Tips for Avoiding Red-Eye

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If you’ve ever snapped a photograph with an inexpensive camera’s built-in flash, then you’ve surely seen it – red eye. (For that matter, even some expensive cameras with flash units on the camera can create a photograph that suffers from red eye.)

Red eye occurs when the light from the flash bounces off the retina (the curved area in the back of the human eye) and back into the camera lens. Because of the blood vessels in the eye, the light reflecting off the retina appears red in photos.

Although you can fix this problem successfully with image-editing software on your computer, and sometimes using software that’s built into the camera, it’s even easier to avoid red eye in the first place. Use these tips to avoid red eye in your photos.

  1. Turn off the flash. The easiest way to avoid red eye is to remove all possibilities of it occurring by turning off the flash. If you don’t need to use the flash in your photo, then don’t. Or, if you aren’t sure whether you’ll need the flash, try shooting one photo with flash and one without. Then at least you’ll be assured of having one photo without red eye.
  2. Improve the overall light in the scene. To improve your chances of shooting a photo that doesn’t need a flash, try adding more light to the subject. You can ask the subject to go outside for the photo, or ask the subject to move closer to a window with sunlight streaming into it. Turn on more lights in the room, if possible. Anything you can do to reduce the need for a flash will conversely increase your chances to avoid red eye problems.
  1. Try activating the red eye reduction setting. Another fairly easy way to reduce the chances of red eye is to activate your camera’s “red eye reduction” setting. Most newer digital cameras include this setting, which fires the flash at least twice, with the last flash actually used to shoot the photo. The idea is that the “pre-flashes” will cause the subject’s pupil to contract, meaning less light enters the eye and strikes the retina, which consequently results in less of a chance of red eye in the photo. It’s not a perfect solution, but it does work in certain types of photographic scenes.
  1. Adjust the positioning of the flash. If you have the option of changing the angle of the flash, try moving it away from the camera. The farther the flash unit is from the lens, the less light from the flash that will strike the retina squarely and bounce directly back into the lens. Obviously with a point and shoot camera, moving the built-in flash is not an option. But if you’re using a camera that includes an external flash unit that attaches to a hot shoe, you may be able to attach the flash through an I/O cabling setup instead, avoiding red eye.
  2. Adjust the positioning of the subject. Along that same line, for a portrait photo try shooting some photos where the subject has turned her head a little bit and is looking toward the side or is looking downward a little bit, rather than staring directly into the camera lens. Again, less light will bounce from the flash directly back into the lens using this technique, reducing or eliminating red eye.

Even after you take all of these precautions, you unfortunately still could end up with some red eye problems in your photos. But don’t get frustrated. At that point you always can turn to image-editing software to fix the problem, either on your computer or inside your camera.