Red Eye: Ask David Bergman

The dreaded ‘red-eye’, what causes it and how can you get rid of it I’ll tell you right after the intro. Hey welcome back to ask David Bergman, of course I’m here answering your photography questions. Today I’ve got one from Kellene T. and she asks “how do you avoid your subjects getting’red-eye’ or ‘evil eye’… Oh ‘evil eye’ – I like the way that sounds. Colleen yes, I’m sure you’ve seen it right, you take a picture your friends at a bar one night, you’re all out partying and you take a picture, and everybody has that bright ‘red-eye’ that makes them look somewhat devilish, well they’re probably not actually the devil, although I don’t know your friends, maybe, but most likely that’s not the case really, what’s happening there is, that red color comes from when the flash, hits the back of your retina, and then bounces back into the lens. What it is is though there’s a lot of blood vessels back there and it picks up that red color and shows in the picture, really the more dilated your pupils are the wider your pupils are, the better chance that you’re gonna have that. So in dark environments your, your eyes, generally are gonna be more dilated, and more open, so that you you it’s gonna be harder to avoid ‘red-eye’ with certain things there, also when you… the flash you would think would make your pupils constrict right? But the flash just happens too fast, it’s not enough time for your pupils to constrict down, to close down, to avoid that ‘red-eye’, the other thing that might slow down that reaction time is alcohol, right, so if you’re at a bar, maybe you’re drinking, you’re in a dark environment, there is alcohol involved, that slows down all of your body’s reaction times, including your pupils. So pictures of your friends at a bar most likely you’re gonna have’red-eye’. Another thing is children believe it or not, children have bigger pupils than adults, so a drunk child at a bar, they’re definitely gonna have ‘red-eye’, so all right I’m joking about drunk, drunk children, please don’t comment that I talked about drunk children, just a joke… doesn’t, don’t don’t drink kids. All right anyway so, how do you avoid getting ‘red-eye’, well now that you know what causes it, there’s a few things we can do about it. The first thing is the reason it really happens is, because the angle of the flash has to be… the flash has to be almost in line with the lens, that’s why a lot of like point shoot cameras where the flash is right there next to the lens, you’re going to see it more than with an off-camera flash, like this, because when it that angle needs to go right into the person’s eye, and then right back into the lens, the further away you are, the more that angle is going to be on axis right? So if you’re right up close to somebody, the flash is actually even at the same distance. It’s gonna appear a little higher, there’s less chance of it happening, but the further away you are, there’s an old rule of thumb that basically says, the flash head should be one inch away from the lens for each foot you are back from your subject. So if you’re six feet back from your subject, the flash ideally should be at least six inches above the lens or more to avoid that ‘red-eye’. That’s just you know kind of a rough rule of thumb, but it gives you a good idea of how that works. So the further away you are, you really want to get that flash off camera. So if you’re shooting with a DSLR, where you can take the flash off camera that’s a great way to avoid’red-eye’. You will not have ‘red-eye’ if you take this flash off camera either wirelessly or with a cord, and you know in the studio that never really happens, because you usually have studio lights off camera, so that’s not really gonna happen, it’s usually more of a point-and-shoot or phone type of problem. Another obvious way to prevent ‘red-eye’ is to shoot without a flash, if you’re in a place where you can, you have a camera that you can push up the ISO and shoot it has better low-light capabilities you can photograph in lower light, maybe the slower shutter speed or whatever that you know, your settings allow you to. If you can photograph without a flash then you will definitely not get ‘red-eye’ there’s no possibility of it, when you don’t, aren’t using the flash. Another thing you can do is these cameras now are pretty advanced and redeye is a big problem so… a lot of these flashes will emit a ‘red-eye’ reduction mode pre flash. Where basically what it’ll do is fire a little flash right before the actual flash that’s taking the photograph, that’s being used in the photograph, so what that does, by that early flash, actually will make your pupils constrict, so they’re smaller, so you have less chance of ‘red-eye’, or if you do it’s going to be a lot smaller. Not that big full, full eye ‘red-eye’. Another thing is you could photograph people candidly, where they’re not looking right at the lens, if, if you’re often you know talking to somebody or something like that and make candids, you’re not gonna have red in those photographs either, you really have to be looking directly into the lens so that light bounces right back in. Lastly if you’ve tried all these things, or you really just have to photograph somebody in a situation where there’s gonna be ‘red-eye’, look you can always fix it in post right there, every, pretty much every photo editing software has a ‘red-eye’ thing that you can go in and you can click where the ‘red-eye’ is… Photoshop has this, Lightroom has it, you can click where the ‘red-eye’ is and it’ll just color the red into a different color so basically it gets rid of that ‘red-eye’. Obviously it’s the last resort, it’s not
ideal, you’re better off preventing it in the first place, but it certainly is an option if you’ve done all those things. So Killene, thanks for asking that question, that’s how you deal with ‘red-eye’. That’s what causes it, and things you can do to prevent it, thanks for asking that, listen if you have your own photo question, go to There is a form there, fill it out I will pick the best ones and answer them on a future show. Also don’t forget we’re here on Adorama TV… man there’s so many great photo hosts on this channel, lots of great photo educational videos here. So make sure you subscribe, click the little bell so you get notifications, and you can watch them all day long, until your heart’s desire, thanks so much for joining me. I’ll have a new question next week. See you back here next time!

10 Replies to “Red Eye: Ask David Bergman”

  1. 2 tips: Set your camera with Red Eye reduction, and Shoot using a mounted bracket if you need to move around like at an event.

  2. I haven't seen pictures with red eyes for many years … now I finally know how to do it 😉 Now I can finally take a picture of a terminator. 😀

  3. Good advice as always, David. The good thing is: when all else fails, Lightroom can remove red eye really well and easy 🙂

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