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Top 5 Tips and Techniques to Prevent the Red Eye Effect in Your Photos

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 11/16/2010

In part one, we explored the cause of red eye. Now we’ll discover tips and techniques to prevent red eye from occurring in your photos.

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    5 Tips to Avoid Red Eye

    Now that we know what causes the red eye effect in our photographs, the next step is to learn how to avoid red eye all together.

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    1. Avoid using a flash

    This is the most obvious solution given that red eye is caused by the flash. Using natural light will result in photo’s looking...well...more natural. Red eye aside, you should consider turning the flash off anyway. If you’re indoors, use light from windows, skylights, or even table lamps. Just remember that you shouldn’t position your subject directly in front of your light source or it could result in your subject appearing as a silhouette.

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    2. Add light

    Keep in mind that the brighter the room is, the more your subject’s pupils will already be constricted so if you need or want to use a flash the additional light will help matters. Also, a lot of digital camera’s built-in flash systems automatically adjust the flash output based on the levels of outside light, so the brighter the room the less harsh the flash will be. The red eye effect in the photo shown below could have been prevented if more lights were turned on in the room (click on image for a larger view).

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    3. Adjust your digital camera’s settings

    Another way to the red eye effect is to change your exposure settings. Adjusting the shutter speed, lens aperture and ISO settings all can contribute to a properly exposed photo while avoiding the red eye effect and the use of a flash.

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    4. Have your subject look away

    The red eye effect can be reduced or even eliminated if you have your subject avoid looking directly at the camera. If you don’t want a profile picture, even having your subject look slightly to the side, up or down can reduce the chances of red eye since the light won’t be going directly to the eye.

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    5. Use your camera’s Red Eye Reduction mode

    Although it isn’t foolproof, the red eye reduction setting a lot of digital cameras have can be quite effective but not always convenient. The idea of red eye reduction is the camera sets of a series of pre-flashes (or sometimes just one) to trigger the subject’s pupil to constrict then the real flash goes off and takes the picture while the subject’s pupils are still constricted. The delay between the time you begin to take the photo and the time the photo is actually taken can be a nuisance if your subject is one who won’t necessarily stay still, such as an animal or baby. If you decide to use the red eye reduction mode don’t forget to let your subject know, otherwise after the first flash is complete they may think the photo has been taken and relax their pose.

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    Did You Know?

    • To reduce the harshness of the flash, many photographers use flash diffusers which will soften an image. Although they work well, they can be pricey. There are things you can use to make your own diffuser. Try wax paper, coffee filter, paper towel, tissue paper or even a cigarette paper – placing one of these over your camera’s flash will soften the light of the flash. Using Post-It Notes can even work and because they come in a variety of colours, not only can you reduce red eye but you can also set the mood with a colour filter, and they have their own sticky bit too!
    • If you already have a collection of photo’s which contain red eye, you can use a scanner to create a digital copy of the photo and then proceed to use photo editing software to edit out the red eye. Alternatively, for about $5 you can purchase a retouching pen that will eliminate that pesky red eye.
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The Red Eye Effect

This article series will explore the red eye effect. What causes red eye? How do you prevent red eye from showing up in your photos? Learn the answers to these questions and more by reading these photography tips and techniques.
  1. Avoiding Red Eye – What Causes Red Eye?
  2. Top 5 Tips and Techniques to Prevent the Red Eye Effect in Your Photos