I came across some really cool macro photos of eyes today. How did he manage to get these photos? I couldn't find any EXIF information anywhere, and I don't have enough experience with macro to figure out how he did it.

It's obvious that the light has a lot to do with the result. How and what kind have been used? And what kind of camera equipment?


5 Answers 5


It's not that hard. You just need a good macro lens, and a patient subject.

In this case, it looks like he is exaggerating the texture of the iris with hard side-lighting, which leads to the starkly defined structures you see. If you try to take pictures of an eye with diffuse lighting, the texture really does not show up.

Here is a shot I took myself. It was with a Sigma 150mm macro lens.
The hardest part, by far, was convincing the cat to stay still.
enter image description here Canon 30D, 150mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/250 sec
It probably should have been shot with a more open aperture (~f/2.8).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is that the same cat of the profile? \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Jun 8, 2012 at 22:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @clabacchio - No. My profile pic is a crop of the internet meme You make kitty Scared. This is actually my cat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fake Name
    Jun 8, 2012 at 22:59
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I do rather like cats. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fake Name
    Jun 8, 2012 at 23:02
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Picture of a cat...must...resist...downvote... \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Jun 9, 2012 at 0:22
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ "The hardest part, by far, was convincing the cat to stay still" sounds like the punchline to a different joke. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jun 9, 2012 at 0:40

I did a bit of Google searching on this topic. This series of photos was a very popular one around the internet so it isn't too hard to find additional information beyond the photographers own website.

I found a quote that appears to be directly from Suren Manvelyan via here:

I use Canon different DSLR cameras, and EF 100/2.8 macro lens.

As for the lighting, some of the images look like they use an LED panel, but the images vary in what they use it appears.

For many more discussions all over the web, just search google for "Suren Manvelyan your beautiful eyes".

  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, sweet pictures! The artist must have some really nice friends to let him get that close to their eyes! \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Jun 8, 2012 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the catch light is an LED panel, I think it is a grid (see link). That would make the side light very directional which would further enhance the texture. Also, I'm sure she used a narrow aperture to keep everything in focus. adorama.com/alc/0013664/article/Shooting-with-Grids-AdoramaTV \$\endgroup\$
    – Stainsor
    Jun 9, 2012 at 5:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ This picture from his website seems to confirm that he uses a grid. Someone who commented on the link @dpollitt posted mentions he used the Firefox ExifViewer plugin to pull the following data from one of the original images on the artist’s website: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, 1/200 second, ƒ/18, ISO 320, at 100 mm. \$\endgroup\$
    – BioGeek
    Jun 11, 2012 at 21:23

You can see (at least part of) the answer for yourself, in the photos.

Consider this pic:

Eye photo

Along the left edge you can see that a honeycomb grid was used.

These can be both hard or soft. The irregular pattern in the eye photo suggests a soft grid was used.

Hard honeycomb grid

Soft honeycomb grid


The lighting is done with a directional modeling light which looks to be in a dark studio. You would get a good effect in daytime with a standard camera flash but you wouldn't get as much depth.


There are likely two light sources, not likely illuminated simultaneously:

1) One very bright light source to contract the pupil

2) One brighter, grazing fiber optic snake light source to accentuate relief

Probably taken at higher ISO to catch the eyeball between twitches.

That'd be my guess.


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