How To Shoot Macro Eye Photography

One of the most stunning forms of macro photography is capturing the human eye. This article will show you how to take a stunning macro photo of your own eye.

What Gear Do You Need For Macro Eye Photography

macro shot of woman's eyes

Camera

A good camera for macro photography will have a crop factor of 1.5 or greater. This will allow you to get closer to your subject while maintaining the same field of view as a full frame camera. A full frame camera is not necessarily better since it won’t have any magnification due to its large sensor size and crop factor of 1, unless you are shooting at its widest focal length.

Macro Lens

A macro lens will have a smaller minimum focusing distance than other lenses which allows you to get in extremely close. If you try to do eye photography with your kit lens, you will need to either get in extremely close or use extension tubes to take the shot.

Extension Tubes/Tubing and Macro Focusing Rail (Optional)

An extension tube is a hollow tube that fits between your camera and lens. They don’t allow auto focus to work but they do allow you to get in closer than your lenses normal minimum focusing distance would normally allow. You can also use two extension tubes together further increasing how close you can get.

Tripod

A macro tripod will be extremely steady for shooting things as small as the human eye. If you have an extension tube or tubing attached to your lens, a standard tripod probably won’t be sturdy enough to handle the weight of your camera and will shake when you press the shutter.

Flashes (optional) – Natural light is best for macro eye photography but if a flash is used be certain to set it to rear curtain (not the camera hot shoe) and use a pop up flash so the light does not accidently hit your camera sensor.

Eye Macro Photography Settings

closeup of woman's eye

You should set the camera to manual mode and choose the standard aperture of f/8. This will allow you to get in extremely close and still have a good depth of field. That way when you shoot your eye (which is a very small subject) the light from your flash will still be able to illuminate it as if it were a big piece of paper so you can see what you are photographing.

ISO

If you are shooting in a well lit room, the best settings for your ISO will be between 100-200. If you are shooting outside or inside in a dimly lit room, try setting your ISO to 400.

White Balance

For macro photography, it is best to set the white balance to daylight (light bulb). Unless you have a daylight lamp available, you will need to use your flash as well as the camera’s built in flash to illuminate your subject.

Focus

This is where your images will differ depending on if you have a macro lens or not. For lenses with a macro ring, make sure that the lens focus ring is set to the macro setting. If you have a standard lens without an extension tube and you want to get in close, turn off autofocus so you can manually focus on your subject.

Eye Macro Photography Tips

When shooting the human eye, fire up your camera at a low shutter speed of between 1/4 to 1/30 second. This will give you enough time to separate your subject from the background and also to have enough light streaming in so you can see what you are shooting.

Try to shoot at the best aperture possible for your lens. If it is a macro lens, try going as low as possible. If it’s a standard lens without an extension tube or tubing, try going as high as possible.

You’ll also want to focus on your eyes instead of the surrounding skin. Sometimes the skin gets in the way and your image will come out blurry. Try to focus on your eye and leave your background out of focus for a more defined shot. If you have enough light, you can even get creative and shoot the human eye with a blurred background.

When shooting with a flash, direct it at your subject from the side. Try to shoot with an angle of 15° from directly above and avoid having the flash hit you in the face.

Bottom Line

Normally, macro photography is done with a camera at its minimum focusing distance and your lens set to macro. For macro eye photography, you will want to be way in there. If you have an extension tube or tubing, get close and shoot as close as possible. Use a tripod so your shooting doesn’t shake and use a flash only when necessary.