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How to Photograph the Human Eye, Iris or Pupil

Close-up Photographs of the Human Eye
Photo by: David Lindes

There is no need to explain the importance of eyes to a living being; but why photographers fret so much about them may look a bit intriguing. “Focus on the subject’s eyes”; may probably be the first tip any photographer get in the beginning of his career. A photographer’s torment with eye is not limited to shooting it but also in post-production? There is even countless number of tutorials, plug-ins, Photoshop actions and brushes etc. to help the subjects’ eyes “pop”!

how to photograph the human eye
how to photograph the human eye

Even though many photographers have not taken enough pains to really explore the human eye with a macro lens. From a distance the only thing that we observe about human eyes are that they are smooth orbs, always moist and they do come in many different shades of blue, green, brown and black. But enter the amazing world of macro, find a willing subject and you’ll be stunned at the amount of detail present in the eyes; it’s nothing less than mind-blowing.

Here in this article we will discuss certain tips that will of real help in photographing the human eye in all splendors.

Tips for Photographing the Human Eye

tips for photographing the human iris
Photo by: e-monk

1. Get yourselves a true macro lens, or any other means of obtaining life size (1:1) magnification. A close up filter, lens reverse ring, extension tube etc will do.

2. Continuous light sources (preferably soft), are the best for photographing human eyes, so find a well lit spot and seat your subject such that the light is falling on the eye at an angle that causes only the least amount of reflection.

3. The eyes reflect everything around them, including the camera, lights, the photographer and the surroundings; so experiment and find the best lighting angle which gives best results.

human eye photography tips
Photo by: e-monk

4. When iris is photographed the in low light situations; the pupil will expand making the photograph un-interesting.

5. Macro lenses which provide an angle of view of 100mm or narrower is best as they provide more working distance, which will make the subject comfortable.

6. Although it’s not an absolute must, using a tripod will help make things easier and improve chances of getting great shots.

how to photograph human eye
Photo by: e-monk

7. Keep the sensor parallel to the eyes.

8. Make subject to look directly into the lens, assuming you are shooting head on.

9. Shift the lens to Manual mode and focus on the iris manually.

10. Use a minimum aperture of f/8 to get sufficient depth of field and capture all details.

11. Keep the shutter speed fast enough to eliminate any blur caused either by camera shake or subject’s movement.

12. Get over with the session fast. It’s difficult for anyone to keep eyes open for long, they’ll blink and if the purposefully keep it open the eyes will soon begin to water. Trick is to ask your subject to keep both eyes shut, when everything is ready ask them to open their eyes, fire of few quick shots, ask them to close their eyes when you review your pictures. You’ll get what you need in a couple of bursts.

I’m sure if you are doing this for the first time, you’ll be stunned with what you see, at macro magnifications the human eyes with all their detail seems almost alien, but not less beautiful.

human eye photography
Photo by: e-monk

Any effort spent on capturing the ‘reflections of a golden eye’ doesn’t go waste as eyes have traditionally been the most powerful weapon on the earth; by a mere wink of her eyes; Helen of Troy could launch a thousand ships and burn the topless towers of Ilium!
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