Focus on Travel Photography

Photography Composition Rules Close-Ups Simplifying Filling the Frame Choosing a Format Placing the Horizon Line The Rule of Thirds Lines Taking Pictures Through Frames Patterns Textures High and Low Camera Angles Abstract Composition Establishing Size Color
» See the tips and sample pictures


The world is full of tiny things that can draw a curious eye. Often seemingly insignificant details tell the story of a locale as well as broad views do. In a slide show, a close-up of a painted Chinese character is the perfect sequel to a Beijing street view.

One of the great things about digital cameras (particularly point-and-shoot cameras) is that because of their sensor size and optical design they have fantastic close-up capabilities. If you do a search on Flickr (, on "close ups," for example, you'll see the most stunning examples of close-up photos of bugs, flowers, and animals' eyes, among other things. Many digital point-and-shoot and zoom cameras in fact will focus sharply on subjects closer than an inch from the front of the lens. If shooting close-ups is important to you, be sure to consider the close-up capabilities when buying your camera.

Taking close-ups with a point-and-shoot or zoom camera is very straightforward and usually there is a special close-up shooting mode that handles most of the technical details for you. You'll know when you're trying to take a picture that's beyond the camera's close-focus capability, because the autofocus won't lock on to your subject and won't let you fire the camera. Fixing the problem is simple: just back off a bit until the "correct focus" indicator light let's you know it's safe to shoot.

With a DSLR camera, on the other hand, the degree of closeness is almost unlimited. A variety of accessories can be used to provide ever-increasing magnification. If you take close-ups only occasionally, a simple set of screw-on close-up filters will provide an inexpensive solution. For more serious work, a macro lens or a zoom with a macro feature offers superior quality.

Whatever camera equipment you have, using a moderately fast ISO of 200 or 400 is very important: The closer you get, the less inherent depth of field there is and the more camera shake is magnified. Using a higher ISO allows the camera to select higher shutter speeds and smaller apertures, which help correct both problems.

Next: "Simplifying"