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May 23, 2011 6:15 PM   Subscribe

How do I take closeup photographs of my daughters' beautiful eyes using my limited photography skills and mediocre lenses?

My wife and I have two daughters (the older is three and a half and the younger is six months) and both of them have the most gorgeous eyes. I want to take some great close-up pictures of their eyes, but I'm just a beginner with the DSLR and don't have great lenses. What advice can you give me?

I'm shooting on a Canon Digital Rebel XT, and the lenses I have are:
- 18-55 stock lens
- 50mm f1.8
- 85mm f1.8
- 28-105mm f3.5-4.5
I also have a Speedlite 420EX which is a little creaky but still works okay.

I'd love whatever advice you can give me. Which lens should I use? Shoot in bright sunlight or use the flash? Will autofocus work, or should I just get up real close and use the manual-focus ring?

Advice on how to get little kids to tolerate me shooting right up close to their eyeballs will also be graciously accepted. :)

Thanks for whatever help you can offer so I can document my girls' beautiful eyes for posterity!
posted by AngerBoy to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
how to get little kids to tolerate me shooting right up close to their eyeballs

Acclimate her. Take close up pix in the course of days until she gets bored with noticing it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:24 PM on May 23, 2011

I have had a lot of success shooting close-ups of my three year old this way: We go to a window on a bright day and we play some version of I-Spy. I ask questions about what he sees while I shoot. I focus manually at close range. Sometimes I tell a joke or tickle him or make a funny sound to keep his interest or get him to look at the camera. I have taken many gorgeous shots of him this way. Hope this helps!
posted by mudlark at 6:24 PM on May 23, 2011

If your camera has a macro setting, use it. Use natural light so the flash doesn't scare them/put them off.

I took the this shot of my Siamese Cat just fooling around with a nikon d80... the secret is taking a lot of images!
posted by tomswift at 6:51 PM on May 23, 2011

The 85mm f/1.8 is the best choice here - it's incredibly sharp, even wide open, and you don't need to be that close with an 85mm lens to get a very tight shot (the minimum focus distance is almost 3 feet anyway). Auto-focus is fast enough to be fine here assuming you have decent available light, and is likely going to be more accurate than manual focusing unless you're preternaturally good at that.

If you can get a compatriot to distract the kids while you shoot, you can do amazing things. I shot this from about 10 feet away with the 85mm f/1.8 while the bride was working with another photog to the left; if you can get about 6 feet away and be slightly off-center from your kids it'll be quite easy to get a nice shot. 85mm on a 1.6x body @ 6 feet = a 1.5' x 1' field of view; if you can get down to 3 feet it'll be less than 1' on the diagonal. I wouldn't bother with a flash - try to get outside on a somewhat cloudy day. You want it to be bright, but not so bright that your kids are squinting or their pupils are pinpoints.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:53 PM on May 23, 2011

Awesome, thanks. But if I want to fill the frame with just their eyes (see Figure 1, Figure 2) - I'd have to get a heck of a lot closer than 3 feet, right?
posted by AngerBoy at 7:15 PM on May 23, 2011

What mudlark said. I've taken some nice shots of my daughters' eyes with my Rebel and 50mm/1.8. Natural light, not too bright, in front of a window with your girls looking toward the window, no flash, and maybe someone to stand over your shoulder and talk to them. Don't be discouraged if it takes a few sessions, it all depends on their moods and attention spans. At this point, don't worry so much about how you're filling the frame (I mean, you don't need to get right in their faces and fill the frame) you can always crop using the software of your choice. I would practice getting your focus and lighting right and figuring out what works to keep your kids' attention.
posted by ellenaim at 7:44 PM on May 23, 2011

Close-up / "macro" screw-on adaptors like this are the simple way; they reduce the minimum focus distance & allow you to get close enough to fill the frame (which is really how point & shoot "macro" mode works anyway).
posted by Pinback at 7:45 PM on May 23, 2011

85 1.8 set the camera on aperture priority at f1.8. Have kid near the window or good natural light source get close shoot away. You may want to try manual focus or you can set the af point to a single point and use the auto focus. Make up for lack of macro by cropping the image in a photo editing software afterwards. As for getting them to sit, well just talk to them. They are your kids, ask them to look out the window for you or just look at you. Okay, I know they aren't that easy to work with sometimes but just get them near the nice light source for starters and then get down on their level and just shoot a lot.
posted by WickedPissah at 7:56 PM on May 23, 2011

The EXIF information on that first image says it was shot with an EOS Rebel XS with a 28-75mm f/2.8 lens at 59mm and f/3.2. If we assume for a moment that this is not a cropped photo, then assuming that the width of the part of the face pictured is 6" or 150mm then you can work out how far the person was from the subject based on f=59mm and the width of the image sensor (22.2mm). I get 387.5mm or 15.26" which jibes with the stated minimum focal distance of 13". However 15.26" is the distance from the image plane to the subject, and I'm assuming the 13" specification is measured from the end of the lens not from the image plane (anyone know?). From that specs page, the lens length is 4" - 5.3" plus another 44mm/1.75" for the flange focal distance of the Canon EF mount means that 13" minimum is more like 19" from the image plane, which means that this image must have been cropped after the fact in photoshop to frame the eyes; as taken it was considerably wider.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:09 PM on May 23, 2011

You can easily take photos like this with any of the lenses that you own, although you might need to do some post processing to get the effect that you're looking for. Adobe Lightroom has an "iris enhance" brush that increased the exposure, saturation, and local contrast of irises. You can probably mimic that pretty easily in another image editing program if you don't have Lightroom.

I would personally use autofocus. The viewfinder in the XS isn't great so it can be hard to get razor sharp images without the camera's help.
posted by The Lamplighter at 10:09 PM on May 23, 2011

Hold your 50mm lens against the camera opening backwards. You may have to experiment with focus. There are special adapters for this but they aren't necessary.
posted by j03 at 10:30 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Many have mentioned ditching the flash and while I would agree that it is best to use natural light as your primary source, your flash can be used to add catchlights, which are essential to making the eyes really pop. I don't know if the 420EX has a built in catchlight reflector, but it is easy enought to make one by pointing the flash straight up and rubberbanding a white index card to it. Unless you are also trying to bounce the flash off the ceiling for additional light (which can work well, I try to do it whenever I need a flash) you can really dial down the exposure setting on the flash. You really just need that little gleam in the eye. Regular lamps can work for this as well, if positioned right. More tips on catchlights here, as well and many photo forums. Since you have a Canon setup, you might want to check the Canon Digital Photography Forum out; I don't spend as much time there as I used to, but it is a great resource for photographers in general and Canon owners specifically.
posted by TedW at 5:24 AM on May 24, 2011

If you want to get really close (only the iris), reverse mount the 50mm on the 85mm using a step down adapter with threads the size of your 85mm filter thread on one side and the size of your 50mm on the other sire (ie 58mm->52mm). Or use electrical tape.

I have no idea how to fixate a (live) child or allow her to have a lens at 1cm from her open eye. Searching correct focus, settings an lighting will be very difficult and take some time. Maybe make your setup using a doll and replace when you're ready.
posted by Akeem at 5:46 AM on May 24, 2011

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