Free Photography Tutorials, Beginners to Advanced

Red Eye Removal

How to remove red eye from your photos. To fix red eye is very simple if you have Photoshop or any paint program.

What is it?

'Red eye' has been a major problem for camera manufacturers since they first started including flash guns in their cameras. There are many complicated an ingenious methods being tried to eliminate the problem but, in my experience, none of them seem to work. The most common method in use at the moment is the 'pre-flash', which is usually a series of flashes fired quickly just before the shot to try to close the pupils of your subject(s) and thereby lessen the problem. Apart from the fact that this does not seem to work that well, the problem is that people think that you have already taken the picture and start to walk away. In this digital age I would advise you not to use these fancy settings on your camera, live with the red eyes, and paint them out afterwards in Photoshop.

If you are shooting in RAW and have Photoshop CS4, there is a very good red eye removal tool built into the program. This enables you to remove the red eye with the push of a button. You just select the tool and run a marquee around each eye and the job is done.

If you don't have such sophisticated editing software read on.

Portrait with red eye red eye removed
The dreaded 'red eye' caused by light bouncing directly back from the center of the eye. It's easy enough to retouch the eyes in Photoshop or any paint program, but, if you want to do the job properly, instead of just blasting black into the eye and then repainting the highlights, try a more subtle method outlined below.

The solution

Here's a quick easy two step solution.

Step one - Grab a brush in Photoshop, set the size to the size of the pupils, the hardness to about 70% and change the brush mode to 'color' instead of 'normal'. Make sure the color palette is set to the default black foreground and white background, if not hit the small black and white icon above the color palette in the toolbox. Painting with the brush will desaturate the red without affecting the tones in the eye. So the highlights and any other gradations are still there.

Step two - The tone will be a little on the light side, the center of the eye is normally black or nearly black, but this is easy to remedy with the burn tool, set the burn tool to affect only the shadows so that you don't lose those highlights. Be careful to only work on the pupils so as not to lose the color of the eyes.

This method works extremely well and puts you in full control of the result, unlike some of the automatic software solutions.

Other tutorials in this section


Introduction page.

camera icon
Available Light

Getting the best out of the sun.

camera icon
Using Reflectors

Filling in the shadows.

camera icon camera icon

Break away from the in-camera flash.

camera icon camera icon
Fill-in Flash

Soften those shadows.

camera icon camera icon
Red Eye Removal

A quick remedy in Photoshop.

camera icon camera icon
Studio Lighting

An introduction to indoor lighting.

camera icon camera icon
Inverse Square Law

A bit of Physics for those who feel the need.

camera icon camera icon camera icon
Back to the main 'Photography Tutorials' page
Learn Digital Photography with Geoff Lawrence eBook

If you enjoyed this page you might
be interested in my eBook
Learn Photography with Geoff Lawrence