Easy Solutions to avoid or reduce red-eye
is the biggest problem flash photographers face with both
digital and film cameras.
The good news is that there are a few easy tricks that can
significantly and sometimes even completely reduce the
effects of red-eye. Here's a few of the simple tricks that
I've discovered that make my pictures worth mounting on the
What is red-eye?
The simplest explanation I've come across is that red-eye
is the reflection of light, in our case the flash, through
the open retina of the eye. We've all seen it's effects in
the glowing red eyes of animals, kids and adults that have
been captured on film using flash photography.
So, if we know it happens... what do we do to limit it's
effect or, if possible, make it go away?
The pro's use long brackets and remote controlled flash
units to angle the light away from the camera lens. If you
have the money, this is by far the best and most reliable
way to reduce the problem. Trouble is, most of us (myself
included) don't have the resources or space to carry around
this type of equipment. I like that my latest digital
camera fits in my shirt or jacket pocket. That way I always
have it with me if a special shot presents itself.
How can you easily limit or prevent red-eye effects with a
pocket or instant camera?
Easy tip #1: Many of today's mid to upper price instamatic
cameras come with a built in red-eye reduction mode. If you
know you are going to be photographing animals or people
with the flash, even in daylight, then turn on this flash
mode. Of course this is where you must have actually read
the camera manual so that you know how to turn it on. After
all, you can't use it if you don't 1, know it exists and 2,
know how to use it.
It amazed me the different modes and functions built into
my latest camera. But, that's a whole other subject. Bottom
line, at least read your manual once to see what
capabilities you are carrying with you with just the camera
How the red-eye reduction mode works:
Again, I'll keep it as simple as possible. After all, we
don't need to know all the scientific details, we just need
to know how to use it correctly.
The red-eye reduction mode (and that's all it does is make
it less) either shines a bright light on the subject or it
sets off a small pre-flash ahead of the main one. What this
does is to make the person or animal close down the iris in
the eye so that less light will be reflected back into the
camera lens through the smaller hole.
Not perfect, but much better than glowing red eyes!
But, what if our camera doesn't have this option or if we
don't have the time or knowledge to turn it on?
Easy tip #2: When in control of the situation, use that
control. What I mean is that if you have the capability to
pose and move the subject(s), then use that control to
reduce the effects of red-eye. Since we know that red-eye
is caused by light reflecting back into the camera lens,
have your subjects look at a point away from the camera,
maybe a picture off to the side on the wall behind you or
at another person. The key here is that the larger the
angle away from the lens, the less the possible effect of
I've found that a spot maybe two feet off to one side does
a good job most of the time of eliminating the red-eye
while still creating a photo that looks as though the
subject(s) are still looking into the lens. Depending on
how close you are and how bright your flash, you may need
to experiment some to find your optimal point.
What if you don't have control or you are taking candid
Easy tip #3: The good news here is that candid shots
usually mean that the activity is the primary subject, not
the individual. In other words, you are not trying to make
a portrait of the individual; you are attempting to capture
the emotion of the moment in time. To do that, just compose
(frame) the picture so that the people or animals are only
a part of the event and looking at what is happening
instead of into the lens.
For example, if the event was a wedding, snap the photo
with the bride and groom looking at each other or the cake.
Or, if it was a party, frame the person making the toast so
that they are off to one side, looking towards those that
are being toasted. One last example. If this was your
family reunion, capture the small groups that always form
and snap the picture while they are looking at each other
telling and listening to the stories of the past. If you
can hear the joke being told, wait to snap the camera
shutter after the punch line comes out and capture the
smiles and laughter.
Easy tip #4: The amount of red-eye is in direct proportion
to the amount of light being reflected back to the camera
lens. Use the telephoto lens and distance to reduce the
amount of direct light coming back into the lens. Just be
careful not to exceed the maximum distance that the flash
is capable of compensating for. Most built in flash units
have a limit of between 10 and 16 feet. Areas behind the
subject will also fade into darkness fast, but when the
background is not important, this can make for some very
What if none of this works for you?
If you are taking digital images, the good news is that
there are a lot of software programs out there that will
edit out the red-eye effects for you. If you are taking
photographs with a film camera, then you will need to
either scan the image into the digital realm or you will
have to pay to have the photo's retouched. Bottom line is
that it can in most cases be fixed. The real question is,
how much are you willing to pay to have it removed?
Plan ahead, practice and learn all the capabilities that
come with today's point and shoot cameras. Your photographs
will show the effort.
Waddell is the co-founder of http://www.PrincessCrafts.com.
his digital scrapbook site and find out how anyone
with little or no experience can literally, overnight, go
from beginner to intermediate computer scrapbooker.
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