I've found the following two pictures (particularly the first) that have a very high level of detail in the iris:

I have a d90, sb-600 speedlight and I use my Macro lens at full zoom. I also have kit lens and a 50mm 1.4d

So… I am struggling to get this shot. Partially due to ISO. I've tried turning the ISO down to L10.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you post something you've tried? It will help us guide you in a direction. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Mar 5, 2011 at 21:06
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ The two photos you've posted a very different, what about them specifically are you trying to replicate? The first one has very high magnification, the photographer states he stacked three macro lenses to get it, so you would need a similar setup or a specialist lens like the Canon MPe-65 \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Mar 5, 2011 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ In both cases, you can clearly see the fibrous structure of the iris -- "veiny pupils" is probably not the best choice of words to describe it. I know that there are words, but one of the downsides to my condition is that it's often difficult to round up the ones I want when I need them. If they drop by this evening, I'll edit the question -- but feel free to beat me to the punch. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Mar 5, 2011 at 22:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zach Inglis: The pupil is actually describing a void, the space through which light enters the eye (which can be viewed as synonymous with the "aperture" of a camera.) I believe it is the iris, or the muscle that contracts or relaxes to change the size of the pupil that you are referring to (which can be viewed as synonymous with the "diaphragm" of a camera.) I've edited the title to reflect. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Mar 6, 2011 at 1:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ 2jrista: "Iris", I had (it's there in my comment). Believe it or not, it was the word "detail" that eluded me. That's the way my brain works these days -- something like "autodidact" springs straight to mind, but it'll be Tuesday next week before I can say "self-taught". Thanks for making the edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Mar 6, 2011 at 1:27

2 Answers 2


From the original picture takers notes on Flickr:

Taken with three macro lenses stacked on a zoom lens on a Canon 40D.

Clearly you're not going to be able to accomplish such a close up shot without more magnification than you currently have available to you (or listed anyway). Without adding 'helper' optics in front of your current lens the best you'll probably be able to get is a 'close-up but not THAT close-up' version of the shot, which you may be able to crop into somewhat.

Also note that the DoF gets shallower with each optic element you add, so (as the original picture taker noted on Flickr) you'll probably end up needing to take a bunch in order to get 'the one' that has the focus just right...


As noted by Jay, the first photo you linked is using a very extreme level of magnification, and it appears as though it was "focus stacked" to achieve total clarity.

It is possible to get close-up eye shots like that (although not quite as magnified as the first shot) without that much extreme magnification. A 100/105mm macro lens can get you pretty close, however you will need a LOT of light illuminating the iris to allow you to keep your ISO lower, and still take a shot where noise doesn't interfere with fine detail. A macro lens with extension tubes will also get you in pretty close. Don't be afraid to use a moderately high ISO, so if you can't get enough light to get the shot at ISO 100 or 200, try 400 or 800. You need a willing subject as well, as you'll probably still be working with a fairly low shutter rate despite everything.

The closer you focus and the more you magnify, the thinner your DOF will get. Sometimes, even with a very narrow aperture, you just can't get enough DOF with a single shot. Use continuous shooting, and if you can, a cable release and tripod, and get several sets of sequences of shots. Adjust focus just a tad between each set of shot, pick the best one or two shots from each set, and use a program like CombineZP to stack the focus from those shots into a single photo.


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