Photographing Body Parts

With the New Year just passing…I thought to myself how fast the last 10 years have gone by.  I remembered the people that have passed away and how important they all were to me.  One of my favorite photographs is a close up of my grandmother’s hands.  I took this picture using black & white film and worked on the negative in the darkroom to enhance the character of her hands.  She was an avid quilter so I photographed her hands while she was working on one of her quilts.  We had fun photographing her hands, so I thought it would be nice to help you learn to photograph the people you love close-up.

A portrait is nice to have but when you photograph close-up, especially the eyes, hands & feet, the photo becomes more than just a portrait, for me I am seeing the soul of the individual.

So today I will discuss how I photographed my daughter’s eye and my hands.


Some suggestion for photographing eye (s):

  1. Don’t use a flash.
  2. Use a telephoto lens (preferably a macro lens).
  3. Put music on or something that will make your subject relax.

Most of us get nervous when we have anything close to our eyes, so for this reason a telephoto lens is a better lens to use.  I would use a 100mm or longer so your subject doesn’t feel like you’re in their face.   Also, a flash can be annoying for the person so I don’t recommend a flash.  If you need extra lighting use continuous lighting, turning it off and on when needed.  I always stress, “use a tripod when photographing close-up”, but this is one of the few times that you can get away without using the tripod.  Make sure that you hold that camera steady…you don’t want the eye to look too blurry.   Some eyes shots can look nice when they’re a tad blurry…..for me I get a feeling of a dreamy state to the eye(s) when the photo is blurry.

Next, I view my pictures on Lightroom or my Bridge programs.  I place a star on the pics that I feel resemble the personality of my subject.  I then wait a day or two to view the pics again, focusing on the starred photos.  Once I find the one that I like, I start to work on it.  I take my time because these photos will be important to my family and the future family to be.

I always photograph in RAW so I can make changes with ease.  The main objective of photographing the eye, for me, is to match the color of my subject’s eye.  I want the color correct!   My daughter has beautiful eyes and I definitely want to show this in the pic for her children and grandchildren, etc….  She also loves to sleep and read so I wanted the eye relaxed, not wide open.

Reminder: If you want to view the figures up close click on them, to return to this article use your back arrow key.

Figure 1:  Photograph a variety of eye shots and star your favorites.

Figure 2:  Choose the photograph you like and make basic adjustments.

After my adjustments I open the photo in Photoshop to work on it in more detail.

Figure 3:  Work in Photoshop to clean your picture in more detail.

I clean up the photo by removing dust and anything that distracts from the original look of her eye.

Voila! … I now have a great photograph of my daughter’s eye.

Figure 4:  Finish picture of my daughters eye.


While photographing hands, try to tell the person’s story.  For example, my grandmother loved to quilt so I shot her hands with one of the quilt pieces she was working on.  She had a needle & thread with her bobbin on one finger.  For my hands I wanted to show the designs of art on my nails.  I really enjoy having designs on my fingers…being an art photographer, I can appreciate the creativity my manicurist paints for me.

Some suggestions for photographing hands:

  1. Tell your subject’s story.
  2. Use lighting to enhance the story.
  3. Use a tripod.
  4. Use a macro lens for close-ups.
  5. Have fun and be creative.

I stressed that you should focus on the subject’s story because this post is about reality, not a glamour shot!  Also, think about your lighting.  Placing continuous lighting on the side of your subject will help you see the lines of the skin better. Or for my example, the focus was on my 2010 artwork, so my lighting was focused on that nail.   Use a tripod if you want to see more details on the hands.  Of course if you want motion then go for it and hand hold your camera, but just be careful that your photo doesn’t look like a bad shot.  I recommend a macro lens because we are getting up close and personal… and of course play with a variety of positions (camera & hand positions).

First, I set up my tripod and camera using a macro lens.  I set my camera on the timer so I would have enough time to place my hands.

Use something that you can focus on (see below):

Figure 5:  Use something to focus on like this lens cap.

I focused in the area of the lens cap and set my hands over my eyepiece holder, putting the black velvet over the holder.  Black velvet is amazing…it doesn’t reflect light; I highly recommend velvet as a background for macro shooting.

Figure 6:  Place your hand where you focused your lens.

Viewing the variety of hand shots in Lightroom, I chose the best photo that represents me.  Just like the eye shot…I stepped away from the photos for awhile and then picked my favorites.  I made basic corrections in Lightroom.

Figure 7:  View all of your photographs pick your favorite and correct exposure if needed.

Next, I wanted to remove dust and any other distractions from the shot using Photoshop.  I suggest you correct your photo using separate layers, it’s so much easier if you make a mistake to toss a layer than to start all over.  Also another tip for you…when you work with various layers, make sure all of the sample layers are checked (at least for dust removal).

Figure 8:  Clean up your photograph using layers.

I didn’t clean up too much because I want the character of my hands to show… again this isn’t a glamour project!  🙂

Next, I flattened the image to combine my layers.

Figure 9:  Before you sharpen your image flatten the layers.

After I flatten my image I sharpened it by clicking on filter > sharpen > unsharp mask.

Figure 10:  Sharpen your image.

Figure 11:  Preview your adjustments before you click ok.

After I’m happy with the amount of sharpening I’ve done to the photograph I save my photograph to a Tiff.  This is my way of saying that the photo is finished and ready for printing.

Figure 11:  The final image of my hands.

Today I discussed two body parts that you can photograph to keep as a special picture for you and your family.  I talked about some tips on photographing eyes and hands.  Remember to try and not use a flash for the eyes and use a telephoto lens to help your subject be more relaxed.  When photographing hands, focus on a story…the story of your subject.  Use lighting to enhance your story and have fun!  I also talked about the steps I use while processing the picture.  Take your time…this is a photo for a lifetime!   Happy New Year to you all…I wish the best for you and your families.



Ps…I will be out of town for the next several weeks but will be back with more macro and close-up techniques when I return.


2 Comments on “Photographing Body Parts”

  1. Clive says:


    your site looks great, and your images look great, but please … !!! ….

    change your small text font type ……….

    it’s impossible – literally impossible to read … even with 20/20 vision !!


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