how to stop red eye - 2 simple fixes

red eye reflectionRed Eye Reflection

You've probably been wondering: "How the heck can I stop red eye from ruining my photos?"

Let's face it, nobody likes it when their eyes are glowing like the devil himself. Here's the good news. There are two quick and simple ways to stop red eye dead in its tracks. You can make a simple change with the lighting or cause a small change in the eyes and avoid red eye completely.  

 This article will help you prevent getting those annoying glowing eyes once and for all.


One step fixes are now common with a lot of photo editing software for red eye reflection. But that means you have another step to take, and who wants the hassle?

Usually those programs desaturate the color of the eye (gets the red out!) and darken the reflection to make your photo appear somewhat normal. But, what if you could eliminate the need to edit your photo and have a nice photo of your subject come straight out of the camera on the first try?


The Two ways stop red eye before it starts

The best intervention is prevention.   There are two ways to prevent or stop red eye.  You can either get the pupils to constrict before you take your photograph or you can change the light source a bit. Both of these techniques can be done in several different ways. You simple choose the best way based on the situation you're in.


1. change the eye by narrowing the pupil

Get Reduced Red-eye from narrowed pupilConstricted pupil

The human eye reacts almost instantaneously to a change in the amount of light. If you turn on a room light, you can get your pupils to constrict.

You can move your subject closer to a window or to a brighter area in the room. Anything that will get more available light on your subject will help stop red eye.

That's the theory used for those annoying pre-flashes that are used when you set your camera to a "red-eye reduction" mode. With that setting, your camera fires one or more flashes before the actual picture is taken to get your eyes to react and your pupils to constrict

They can reduce red eye somewhat but they often result in a missed moment or a poor expression. 


2. change the light

Take the flash away from the camera.  Because of their compact design, cameras have to place the pop-up flashes too close to the lens.  This gives you a perfect recipe for getting some annoying red eye reflection.

If you can't get the pupils to constrict from some existing light in your environment, you've got to get the main light source away from the lens.  That often means turning off the pop-up flash or using a different camera setting that doesn't use the camera's flash function.

Here are some simple options to avoid red eye:

1. Set your camera's ISO setting really high to eliminate the need for flash. You may loose a little image quality and get a little "digital noise" but that's often a better choice than capturing your best friend's photo with whacked out looking eyes.

2. Using an external flash that is farther away from the lens. This will change the angle of reflection. If your camera has a hot shoe, an added-on speedlite will raise the flash away from the camera lens.

3. For even more flattering lighting, aim your flash upward toward the ceiling. Most flashes have a tilting feature and many even have a swiveling feature too.

Camera with speedlite flash on topExternal Flash

4. Try bringing in another light of some kind, like a floor lamp to get some more light on your subject. If moving your subject to a better lighted spot is an option than just do it. Just taking the 5 seconds of extra time to get your subject in better light is something the beginning photographer might not think of doing. 

You're taking your photography to a higher level by just paying attention, thinking for a second, and applying one or two ideas that you get from an article like this.


what causes red eye REFLECTIONS in your photo

Glowing deer eyes from headlightsGlowing Deer Eyes From:
http://selectedpictures.blogspot.com/2011_08_01_archive.html

It's the same effect when you catch the deer in the headlights of your car when it's dark. When the light source is too close to your viewing angle, you get that strange effect. With photography, it's when your flash is too close to your camera.

It happens a lot with your camera's built in flash because it has to be positioned so close to your camera's lens.

The video below is only 2 minutes long. Watch it and you'll really understand how your flash causes red eye reflections. Jonathan adds a little humor, but it really is informative and will help you understand the red eye effect and how to deal with it.



Here's a simple diagram that shows how red eye effect occurs.  The red color is actually the reflection of the blood vessels on the back of the eye. It may sound disgusting to some people, but that's why you get a strange color in your subject's eyes.

How to stop red eye diagramThis diagram show how light travels from your flash
through the pupil, and reflects directly back to the camera.


If the direction of the light is coming directly from the camera, and the pupil of the eye is somewhat dilated, you see the reflected light from the back of the eye.

Light travels in a straight line.  If the light source is too close to the lens, then the light will reflect from the back of the eye to the lens of the camera.  It's simple physics.

A dilated pupil allows more light to enter and exit the eye

A constricted pupil will deter most of the light from entering and striking the back of the eye, as well as preventing much of it to reflect back toward the camera. If you ever said: "why do i always have red eyes in pictures?" now you know.


fixing red eye REFLECTIONS afterwards

If your situation doesn't allow you to prevent the red eye effect before you take photo, try a red eye photo editor. I've used Photoshop plenty of times, but there are also online redeye remover apps that you can use for free.