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Prepare Your Subjects for Close-Ups

The close-up portrait can be nerve-racking for some people, and as a photographer you need to be respectful of an individual’s limits and concerns. Most people prefer not to have a camera positioned very close to their faces for fear that undesirable details will be revealed in the resulting photographs.

Earning a subject’s trust is critical for taking effective photographs. Any discomfort your subject has with you or the situation is going to show up in your images. Follow the precautions and steps explained in this section to ensure that a subject trusts you and feels comfortable — even during a close-up.

To keep your subject from assuming the worst about having her close-up taken, share your ideas and creative vision with her. Doing so gives the subject a chance to feel comfortable in knowing what’s happening when the shutter clicks, rather than having to guess.

If your goal is to photograph a detail shot of just the eye, then you have to move your camera in very close to a person’s face. Be sure that she knows you’re basing the shot on the eye and that you chose to photograph just the eye because of how beautiful it is.

Explain why her eye deserves to appear as the star in a photograph. Is it the color, the long lashes, the shape, or the wisdom that can be seen in the eye?

The same respect applies when photographing an intimate close-up of someone. Explain to him what you’re interested in photographing, and why it requires you to position your camera in his personal space. If you find his dimple to be charming or his brow to be expressive, then enlighten him to these qualities and justify your creative vision. Let your subject know that a close-up helps to isolate the intimate expression.

To create an abstract photograph is to eliminate all literal representations. Perhaps explaining this to a subject will help to eliminate any discomfort. After all, no one’s going to recognize what’s in the image anyway.

If you try to explain your creative vision to your subject and she’s still uncomfortable with having a camera too close to her face or body, then you can simply drop the whole idea, or use equipment that enables you to get the close-up shot from farther away.

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