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Get Rid Of Red-Eye

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Ohh, we’ve all been there. You take a snap shot of your kids (or grandkids) and the devil in ’em seems all too apparent. Those big red-eyes glaring back at you from the photo, screaming for some time in PhotoShop.

How do you avoid red-eye in the first place? Easy! Have the kids close their eyes!

OK, OK, here’s a few tips:

1. Turn Up The Light – Red-eye is basically a reflection of the back of the eye – sorta like a snapshot of the retina. So, the more dilated (open) the pupils are, the more red-eye you tend to get in your photos. If you turn up the room lights, you cause the pupils to get smaller and cut back on red-eye effect.

2. Red-Eye Reduction – Most cameras have a red-eye reduction feature. The idea behind it is the same as in tip #1 – get the pupils smaller. However, there’s a trick to using it right – you have to make sure the person you’re photographing is looking at the camera. If not, their pupils won’t get any smaller and the technique won’t work.

You also may want to warn your unsuspecting subjects of the impending reduction of their red-eye. I’ve seen lots of squinty, startled looking snapshots of people who were surprised by the stroboscopic flashing.

3. Soften The Light – Sometimes a soft light can also help reduce the appearance of red-eye. Try a light piece of tissue paper over the flash (preferably not a used one). Keep in mind that this method also reduces your flash range – sometimes considerably – so use it only on subjects that are close.

4. Avoid The Long End Of The Zoom – The red-eye effect tends to increase with lens focal length. In English? OK, it means that the more “zoomed in” you are on your subject, the better the chances of getting red-eye. Don’t shoot too wide though – it’s not a very flattering perspective (and that’s an article in an of itself).

NOTE – the next two tips only apply if you have a camera that can use an auxiliary flash.

5. “Bounce” The Flash – If your flash allows you to “bounce” it (no, not off the floor), then you have another weapon at your disposal. To bounce your flash, just aim it at the ceiling. The angle should be like a pool shot – you want it to bounce off the ceiling and back down to your subject.

Since your flash isn’t shooting directly at your subject, the red-eye problem goes away. However, your flash won’t carry nearly as far since you have to count the distance from the ceiling and back down again. Another bounce flash problem that comes up is the dreaded “shadow beard” under the chin due to the light source coming down from the top (women seem more sensitive to this than men for some reason. So, let’s look at the final trick:

6. Use an Auxiliary Flash on A Bracket – Ahh, we’ve saved the best for last. Ever notice how professional photographers always seem to have their flash on a bracket? Well, it’s not just so they look cool – it helps eliminate red-eye!

As we mentioned before, red-eye is a reflection off the back of the eye. However, this reflection is only visible at a certain angle to the camera. The closer the flash is to the lens of the camera, the greater your chances of getting red-eye. So, if you move the flash off-camera and change the angle the light is hitting the subject, your camera doesn’t “see” the reflection anymore. The red-eye is gone.

Well, that’s about it. If all else fails, you can use your imaging software to help eliminate red-eye. Most have an easy to use red-eye tool. Sure, it’s best to get rid of the red-eye at the time the photo was taken, but it’s nice to know you can still take the devil out of the kids if need be!



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