5 Tips for Combating Red-Eye

It doesn’t have to be Halloween to find demonic creatures in your photographs. Even the most mild-mannered man, woman, or child can look like they’re possessed when a flash produces that devilish side effect called red-eye. However, you don’t need an exorcist to prevent or get rid of red-eye. Like anything else, the first step to correcting a problem is understanding why it happens in the first place.

Red-eye is caused by the flash bouncing off the blood vessels at the back of the eye and reflecting back into the camera. When you’re shooting outdoors in the sunshine or under bright conditions, it’s unlikely that you’ll need a flash. Even if you use a flash to fill in shadows or illuminate a backlit subject outdoors, your subject’s pupils are most likely constricted from the available light, so red-eye is rarely a problem. However, under low light conditions, when you most often need to use a flash, your subject’s pupils are dilated, providing the perfect corridor for the strobe’s light to enter the eye and reflect back. Sure, you can try to avoid using flash by bumping up the ISO (light sensitivity) or putting the camera on a tripod and ask your subject to hold his or her breath while you snap a shot at a slow shutter speed, but that’s not always possible or even the best choice. Instead, here are some tips to help avoid red-eye without giving up your flash.

Before Red-Eye Correction

After Red-Eye Correction

1. Turn on the red-eye reduction option for your built-in flash.
Just cycle through the flash options until you get to the icon that looks like an eye. When you press the shutter, the camera emits pre-flashes that cause your subject’s pupils to constrict. There’s less room for the light to reach the back of the eye and reflect off the blood vessels so the chance of red-eye is decreased.

2. Make the room brighter by turning on more lights.
This isn’t always an option, especially at a party, but more ambient light will also cause your subject’s pupils to constrict and help avoid red-eye.

3. Position the camera at an angle to your subject or have your subject look slightly off-axis.
Meaning, don’t have your subject look directly at the camera and flash. This way their eyes aren’t in the path of the light. Even moving their eyes slightly off-center will help.

4. If your camera has a hotshoe, use a separate flash.
Mounted directly on the hotshoe, the flash is positioned higher than the built-in flash so there’s less chance of the light passing directly to the eyes. Accessory cords are available so you can hold the flash off camera, giving you an even better chance of avoiding red-eye.

5. If all else fails you can remove red-eye after the fact.
Some point-and-shoot cameras even have an option to automatically remove red-eye in Playback mode. After you use this feature, be sure to enlarge the image and check to make sure the red-eye is gone. If not, then it’s time to go to the computer.

Virtually all image-editing programs have a red-eye removal feature—some are automatic, while others require nothing more than a click or two to get the red out and bring your family and friends back to the way they really look.

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