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Close-up shots in films are essential. How to do them in the right way, and why do you need them?

A filmmaker needs to convey specific feelings and emotions through cinematography’s art to make us feel certain things. Happy, sad, scared, hopeless? Any of those strong emotional states can be delivered with the help of the close-up shot, so it’s of great importance for both actors and filmmakers to know how to use close-ups to deliver the right emotion to the audience. Have you ever felt a big difference when you watch a movie, and an important scene is shot with the help of a close-up shot? Did it make you feel more invested?

Today we will try to break down to you why close-ups are so essential and what are the right ways to use them in your projects.

What is a close-up shot?

A close-up shot is one of the most famous shot sizes in cinematography. It impacts the film in many different ways and gives an intimate feeling and connection with the performer that no other shot sizes can provide. The close-up is a shot that filmmakers often take at relatively close range on a longer lens. The close-up brought something extraordinary and revolutionary to acting and filmmaking, as any facial movement can now convey a deeper meaning. 

After television appeared and became as impactful as today, filmmakers found a way to deliver the right emotion to the viewers in other ways than just using your body language excessively. Different shot types gave directors new ways to build a performance. For actors, there was a unique possibility to add depth to their character

Usually, close-up shots serve as a signal to the audience that something is essential, and they have to pay attention to it intuitively. 

There are four main types of close-up shots existing:

  1. Medium close-up shot. It’s something between a medium shot and a close-up shot. It helps to capture the subject starting from the waist and up.
  2. Close-up shot. Depicts the subject’s head, neck, and sometimes shoulders.
  3. Extreme close-up shot. Logically, it helps to portray a specific part of an object’s face: eyes, lips, or any other part for that matter. 
  4. Insert shot. A kind of close-up shows a specific object, detail, or prop to signal the audience that it’s essential.

Why close-up shots are essential?  

After we definied what a close-up shot is, let’s move on to the next point, which is why close-up shots are so important. Let us start by saying that nowadays, directors use close-up shots for several reasons.

Changing the storytelling pace.

When a filmmaker uses a close-up, it serves as a signal for the audience that something important is happening, and it may change the course of events. So, you, as a viewer, hold your breath and wait for something unexpected to happen.

Seeing events from a character’s point of view.

When the director is cutting to the close-up shot, you realize you concentrate more on how the name feels and, if done correctly, even understand what they think about, so it helps you see the situation from the character’s perspective. 

Showing character’s subtleties.

Using a close-up shot can help pay closer attention to a name’s details and facial movements. It enables the viewer to understand them better and allows to convey the correct emotional tone. An eyebrow twitch, a smirk, or an eye roll help the meaningful storytelling. 

How to create a powerful close-up shot

If you want to use close-ups effectively, you must know some tricks that many filmmakers use in their day-to-day work.

  • Make sure you know how you arrive at the close-up—deciding on which camera movement or technique to use is essential at that point. You can build the tension by slowly dollying in on the character’s face. It helps to evoke certain feelings. And cutting to the shot abruptly helps to surprise the viewer, catching them off-guard. So, your choice depends on what you want to achieve. 
  • Remember to combine different shot sizes. You can give the viewer different angles help to deliver the right emotions and improve storytelling. But keep in mind that overusing them might not be a good idea. 
  • Balance is the key. Don’t overuse close-up shots because it might make a wrong impression or minimize the audience’s impact. If there are not enough close-ups, it may disconnect them from the characters, and if you use close-up shots too excessively, it can have the opposite effect. 

Here’s some advice on using close-up shots for the benefit of your film and making it an impactful part of your project. Please share your thoughts on the importance of close-ups in the comment section. We’d like to hear your honest opinion.

Julie Franklin

Julie Franklin is a creative enthusiast. Subscribe to Tunetank's blog to get all your questions answered.