How to Take Amazing close up photos of the eye

How many times have we heard that ‘the eyes are the mirror of the soul’? That is because they are capable of reflecting our emotions, our fears and even sending messages without words. In this article we want to teach you how to shoot a close up of the eye but this time from close up, from very very close.

How fascinating are the eyes right? Regardless of their physiological functions and complexities, the eyes are essential for non-verbal communication and expression. Although they also play an essential role in the aesthetic qualities of the human face.

How to shoot a close up to the Iris of the Human Eye

close up of eye

When we see an eyeball from so close, we often feel a mixture of emotions that go from fear to fascination. We wonder, do I also have an iris with those strange textures? If you look closely and let your imagination fly, they seem like mysterious landscapes from other unexplored worlds full of craters and dunes.

Until now, we have always insisted that you focus on the eyes in portraits and that you give importance to the law of the gaze to achieve a good composition. And we’ve even taught you how to enhance a look with Lightroom.

However, today we are going to focus on photographing a part of the eye, the iris. We want to capture the texture, impress the viewer and, of course, leave him mesmerized … How can we achieve this? What material do we need? What camera parameters should I use? We will solve all those doubts point by point:


The best thing to do to take this type of photograph is to use a medium focal macro lens (60-105 mm). If we do not have it, we can choose some alternatives to macro photography such as: extension tubes, close-up lenses or investment rings. The important thing is that we are not too close to the eye so as not to intimidate the subject too much, which will tend to close the eye and protect it as a reflex action.

Another element that will be essential is a tripod to anchor our camera on it and have the greatest possible stability. If you don’t have one, it will be more difficult to get a completely sharp photo, but you can try placing your camera on a table or a flat and stable surface.

Finally, use a remote shutter to take your photos from a distance, without having to touch the button on the camera. If you don’t have a remote shutter, you can also choose to use the camera’s self-timer as an alternative.


Good lighting will play a fundamental role in getting a good shot. We will need a lot of direct and constant light. Choose a sunny day to stand near a window that lets in natural light, but without the sun shining directly on our subject or his eye.

You could use an external flash or a ring flash to get good lighting if you do not have enough light, but it is not the most advisable … Think that such intense and bright light shining on the eye of our subject can be very uncomfortable for him or she.

If we use extra lighting, we also run the risk of achieving a more artificial result. We will be able to obtain a very flat illumination and the reflection of the light bulb or of the ring flash circle. Therefore, if we are looking for a more realistic capture we will have to choose to play with natural light.


close up of eye
NIKON D7000 55.0 mm f / 8.0 10 / 1250s ISO 160

If you don’t want your subject to look directly at the camera, you will have to ask them to look in a certain direction. Keep in mind that depending on where you look, you will have one reflection or another in the eye. That is why it is important to choose a nice or pleasant location and try to keep the camera and lens from coming out.

A landscape such as the sea, a meadow or some interesting architectural element, can be some ideas. If this is not possible, you can ask him to look up so that the sky is reflected or towards the window and thus, incidentally, get more light. If you do not want anything to be reflected in your model’s eye, you will have to avoid reflections or intense light sources.

Try to get your eye facing the camera as far as possible. Ideally, you should place the camera on the tripod and have the subject sit in a chair by a window and with their body and head resting on a surface, such as a wall or table. This way we will achieve the greatest possible stability on both sides.


close up of eye
Canon EOS 60D135.0mm f / 5.61 / 250s ISO 100

Once we have the subject well located with the correct lighting and we have placed the camera anchored on the tripod at the height of the subject’s eye, it is time to take the photo. Remember that using macro lenses or their alternatives, getting everything to come out sharp will not be easy. Therefore, try to place your camera as parallel to the iris as possible.

The diaphragm aperture you choose should be neither too high nor too low. If you use high apertures (like f / 1.8) you will have light, but the sharp area will be minimal and you will not get the entire iris to come out in focus. Whereas, if you use low apertures (like f / 16) you will get sharpness, but dark images. Try using a medium aperture like f / 5.6 or f / 8 and play around with the rest of the parameters.

If we do not want our iris to be blurred or blurred, we will also need to use a high shutter speed, at least 1/125. Finally, activate the live view mode to focus manually, that is, with the focus ring of your camera. Zoom in and focus just on the junction between the pupil and the iris (do not do it on the eyelashes, or on the eyelid)

Lastly, take your shot via a wired or wireless remote trigger. If you use the self-timer, set it with a second or two delay at the most, so that your subject is not holding out too long with the eye open. If it is suggested, he may close his eye just when he hears the acoustic signal that the capture is about to take place.


Finally, we will have to develop our photograph. We recommend that you take your captures in RAW format in order to get the most out of your photographs. If you don’t know the benefits of shooting your photos in RAW format, take a look at this article.

With Lightroom, Photoshop or the photo editing program that you use, you can adjust the exposure and reduce noise, in case you have used an ISO a little higher than normal to gain light. If the color of the eyes of the portrayed person is striking, do not hesitate to increase the intensity of that color, and even the saturation.

Our advice, if you use Lightroom or Photoshop’s Camera RAW Filter, is to reduce shadows to bring out more details and to lower highlights to balance the lighting. Now the key will be to increase clarity and focus so that those textures that look like alien landscapes stand out and look good.

Extra Tips

close up of eye
photo by steve lodefink (CC license) Nikon D40 60.0 mm ƒ / 5.0 1 / 125s ISO 800

Let your model know that the session will take time and that she will have to be patient. If this is the first time you do it, it will be difficult for you to get a good photo the first time and it will take quite a few tries. You will ask him to change his position looking for the right light to avoid reflections, you will have to frame, reframe, focus and refocus, etc.

Let the subject take breaks from time to time. It is difficult to keep the eye open for a long time and can be annoying. Also, if you do not blink we will only get an eye full of tears, and that does not interest us either. Change the eye too, you may like its textures even more.

A good trick to avoid closed eyes is to ask your subject to blink just before shooting the photo. This will reduce the likelihood of it occurring at the time of the shot. Finally, be careful not to reflect yourself in the eye (unless your intention is more artistic and you want your camera or you to come out in reflection as one more element of the composition)