Interesting composition in photography can take many forms. The photos that most consistently draw focus are those with intricate details, unique lines, and stunning spectrums of color. The subject is what makes the picture. Few things provide a richer territory for photography than the human eye.
Eye photography is one of the most captivating genres of macro photography out there and can be a good training exercise for photographers of any experience level. The details in the iris alone can take a long time to get right! Beginners often find themselves stumped when starting out with eye photography.
There’s a lot to consider and it can be difficult to know where to start.
How to take a picture of your eye
Camera settings, shutter speed, depth of field, finding the right macro lens, focus, the list goes on. The tips in this article are designed to take the stress out of eye photography and help you take an excellent eye photograph every time. From lens considerations to lining up the perfect shot, we’ve got you covered.
Consider a Macro Lens
Make sure you’re using a lens that can maintain a sharp focus at a short distance. The fine details of features such as the iris can get lost very easily in a blurry photograph. Your best option for this kind of picture is a macro lens. Make sure you’re using a focal length of at least 100mm.
This will give you the flexibility necessary for getting a great eye picture. If you’d like to learn more about macro photography, our website is full of helpful content with tips for getting started!
Cheaper Alternatives to Macro Lenses
If you’re looking to take stunning eye photos but are still a beginner, it might not be cost-effective for you to splash out on a brand new lens. Some accessories can help you “cheat” your zoom and focus while still producing excellent photos. You can capture the beauty of the iris without breaking the bank.
Your options include:
- Lens reversing rings
- Macro bellows
- Extension tubes
All of these can be attached to a regular lens and will give you macro functionality at a fraction of the cost! It’s worth keeping in mind, that some of these solutions are more sensitive to light and may produce a photo with lower image quality. They can also make adjusting your focus less convenient.
However, if you want to use your existing camera to take great pictures of eyes, these accessories can save you plenty of money in the process.
Other Gear to Consider
Here are some other camera accessories that make it much easier to take a great macro eye picture:
- Tripods: Eyes move around – a lot. The more movement you can eliminate, the better your macro photography will be. If you hold the camera for your pictures, both you and your subject will be moving! Use a tripod if you want a great iris / eye photograph.
- IR shutter release: This will be especially helpful if you’re taking a macro image of your own eye or eyes. You’ll be able to activate the shutter without touching your camera. You can keep your hand away from your setup and focus on staying still for the photo.
- Flash accessories: These can improve your lighting situation a great deal. As you’re taking photos of an eye, you’ll have to be careful to prep your model so that they don’t blink and ruin the shot. If you keep them on a lower setting, using these light accessories can really boost the results in your images.
- A mirror: If you need to get an image of your own eyes, using a mirror may help. If your camera doesn’t have a reversible viewfinder, then using a mirror is a good way to frame your eyes for each image.
So you’ve gathered the best gear for the job. Now it’s time to take the picture! Ask your subject to look at a fixed point either on your macro lens or elsewhere. Decide which part of the eye you’d like to capture with your camera. Does the color of the iris grab your attention, or does the light fall somewhere else that you could use for your photograph?
Make sure you look closely at each detail to choose the best part of the eye for your shot.
To take your eye photograph to the next level, you may want to use an artificial light source. Something you see in a lot of eye photography is a catch light. This is the small white spot you often see in close-up images of eyes. They’re usually caused by a continuous light source from ring lighting accessories or good natural lighting.
You need to get your lighting right when getting close and personal to the eyes with a camera. Avoid a setup that will cast a shadow on the eye. Using a tripod will hold your camera still and give you one less thing to think about. If you’re constantly moving your camera by hand, there’s a good chance you’ll cast a shadow without noticing.
One of the most common mistakes in eye photography is not getting close enough to the eye itself. This is why it’s best to use a macro lens. Using a lens like this with your camera allows you to get much closer to the eye without losing focus.
Get familiar with the zoom settings of your camera as this will help you fine-tune your position for the perfect eye photograph. Turn off the flash setting on your camera, as this will make the eyes blink and ruin your shot. Get a ring light and keep it on the lowest setting if you need to improve your lighting.
Can You Use a Smartphone Camera?
While shooting eyes with a smartphone doesn’t come close to a dedicated setup, you can definitely produce an eye photo that doesn’t look half bad! Your smartphone should have its own “macro” settings. If you’re lucky, it may even have its own “eye mode” to make it easier to capture close-up pictures.
You’ll need to consider a macro attachment for your phone if you need to regularly get close to your subject. Phone photography has come a long way in the past few years. A good camera from several years ago can be outpaced by a phone in some contexts!
This is an often-overlooked setting that is actually very important if you want to get a good image of your eyes. For a crisp, sharp image of your eyes, it’s important to set the ISO correctly. When capturing an image in a bright location, set the ISO to 100 to reduce the amount of “noise” you’ll have to deal with.
The darker your environment, the higher your ISO will have to be. Try not to use a setting higher than 800, as this can affect your image quality. In general dark environments are best avoided, as the colors in the iris get lost without enough light. The pupil also constricts in lower light which might not be what you’re after for your pictures.
While it’s not the most important consideration when shooting images of eyes, many beginners don’t use the right setting. If you’re a beginner who’s overwhelmed by the prep required for setting up each image, turn on the aperture priority setting and let your camera do the work for you.
If you want to set the speed manually, don’t go below 1/60th of a second. This would bring a lot of unwanted blur to your image. As the iris is full of detailed lines and shapes, even the tiniest amount of blur can ruin otherwise excellent images. If your automatic settings are going lower than 1/60, use a brighter light source.
Shooting phenomenal images of eyes means getting up close and personal to your subject. Getting this close involves a much smaller depth of field. Taking great images every time means using the right aperture setting.
The shallow depth that comes with f/18 is something you should avoid. It will make it difficult to achieve the crisp iris shots you’re looking for. Use a more narrow option such as f/11 or f/8 to make your life easier.
With these things in mind, check out this very helpful video on how to take a photo of your eye:
A beautiful macro image of an iris is the hallmark of a good photographer. The only way to get there is to try, and try again. The best photographers in the world know that you can’t practice enough! We hope this article has done its part in outlining the key things to consider when taking close photos of the eye.
One final tip: make sure to give yourself or your model plenty of time to rest between shots. Eyes are sensitive, and the last thing you want is them to get worn out. You don’t want the beauty of the iris to be overshadowed by redness!
This website is here to make photography as accessible as possible. We want even complete beginners to feel more confident when capturing an image. If you have any questions or suggestions for content, please don’t hesitate to contact us.