The Close-up Camera Shot:
How You Can Capture Emotion
and Action in Detail!

The Close-Up Camera ShotThe Close-Up Camera Shot

A close-up camera shot tightly frames a subject so that the subject becomes the primary focus within the shot. Use this shot to keep your audience in-tune and "connected" to the subjects in your video or film.

Here is how you can use this type of shot…!

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These types of shots do not show the subject in the broader context of it's surroundings... Instead the close-up camera shot gets "up close and personal" with the subject and... To a greater or lesser degree... eliminates the background from the scene. 

Your audience's attention is now centered and focused on one element in the scene and they can now focus on this element in great detail.


What Does the Close-up Camera Shot Reveal?

What the Close-Up Shot RevealsWhat the Close-Up Shot Reveals

Whereas a camera medium shot or camera long shot is more appropriate for delivering facts, orienting your audience, delivering general information or giving the audience panoramic views…

"Private Space"

In most cultures the space within about 24 inches (60 cm) around the person is generally considered to be his or her “Private Space”.

Use the close-up camera shot to reveal the emotions and/or details of the subject. When the subject of the shot is a person it usually means a close-up shot of their face.

A close-up camera shot exaggerates the subject's facial expressions which can convey many types of emotion to the audience since facial shots are perfect to focus the audience's attention on a person's feelings or reactions.

It can be used in scenes to clearly show people in a state of excitement, grief, joy or other emotions.

If is a favorite shot in interviews, TV soap operas, sporting events and documentaries. By using close shots the viewer is drawn into the subject's "Private Space" and can share their emotions and feelings.

No type of shot gets the audience more emotionally involved than the close-up.


Cutaways and Close-Ups in Film and Video Editing…

Cutaway shot and close-upsLong Shot of Subject Showing Action
Close-Up of Subject Showing Emotion

In film and video editing this type of shot is often used as a “cutaway” shot. This means cutting from a more distant shot (usually showing action) to a close shot to show detail such as a characters emotion, or some intricate activity, etc.

Using quick close-up cuts to characters faces is used far more often in television, than in movies and video, and they are especially common in soap operas and sporting events where... the capturing of the action is just as important as conveying the subjects emotion. Using these quick close-ups can capture attention and keep the audience involved with the story.

Quite frankly... medium shots and long shots can be boring if that's all the audience is seeing and... after a while... they won't feel so emotionally involved with the characters and their attention begins to wane.

You can hold the audience's attention by cutting to close-ups so that they can see more detail and get involved with the characters facial expressions and emotions.


It's Use in Identifying the Main Characters…

Close-Up Shot Identifying Main CharacterClose-Up Shot Identifying Main Character

A lot of times close shots are used to distinguish the main characters in a story.

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Major characters are often given a close shot when they are introduced as a way of indicating their importance.

Leading characters may have multiple close shots so that the audience can become more emotionally involved with them.

However, a director may also deliberately avoid close shots sometimes to create in the audience an “emotional distance " from the character, subject or subject matter.


Wide-Angle Lenses and the Close-Up Shot…

Wide-Angle Lenses and Close-Up ShotsWide-Angle Lenses and Close-Up Shots

Close shots are rarely done with wide-angle lenses because this perspective causes objects in the center of the picture to be unnaturally enlarged... Which makes for a really funny-looking picture.

Sometimes however... filmmakers and videographers will use wide angle lenses in this type of shot so they can convey a particular emotion or feeling and bring life to certain characters.

But like I say…

A wide-angle lens is rarely used for close-ups unless you have a very  particular affect in mind.


A Little Goes a Long Way…! Here Are Some Tips…

When you're editing your video just be sure to take into consideration these things…

Using the Close-Up Camera Shot Tip # 1

* If overused, the close-up camera shot may leave viewers uncertain as to what they are seeing or what the meaning of the shot or scene is.

Using the Close-Up Camera Shot Tip # 2

* The audience can lose their orientation and their sense of the emotional continuity of the film or video if this shot is overused. So sprinkle it into your video or film at the proper moments and you'll be okay!

Using the Close-Up Camera Shot Tip # 3

* You normally need a specific reason to get this close in shooting a subject so plan your close shots carefully! This shot, just like any other, can be overused.

Using the Close-Up Camera Shot Tip # 4

* Keep in mind that the close-up shot is used to involve  the audience in the video or film by showing them great detail or allowing them to easily recognize the emotions and/or actions of the subject.

Using the Close-Up Camera Shot Tip # 5

* If used well, the close-up is a great change of pace for the audience and will keep their interest high in your characters and storyline.


And... of course… that's what you want...!

Understandable characters and your audience involved... all the way through to the end...!


Have fun...!  Dan (Editor)

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