“Why do I get red eyes in photos?”
How can I prevent red eyes in photos?”

These are the two questions that we’ll try to answer and discuss in this article.

Avoiding red eyes in photos

We’ve all taken great photos—only to look at them later and find that everybody has glowing red eyes. Why does this happen?

The red glow is what happens when the bright light of a camera flash causes light to reflect off the retina.

Animals have a reflective layer on their retinas that’s like a mirror in the back of their eyes. For example, if you’re driving at night and a deer suddenly appears in front of you in the road ahead, you can see the reflection of your headlights in the animal’s eyes.

Humans don’t have this special layer. So when something really bright—like a camera flash—reflects off our retinas, we don’t see a white light, we see red because it is a reflection of the blood vessels in our eyes.

How can we prevent red eye?

Hint: Try not using the flash.

This would mean that there wouldn’t be enough light for the camera, resulting in dark photographs, unless you only take photographs outside in bright daylight or in well-lit rooms where the pupil would be contracted enough to not let as much light through.

If you have a camera with a detachable flash, you could try holding it away from the lens of the camera, or even point it upwards so that the light bounces off the ceiling, or walls, instead of off the retina.

Most point-and-shoot cameras don’t have a detachable flash option, though. And while some modern cameras have an option to have a “smarter” flash, these can be expensive and tricky to use if you just want to point the camera and take a picture.

Use a “red eye reduction mode” on your camera

Many modern cameras have this feature. It works by making the flash go off twice, very quickly. It goes off once before the actual photo is taken and then again to take the photo. The light of the first flash makes the pupils contract so that less light gets to the retina when the second one goes off.

This option isn’t available on all cameras though. And even when it is, it’s not very reliable. It only promises to “reduce” red eye, not remove it completely.

Remove red eye post-production

Most digital cameras come with software that enables you to remove red eye from photographs after the picture has been taken, or you can use an editing program on your computer. Anywhere that prints digital photos should allow you to look at your photos before printing so that you can edit them that way.

Smartphones usually have an app that can detect red eye in photographs and remove it and for printed photographs special pens are available that are supposed to be able to remove red eye too. Or you could always scan a paper photograph and edit it that way.

Wrap Up

There seems to be a few options for avoiding and removing red eye, but the best way seems to be to not look directly at the camera so that your eyes aren’t looking full on at the lens when the flash goes off. It’s also worth noting that you are more likely to get red eye when you’re drunk.

Alcohol slows down the body’s reactions, and this includes the speed in which the eyes respond so that your pupils will take longer to react to bright lights. Something to remember at the next party…!

Nothing in this blog post is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please see your eye care practitioner.

This article is contributed by Shelley Abrahams, one of CooperVision’s copywriters. She has a passion for photography, particularly portraits. As an employee of CooperVision , she has a keen interest in eye health and the anatomy of the eye.

About 

Health and technology freak. Food and lifestyle blogger with a large appetite for food and travel.

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43 Responses

    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yes, I think this “reduction of red eye” camera feature will enhance your photos especially for you as I know you’re using a DSLR with several functions. 😛

      Reply
  1. april perez

    informative post sis! i used to think the red eyes in the photo is the flash itself (like its reflection), un pala blood vessels natin un.

    Reply
  2. joy | chemist2writer

    Cool! so the that is why the flash goes twice in my camera haha I just set it to red-eye reduction mode but didn’t know what it would really do 😉 Thanks for this new info I learned today.

    Reply
      • Rochkirstin Santos

        Myself included. 😛 So we have to look for the functions that work in the camera we’re using. The aim is to close down people’s pupils so that there’s a smaller target for the flash to hit. Smaller target = less red eye.

  3. Pal Raine

    I really do these things stated above because I one for sure always had this red eye spot in my photos, and need to adjust my camera settings just to get rid of the red eye spot.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Oh editing the photos should be easy! One click is all it takes to remove those red eyes and turn them to look more natural. 😀 You’ll get used to it soon!

      Reply
      • KIM NIEVES

        Oh, I really need a tutor! Haha. Nahihirapan talaga ako since I only use PhotoFiltre to edit my photos. What app are you using? or maybe I should just invest in a new camera lens with a much bigger aperture so I won’t be needing to use the flash at night anymore.

      • Rochkirstin Santos

        Ohh I’m using Adobe Photoshop to edit most of my photos. But for days when I’m just tired to turn on the computer or use my laptop, iPhone apps are okay. This post contains a listing of the apps I use in relation to Photography.

  4. Franc Ramon

    There are a lot of apps now that can remove red eye including iphone and unnecessary use of flash can really eliminate red eye.

    Reply
  5. Shie

    I’m not really a fan of using a flash either on my dslr or my smartphone and that always do the trick of avoiding red eyes. And your explanation is really helpful 🙂

    Reply
  6. serene shikukeza

    Common mistake of some to use flash in a low light setting when taking photographs only to end up in out of focus photos or red eyes. I was a victim of that also until I learned to manipulate my point and shoot and now from my husband hobbyist photographer. Now I don’t have to worry about it. These tips are surely helpful!

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      It’s great to hear that you have somebody very close who can teach you about the settings of your digital camera. Soon you can both take on professional photographer roles and make money out of your hobby. 😀

      Reply
  7. Khristina Carla Tayao

    Very helpful samin walang alam sa mga red eye keme hahahaha 😀 peo ayun… gumagamit naman ako ng photoshop kaya nakakaedit nmn kaso pag on the spot posting tulad ng instagram ok din na malaman how to avoid it 😉

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      I think that through Instragram you can already solve this problem by choosing the monochromatic film effect. Black and white = no red anymore! 😀

      Reply
  8. marri

    I thought RED EYE on photos is something to do with the eye color of that particular person. My photos have frequent red eyes. I appreciate that you discuss about this matter. Now I know scientific explanation.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      I used to think the same way, too. I’m glad that we are cleared on this one. You can share it with your friends as a form of ice breaker or some trivia. 😉

      Reply
  9. traveling morion

    Exactly! this is an interesting share and will help photography enthusiast out there 🙂 Some cameras as well as smartphones have red eye reduction setting pero pinaka simple way nga is not using flash 🙂

    Reply
  10. Wanderer Juan

    These are effective ways to remove red eye in photos. Red eye is unattractive when it comes to photos. Thanks for these tips.

    Reply
  11. Gracia Amor

    Great tips! Keeping these all in mind. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Reply
  12. Mai

    The slow response of the eyes when the body consumes alcohol was an interesting fact to read about. Anyway, I rarely get captured with red eyes afterwards. But I do however take some unfortunate photos of family and friends with this effect right after.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      These days, with more high-technology cameras, our pictures don’t get much red eyes and silhouettes that are shaped like ghosts. I noticed that there are less stories of pictures with unbelievable creatures and shadows only because people used to own poor cams or shoot with poor lighting.

      Reply
  13. papaleng

    Now I know. And good things there are ways pala in taking photos where one can lessen this effect . Thanks for the share sis

    Reply
  14. Aylin

    I am also fond of editing photos because they add some sort of drama. But in cases that I’m so tired to do so, I’m using pixlr.com for a quick edit.

    Reply

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