We received this question from “Just Shoot Me”, a 2 Guys Photo fan who previously asked us about composition. She’s back with another question, this one’s about getting in close.
Greetings once again! This time I come seeking knowledge about taking extreme close up photos.
You last taught me about the “Rule of Thirds”. Are there any rules or guidelines when one subject, or groups of the same subject, take up the entire frame?
These pictures were all taken with my cell phone camera which admittedly is lacking in clarity.
Thank you kindly in advance!
Just Shoot Me
Dear Just Shoot Me,
Welcome back and thanks for the great question. Getting in close to a subject can result in some amazing photographs. Oftentimes, our cameras can see more than we notice with the naked eye. There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to make a good close up image.
Unless you are going for an abstract, artsy look, sharpness is very important. A fuzzy close up is not likely to convey to the viewer the details that you saw and that attracted you in the first place.
Don’t get closer than your equipment will allow. All lenses have a focus range, indicating how close the lens can get to the subject and still render a sharp image. With a cell phone, it’s generally not very close and it may be difficult to find the specs. But through trial and error you can determine how close you can get and still make a sharp image. I know that with my older iPhone’s camera, close-ups are not really an option.
From the last time you wrote us, I recall you have an Olympus Stylus 840, which this Olympus websitestates has a close focusing distance of 7.9” in Macro Mode and 1.2” in Super Macro Mode. That’s pretty close. I would experiment with that camera at the two Macro settings and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at the results.
In a previous post, Rey talked about using a point and shoot camera to make close up images and he offered some really good pointers and examples. You can read about that here. And if you step up to a digital SLR camera, then you can splurge and spend about $12 on a set of close-up filters which can yield some stunning results. I wrote a post on that, with examples, that you might find helpful, here.
There is one composition guideline that applies to all types of photography, but especially close ups: fill the frame. Many of the examples in Rey’s and my previously mentioned posts demonstrate that. By filling the frame, you can make the image come alive, and with a good close up, the details, colors, shadows, etc. can really be enjoyed by the viewer. However, keep in mind the previous points – you really need to make a sharp image. Filling the frame with a something that looks like it was shot through a gauze bandage won’t do, UNLESS that’s the look you’re going for.
However, the good news is that, based on the samples you’ve sent us, you already grasp the fill the frame concept. (That mum is gorgeous.) So, well done!
Last point is a little tip. Sometimes we just can’t get close enough to fill the frame. But IF your image is super sharp and your image has enough megapixels (your Olympus has 8, which is good), you can crop in once you get the photo onto your computer.
Here’s an example. I made this image of a palm plant while in Arizona last fall:
It’s pretty sharp and has good detail, so using Picasa, a free photo editor you can download here, I cropped in to get this close up:
In this cropped version, the curly details of the palm fronds are even more evident and, I think, make for an interesting photo. So even though I didn’t set out to make a close up, I can create one after the fact using a photo editor, as long as my original is sharp and has interesting features that would look good up close.
I hope that helps Just Shoot Me. If I may suggest a little “homework assignment”… try taking some close ups with your point and shoot using the macro modes and see what happens. Send us your best shots and we’ll post them as a follow-up.
Keep on shooting and thanks for following 2 Guys! Posted by Ed
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I really do like the sample iPhone close-up shots and how they fill the frame.
Thanks very much yet again for the kind words and helpful guidance! The link to Rey’s previous post on the subject was informative as well and the details in his pictures are stunning. The gauze bandage look is definitely something I’d like to avoid, especially after my broken leg ordeal. Anything that resembles bandages, crutches, or casts will be banned from my view! In any case, I won’t be a novice for long thanks to all of your assistance. Keep up the great work!