Photography: Photo Red Eye Removal & Reduction Tips

Red eye is a common problem experienced by photographers when taking photos of other people. It causes the subject(s) of the photo to appear as if they have red eyes, and is caused by using a direct flash. Here are some tips on how to prevent or remove it:


Avoid Using A Flash: If possible, try to provide sufficient lighting by turning on ceiling lights, moving into a brighter area, opening curtains, or other methods which eliminate the need to use a flash. If your camera automatically fires the flash for all photographs, try removing its battery before taking the photo. It may be impossible not to use the flash with some disposables. Using black & white film will also prevent this problem.

Different Camera: If you frequently take photos of people, it may be worthwhile to invest in a camera with "red eye reduction", especially if your current camera has a built-in flash. This probably won't prevent red eye in every situation, but it will help. Some cameras with a red eye reduction feature are available for less than $20, such as the Minolta AF101R, Polaroid 252 BV, and Olympus Trip XB40 AF. Avoid using color disposables, as they tend to be more prone to creating a red eye effect.

Different Flash: If your camera accepts external flash units, considering buying a "bounce flash" ; a type of flash which provides indirect lighting by "bouncing" the flash off the ceiling, reducing the chance of red eye as compared to direct flash units. If there is no ceiling, you can adjust the bounce flash to point directly ahead as your regular flash does. You can probably find one of these at a local camera shop or on, where some units can be purchased for under $25, such as the Rokinon 2000, Vivitar 273, or Weston W-18. Bounce flashes tend to have more settings than regular direct flash units, so you may want to find one which includes the instruction manual. They are also generally somewhat larger and may require one or two more batteries than your current flash does.

Special Processing: Some more expensive photo processing services can help remove red eye and other unwanted effects when your photographs are initially developed. For example, the website of Kodak's Perfect Touch processing service indicates that it "detects and reduces red eye", along with reducing "washed-out" areas and other problems. The Rite Aid pharmacy chain offers (as of 03/16/07) Perfect Touch processing for $9.99, including 24-to-27 35mm 4" prints and a Kodak Picture CD.


Red Eye Removal Pens: A type of pen specially-designed for removing red eye from photo prints can be purchased for about $3-5. They are available from a number of different brand names, including Fiskars, Creative Memories, and Pioneer. These pens usually have a warning not to use them on Polaroid instant photos. "Pet eye" pens are also available for removing a similar effect which sometimes occurs when photographing animals with a flash.

Software: Some types of computer imagery software, such as Adobe Photoshop, are capable of red eye reduction from digital photos or photos you have on CD. The latest version (CS2) of Photoshop has a price of $649 (or $169 for an upgrade) on Adobe's website, and its system requirements include 320MB of RAM/memory, a recent version of Windows or Mac OS X, and a high display resolution. A free photo retouching program called GIMP is available for some versions of Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux/Unix, which can be downloaded online. If you don't want to wait for it to download and/or have internet access limited to a certain number of hours, consider purchasing a copy on CD at

Photo Retouching: This is a type of service which will improve your photographs, and can remove red eye. It is available both for film and digital photos. It is offered by a number of photography-related businesses and freelancers in this area of expertise. Retouching is generally not very expensive, although it is cheaper to prevent red eye beforehand or remove it yourself.

The best method of red eye removal or reduction depends upon whether or not you have already taken the photo in question, how much you can afford to spend, the type of photography (35mm, digital, 110, etc.), and what sort of camera you currently use.