How To: Photograph Your Own Eye

Create a startling close-up with a ring flash.

In September’s lighting, “Lovely Light,” August Bradley showed how, with about $17,000 in gear, you can make a stunning beauty portrait.

Here at the opposite end of the cost spectrum, resolutely self-reliant David Becker, 27, used a homemade macro ring flash—and not even a tripod—to make an equally awesome portrait of his own eye.


A graphic designer from Sioux Falls, SD, Becker is crazy about eyes, and his website,, showcases a dozen of them: blue, green, brown, human, animal—each as detailed, mysterious, and beautiful as the image here. “What first got me into eyes was the detail,” he says. “Most people don’t ever see how detailed they are. In daily life, eyes are rarely lit well enough to reveal the iris’ complex interplay of color and shape. Even when the lighting is good, you usually can’t get close enough to another person’s eye to really examine it.”

As Becker suggests, the key to photographing eyes is good lighting. It’s not easy because, using a typical macro lens, your subject may be very close its front element. If you’re lighting with a shoe-mount flash, the lens barrel at such close range may cast a shadow over part or all of the eye.


To overcome this, Becker used a macro ring flash. Mounted around the lens, it produced an even illumination across the eye, with all areas equally bright and shadow-free. Notice how the eyelashes here, although lit directly, cast no visible shadows.

And you can easily make your own. “Constructing my DIY ring flash was quite simple,” Becker explains. “I found a used angel food cake pan with a hole large enough to accept my lens in the middle. Then, using tin snips, I cut a hole in its side for the flash head to poke through.” He lined that hole with duct tape until it fit snugly around the flash, pressed tin foil (reflective side out) along the inside of the cake pan, and finally taped wax paper over the front for diffusion.

Want to try this yourself? Becker suggests photographing subjects who have clear, unveined eye whites and blue irises, which he says seem to show more detail. For more tips and inspiration, he turns to websites such as the Digital Photography School; DIY Photography offers similar projects.

And, if you own a tripod, let it support the camera while you experiment with your macro self-portraits. Or get a patient friend to model so you can practice.



Topic Filter: Commercial / Landscape / Portrait / Stock / What's Hot

Related Tutorials


Martin Lawrence

After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]

Read More

Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]

Read More

Gary Hart

Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.

Read More

Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz

Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]

Read More

What's Hot

Stupid Photoshop tricks #2 – Fold a Photo

I love the texture of old heritage photos, particularly those that have been kicking around for some years and which have managed to accumulate folds and crinkles. While it can take many years for a printed photo to develop this sort of quality, luckily Photoshop […]

Read More

How to Shoot the Olympics

Five of the world’s top Olympic sports photographers talk about what it’s like to shoot the biggest sporting event in the world. Getty Images photographer Streeter Lecka puts it best: “The Olympics are unlike anything you will ever shoot in sports,” he says. “For professional […]

Read More

You Don’t Need the Insane Zoom That Camera Makers Are Shilling

Camera makers are trying everything to revive the tanking market of low-end shooters. Their latest gambit? Insanely long zooming cameras that reach across vast swaths of land. But zoom is just another sweet-sounding spec that could leave you with crappier pictures. Way back in the […]

Read More