A close-up you say? Shots taken in such detail are often unnerving for many people. From pores to pimples, this type of image is capable of revealing any so-called imperfections on someone’s skin. 

An important thing to note is that makeup and styling in film and TV is not just done for the sake of it. Sometimes, even healthy skin is capable of producing a distracting shimmer when exposed to harsh studio lights. This is due to the natural oils found in skin, and is not anything to be embarrassed about.

However, movie and TV directors do not ideally want any distractions from their perfectly crafted piece of work. So, it is often the task of makeup artists to apply just the right kind of makeup to give the subject a completely natural look under studio lighting that avoids any shine. 

The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady
The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady

Extreme close-up shots are a normal part of filming. Naturally, since they focus on someone’s face in more detail than a regular shot, it can be much more difficult to style an actor in a way that holds up.

Why Bother With Extreme Close-Up Shots?

Believe it or not – these aren’t planned by directors just to create extra work for the makeup department! There are a few reasons why directors love using a close-up:

It places all attention on the emotions experienced by the subject. An extreme close-up is capable of catching the most subtle twitch of the eye or quiver of the lip. Actors can use this to their advantage by showcasing emotion through their face in a way that would not usually be picked up by a shot from a regular distance.

It allows for focus on the experience of the character. A close-up is often used when the director wants our sole attention to be on what is happening to the character. If we need to know how they are feeling about a certain event or what is running through their head, a close-up gives the actor a chance to convey this.

To focus on a specific part of the subject. If it so happens to be written into the scene that something noteworthy happens to a subject’s nose, then a close-up of the subject’s nose would allow the audience to pick up on this detail.

How To Style For Extreme Close-Ups

As you already know, makeup in TV and film is not just for ‘making someone look better’. It is normally about modifying an actor so that they can look the same from all angles and under all lighting.

Tips For Styling The Face

Be careful not to overdo makeup around the eyes. If a close-up is on the schedule, it is likely to involve the eyes of your subject. Particularly for females, you need to be careful not to get too heavy with any eyeliner, mascara or eye shadow used. These can enhance a look from a distance, but can begin to look too unnatural or obvious during a close-up shot. If you are using mascara, be sure to remove any clumps with light, upward strokes of your brush.

Pluck any stray eyebrow hairs. This is a classic distraction that can crop up during a close-up. Of course, you are safe from a distance but as soon as the camera closes in, any unruly hairs can easily be spotted. Tidy up the eyebrows and shape gently.

Take care with ears. Ears are notoriously difficult to style because they tend to be a redder and lighter color than surrounding skin. You will want to cover ears in a base makeup that prevents backlight from being able to shine through and make them appear lighter than they already do. It is also a good idea to coat them with a translucent face powder.

Avoid shiny lips. Lip gloss is generally a thing to avoid for film and TV because it can add a distracting shine. When dealing with lipstick, you will want to blot it with a tissue before the subject goes in front of a camera to avoid any unwanted shimmer.

Tips For The Rest Of The Body

Lighten areas that are usually darker. It helps to attain an even skin tone if you combat naturally dark areas like elbows, knees and ankles with a lighter shade of makeup. 

Consider matte face powder for pale subjects. To help brighten up a pale complexion, use a matte face powder that is slightly darker than the actor’s normal skin tone. Matte will give you the best, most natural-looking result. Try to avoid any glossy or bronzing powders!

Use a light blush. Harsh lights combined with an extreme close-up shot can suck the color out of anyone. It can never hurt to use a light, rosy blush to maintain a healthy-looking color.


Close-ups are an important part of any actor’s career, so it is important to help them feel as confident as possible in front of the camera. Your job as a makeup artist is just that. If your subject can project their script in the knowledge that any imperfections are covered up by your makeup, they will be able to deliver a much stronger performance.

Don’t forget to check out our funding opportunities for the chance to win up to $10,000 in funding for your short film if you or someone you know needs funding.

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