Fixing Red Eye :: Digital Photo Secrets

Fixing Red Eye

by David Peterson 6 comments

Have you ever had that annoying ‘red eye’ problem with your photos? You’re out at night and take some snaps of your friends, but when you look at the photos the next day, you see a huge red blob in your friends’ eyes. You wonder how that happened and what you can do to fix it.

This is a common problem with all cameras. Luckily, because it is so common there is already a quick way to fix it.

Fixing Red Eye Video

Watch a video for extra tips on Fixing Red Eye

But first – what causes Red Eye?

Red Eye is caused by the camera’s flash reflecting off the red retina at the back of our eyes and into the camera’s lens. It is most noticeable at night because the pupils in our eyes are fully open (our eyes adjusting to the low light) which means much more light is reflected.

Because Red Eye only happens when we use our camera’s flash at night, you can know that that annoying Red Eye problem is going to happen when:

  • Your subjects looking directly at the camera
  • There is not much light around (ie night shots)
  • You are using your flash.

So how do we fix it? With the Red Eye Reduction flash on your camera. The symbol for this flash will look something like the symbol on the right.

The Red Eye Reduction flash causes the camera to flash multiple times before taking the shot. This contracts the pupils in our eyes (as they adjust to the brighter light). When our pupils are a little smaller, less of the light from the flash reflects back at the camera. We have just solved the Red Eye problem.

So turn on your camera’s Red Eye flash whenever taking photographs of people looking directly at the camera in low light.

Use Software To Remove Red Eye

It is also possible to remove Red Eye with software programs. This is particularly handy with that one-off shot of long lost cousin Irene. There are a few free programs available to do this on the Internet. My Image Editing Secrets course shows a video for how to do this on day 3.

Another option is to use Picasa. This is a free image manipulation program from Google that does a great job of removing red eye.

Bounce Your Flash Or Use Diffusers To Conquer Red Eye

Red eye only happens when you shine a flash directly at your subject’s eyes in low light. That’s why you tend to get the most red eye from pictures that are taken with your camera’s onboard flash. But if you have a swiveling flash mounted on top of your camera, you can use another technique for getting rid of red eye. You can shoot your flash at the wall behind you and light up your subjects with the reflected light.

Why does this work? It works because reflected flash (also called “bounced flash”) isn’t nearly as intense or direct as standard flash. The light hits your subject from the side, and doesn’t strike the back of the retina with so much force. This results in a much more natural looking photo, and I’m not just talking about the eyes.

If you don’t have a flash unit you can mount on your camera, you can try to spread out, or diffuse, your flash by placing a folded paper towel in front of your onboard flash. This scatters the light from the flash and does a decent job of eliminating red eye when your camera doesn’t have the red-eye flash option.

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  1. Tammy says:

    Hi David how do you fix the green eye in animals
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks again for all the tips on photography.

  2. David Peterson says:


    Red Eye did exist in film cameras, and it was arguably worse then because we didn't have immediate feedback. The "Red Eye Reduction" flash was created during the film days to try to reduce the problem.


  3. Roelof van Heerden says:

    Good day
    I do understand the general way of explaining red eye, but what baffels me is why did we not had it with film? Another thing, look how infrared shows eyes on a monitor and the object does not even have to look into the light sorce! It must have something to do with the wave lengthe how the sensor converts it, or am I stuped?
    I use an external flash most of the time, and stil get red eye some times, but the red eye is less when I have the wide-angel filter on the flash folded out as if I use a wide-angle lens.
    Thank you
    Roelof van Heerden

  4. les says:

    i learn so much from your videos thank you

  5. Judith says:

    I find all of you lectures just wonderful. Thank you for this remarkable series and for all the time and effort you have put into making the whole program. Judith

  6. carlos says:

    Excellent information about Red Eye . Thanks David

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