The Power of Close-up Shots in Filmmaking

In the world of cinema, we have many kinds of shots. Close-up, medium, long-range, and wide range shots. They all have their own significance. When it comes to telling the objects and the scene, medium to wide range shots capture the essence of every element. But when you want to tell the non-obvious part of your story, you need to close-up. A whole another level of depth is achieved.

Filmmakers of the early cinema often used long and medium-range shots. They thought of a movie as a play going to a theatre. It took longer to realize the power of close-up shots. If you see the movies today, they believe in details. Every smallest of the objects might be used to tell the whole dramatic scene. For eg. – A bloodied knife on the counter, completely tells what might have happened.

Today we may take the close-up shots for granted, it is difficult to imagine how lengthy, costly, and stupid the visual storytelling would have got.


Why should one use Close-up shots?

Let’s first understand one thing, there is more than one type of close-up shots. You may imagine a camera coming closer and closer to the object or subject with a little change of background elements. Typically one sees a close-up shot to be capturing a person’s face, hands and so. Yes, it is a close-up but there is a medium close-up where you don’t show the entire body of the subject. When you move too close, it reveals a person’s skin or the eye movement maybe.

Close-ups are used for both narrative and stylistic purposes. In the movie ‘whiplash’ there is so good use of close-up shots to build the tension of playing instruments. In the end, scene where J.K. Simmons, smiles in approval of Miles teller, the shot is iconic. The whole frame focuses on the eyes of Simmons but you can easily imagine that he is smiling. Such small details won academy awards and nominations for the movie.

YouTubers use the close-up shots very frequently. It might be for a cooking show where one is drooling the audience or a gadget review where people decide themselves buying the product someday. They are frequently used in the infamous reaction videos to capture every ounce of the emotion developing on the viewer’s face.


When to use Close-ups

We have already reached a point where we know how dramatic a scene can be with help of close-up shots and for the shots involving insane details. You might like to highlight comic moments too. In filmmaking, a close-up allows the movie to focus on the face of a great actor. Their skills are completely tested in close-ups, anything from nervousness, anxiety, anger, and happiness, it’s all out in the open.