The Constant Call Of The Close Up

If my photographic output of the last three or four years was arranged by distance to subject, about 90% would be less than 30cm away. A significant proportion would be less than 3cm away!

Regular readers might recall I recently shared a series of posts about different ways to photograph up close and intimate.

So what is it about such close up photographing that I love so much?

I thought I’d give it some deeper consideration. Here’s what arose.

1. The beauty is in the details.

Yes, you can of course have a beautiful photograph of a mountain range or a desert or those amazing overhead Google Earth type images.

But for me the real beauty lies up close.

Perhaps this stems from (or at least it’s intimately entwined with) the way I see people. I don’t generally see someone from afar and admire their typically beautiful model like features.

Far more intriguing and alluring to me is the curved hollow of a lower spine, semi-translucent trails on a soft hip – nature’s own tattoos after childbirth, or delicate freckles across the bridge of a nose.

You don’t see any these properly until your close enough.

It’s similar with flowers.

Yes, a field of tulips or poppies, or a wildflower meadow, can be a breathtaking sight, taken in in one go.

But again, more interesting to me are the veins within a dying skeletal leaf, fresh dew on fallen petals in morning grass, or a dusty stamen, pregnant with pollen.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

2. It narrows my focus. 

I’m very good at focusing on one project or task or person and give it intense attention.

What I’m actually pretty rubbish at is juggling seven different things at once. They all end up getting done poorly, and I end up exhausted and frustrated.

When I get close with a camera, it’s a similar kind of narrowing of focus – quite literally.

I’m able to pour all of my attention and energy into what’s right there in the camera’s viewfinder or screen, and capture it in a way I find as beautiful and memorable as possible.

Everything else disappears, and all the matters is what’s before me.

As well as, hopefully, being rewarded with a photograph I’m delighted with, this experience is incredibly calming and centring.

Far more than, say, darting around a busy street scenes firing off shots like a machine gun, and trying to find some kind of order amongst the ever evolving chaos. 


3. It further enhances depth of field. 

I’m such a sucker for shallow depth of field.

One of the great wonders of photography for me, is being able to make a clearly defined background disappear into a glorious impressionistic blur of brush strokes, something the naked eye could never see.

Whichever camera/lens combination you use, the closer you get to your subject, the greater it forces objects far from the the subject to be blurred.

So even with compact cameras with small sensors, capable of great depth of field at their hyperfocal distance, by getting up close, I can create this dramatic contrast between the subject in focus and the blurred background.

And connect once again with that particular magical aspect of photography.


Do you enjoy close up photography? For what reasons? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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