as:

Medium shot or waist shot 3/4 or American shot Whole shot or figure Wide shot Wide shot or long shot

You can take a look at our article on photographic plans to see them in depth.

How to make an extreme close-up?

To make a very close-up, the first thing you must be clear about is that with this frame you are going to generate a lot of tension and drama.

To make this type of plan, you must frame your subject from forehead to chin, which will make your face fill the image completely.

You can get this plane in horizontal format and in vertical format.

horizontal extreme close-up

When we frame horizontally, the frame cuts roughly across the forehead and chin.

As you can see in the following images, the expression occupies the entire scene and makes us focus on the emotions that the face of the person portrayed transmits to us.

extreme close up woman
extreme close-up horizontal

vertical extreme close-up

When we frame in vertical format, this type of plane goes from the forehead to the neck approximately.

extreme close-up vertical

the best target

To achieve this type of shot, I recommend a low-distortion lens unless you want a more impactful effect.

The objectives that I recommend the most are, for example:

Standard: 50mm Short Tele: 85mm Lens Tele: 105mm or 200mm
focal length distortionsDistortion according to focal length

Depending on the focal length, you will have to get closer or closer to your subject, something to keep in mind for shots as closed as this one.

Also, the focal length will influence the background blur; the longer the focal length, the more blur.

focal length chart

You already know that the focal length will depend a lot on whether your camera is Full Frame or full format, or you must apply some conversion factor (x1.5 or 1.6), since in the latter case, the focal lengths increase.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here it is perfectly explained. And if you’re looking for the best portrait lens, don’t hesitate to take a look at our portrait lens guide.

ideal diaphragm opening

The diaphragm opening influences both the amount of light that we let pass to the sensor, and the degree of blur (image depth) that our image will have.

Ideally, for an extreme close-up, you should try to make the background very out of focus. If you have a bright target, you’re in luck, if not, open it up as wide as you can.

Yes indeed, make sure you focus well on the eyes, in such a closed plane, the blur is obvious. To do this, I recommend that you use a spot focus mode and that you set your camera to focus priority (your camera will not shoot until it sees that the image is in focus).

Extreme close-up lighting

Lighting in photography is key, also for working on plans.

To illuminate this type of portrait, you must take into account what type of light you are going to use:

Natural or artificial Soft or diffuse, or hard light Soft or diffuse light: Generates few shadows and homogeneous light with little contrast Hard light: Generates very marked shadows and high contrast in the image Depending on the shooting angle Front: The light falls on the front, creates few shadows and textures. Lateral: The light falls from the side, generating volume and texture on the face. Semi-lateral or 45º: One of the most used lighting. Generates textures and depth. Overhead or high: The light falls from above, creating shadows under the eyes and nose and a lot of contrast. Low angle view: It is an unnatural light since it falls from below, something difficult to find in the natural world. Reverses shadows cast at a zenith angle. Backlight: Light is placed behind the subject and in front of the camera. In this type of shot that we want to work on, I would only use it in profile, because what it does is highlight the silhouette. Semi backlight: The light falls at an approximate angle of 135º, it is used to outline the person.

Emotions that it transmits

We have already gone over the main characteristics of this type of frame, but let’s summarize them:

It’s a loaded plan. dramatics since the face occupies the entire frame. Its main objective is to convey the emotion of the protagonist. It is a very intimate since it brings us closer to the subject in a very marked way. This type of plane can also be used to eliminate the background when you need it and thus focus all attention on the subject avoiding distractions.

Extreme close-up at the cinema

As you can imagine, this type of framing is also very common in cinema. In movies it is used, as in photography, to highlight the emotion of the protagonist above all else.

If we combine the performance of the protagonist, the music, etc., with certain lighting, it can transmit completely different sensations or others.

If you are interested in the types of shots in the cinema, you will like this article: Types of Shots in the Cinema (With Examples Included).

Extreme close-up in photography

In photography there are fewer elements than in film to convey the feelings or the narrative of a scene since we are dealing with a static image without sound.

That is why it is so important that the elements that appear in the photographs make sense: the focus, the depth of field, and the lighting must be appropriate to what we have decided to convey with our photography.

More so in such a closed shot, where all the viewer’s attention is focused on a very specific area of ​​the frame.

extreme close-up vs close-up

These two types of shots differ in the degree of approach to the subject.

While the close-up shows the protagonist from his shoulders to his head, the very close-up shows him from his chin to his forehead.

Both are intimate shots, but obviously the closer we are to the protagonist, the more intimate and dramatic the shot is.

horizontal close-upForeground
portrait extreme close-up extreme close-up

In addition, with a close-up, we see some extra information such as some background and clothing, while in a very close-up there is no information beyond the face.

Extreme close-up vs detail shot

These two types of shots also differ in how close they are to the subject. In this case, the detail plane focuses on a specific area of ​​the face or body that we want to highlight.

extreme close-up horizontalextreme close-up
detail planDetail plan

Do you dare to approach your protagonist and fill the image with their emotion? This type of shot is very powerful, so if you want to get deep, impressive and daring portraits, I recommend that you fill the frame with a volunteer 😉

You will see how the result does not disappoint you. And you know, if you liked it and you think it’s interesting content to share, help us spread it. Thank you very much and see you in the next article.

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