Shooting “The Eye” (#PlayAndLearn)

I love to watch movies. I have found that film and paintings can be a really good inspiration to stretch your “Photographic Muscle!” I am of course talking about your “EYE” that all important creative tool that can’t be learned.  I can answer every question on how I do things and still can’t give you that creative edge.  You can learn how to fake it, but to be truly great; it should come from inside you.

So when I get into a slump I look to movies for a little challenge.  I had been watching one of my favorite movies and I was struck with a little inspiration.  Blade Runner, this had amazing effects that were before it’s time and the camera work is impressive.  I wanted to portray the shot of Roy arriving to earth.

At this point I wasn’t in a slump as much as I just wanted to test my new toy.  I bought a $12 Macro and .45x wide angle adapter kits for my 52mm ring Nikon lenses (35mm and the 18mm-55mm).  I tested the adapters on still subjects but I hadn’t tried it on people yet.  I was originally going to find some tiny bugs to shoot but instead I decided to get one of my co-workers to pose for me.

This is a photograph that was very simple to get I just lit his eye from both the left and the right side (hatchet lighting). You can use natural light if you want, just try and keep the specular highlights at a minimum.  You want there to be some specular highlights there, but the center of the pupil and the majority of the iris is very important.

The biggest tip that I can give you is to get your subject a place to sit and tell them to keep their eyes closed until you are ready.  No matter what you should still expect to have to fire off 5-15 frames before you get one just the way you want.  Blinking and slight movement can cause issues with Macro photography of an eye.  When it was all said and done I got this shot.

“The EYE”

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon


  • ISO:  100
  • Shutter:  1/20th of a second (Hand Held) (“Hand Holding” tips to come)
  • Aperture:  F 5.6
  • Final resolution:  25.2 Mega Pixels @ 300 PPI (up-scaled in Adobe RAW)

As always this project was shot on my Nikon D80 with an 18mm-55mm Nikon Kit lens.  With the addition of a Macro adapter this made for a very inexpensive shot.  I shoot this way instead of on a Nikon D300 to prove to you that it doesn’t matter what camera or lens you have.  You can make cool and interesting images on a 5 year old camera.  Gear that the so called “Experts” want you to believe is outdated technology.  They may not be able to make a Professional photograph with anything less than a D5 or a D810 but you can.

This is only half of the process.  The second half was even easier; I started a new document in Photoshop it was 2000 x 2000 at 300 PPI.  The background was black and I just started adding rendered lens flares until it looked really cool.  I dragged that image into the open file of the eye and switched the blending mode to screen.  This made the black disappear and only the light from the flare remained.  I also added a colorful gradient and created some extra star texture and blended that on a separate layer as well.

                      Multi Flare Example:                                                                                     

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

Gradient Example:

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

With a couple of duplications of the flare layer and by making use of perspective and masking you are golden you have a trippy eye with a reflection of an amazing space scene.

“Returning Replicant!”

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

This effect can be used to fake catch lights and create more natural effects as well.  I would hate for you to think that this is only limited to this one idea.

Sample: Flare  

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

Duplicate over and over so you can pose the position of the lights, switch the Blending Mode to Screen and Mask in!

Eye Flare Test

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

So go out try this yourself and let me know what you think.  Try it on an eye or try it in the reflection of a mirror, glass or a puddle of water it will all work the same way.  I hope this was a fun one for you and remember if you find yourself stuck just put on a wild movie or go to an art gallery and who knows what will inspire you.

Buy a .45x converter so that you can try this yourself CLICK HERE

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