Personal Bubble Burstin’ – GETTING IN CLOSE.

There’s something really powerful about portraits of peoples faces close up.  Its very confrontational.  You normally don’t get to look at a stranger so close.  The great power of a face in focus at close distance is nothing to pop a zit at.

Getting close requires some courage, especially for us red blooded Americans.  Unlike many other cultures we believe in private space.  The radius of my bubble of personal space has shrank from around the length of a foot long hot dog down to a 2 inch cocktail weener.   Take a ride in any bus in India and your own personal space radius will follow proportional suite.

Starting to take better photos requires the courage to get closer when you need to and the temperance to back off when you don’t.  Getting close is tempting (and slightly unnerving) but it isn’t appropriate for every situation.  Some of the things I look for when I am about to get close:

  1. Is the subject worthy of my time?  The subject has to be very interesting if I am going to focus on their face.  They need not have scars or wrinkles but something needs to be interesting about them and their expression.
  2. Do I have time to get close?  Will the subject still be there after I approach?  Should you move fast or slow to “get ’em”?
  3. What does the background look like?  If the background is interesting, then I may want to incorporate it (which begs the question of how to incorporate the background).  If the backdrop is crap, then go for the super closeup and get rid of it!

How you answer these questions over time will also affect your style.

I chose her because of the funky look on her face.  Some of the reflections in the upper left corner helps as well.  However, I typically like to shoot the subjects sitting on the train straight on.  This shot was at a slight angle.

He is probably the closest I’ve ever gotten (35mm lens).  And I am so surprised he didn’t notice me.  My clunky Nikon FM’s shutter is loud!  His expression of nonchalance and his New York jacket make this photo come alive.  Taking out the background is nice as well (little to no cropping on this).

There was this amazing statue in Madison Sq. Park last summer.  Unfortunately is was temporary.  Happy to grab this shot!  (OK SO IT WAS POSED!)  It’s still a good illustrations of a closeup that I enjoy.

These shots range between super closeups and closeups.  Notice the interplay between the main subject and the background (not saying that I did an amazing job with this but just pointing it out).

See my post about framing and my list of the 4 different types of framing for street.

Happy shooting,


2 thoughts on “Personal Bubble Burstin’ – GETTING IN CLOSE.

  1. You’r pictures are phenomenal! I normally stick to taking pictures of inanimate objects because I don’t want to upset anyone (but your more recent article, the one on ethics gave me a little more courage). I don’t live anywhere near a place to pictures of people in their daily habitat, unless I go to Walmart…, so hopefully I still have that courage the next time I am in a bustling public place. 🙂

    1. Its funny how sometimes I take for granted the fact that I am so close to so many people! Go ahead and start photoing people! After awhile it becomes natural 🙂

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