How to Prevent & Edit out Reflections on Glasses - Digital Photography School

How to Prevent & Edit out Reflections on Glasses

Subjects who wear eye glasses can offer a unique difficulty for photographers. First, there’s the dilemma of whether they should wear them or not (will they not feel & look like themselves without them? Are they hiding fabulous eyes behind those glasses?) And then there’s the problem of glare and reflection. An attentive photographer will pay attention to this factor, but it does cause issues and where a photo might be perfectly composed and lit, but a little glare in the glasses can throw the whole thing off.

{An Ounce of Prevention}

So first, I offer a few tips to prevent glare so you can see those eyes. Then, I’ll give you a quick little tip for how I use editing software to soften the blow of glare when it does happen.

  • All those tips for creating great catchlights? Forget ‘em. Reflectors aimed at the eyes, facing a light source…all these techniques will only show up as mirror-like reflections in the glass.
  • When using artificial or studio lighting, have your subject turn away from the lights just a tad and pay attention to what’s going on in the glasses.
  • As if pop-up flash wasn’t already a no-no, it’s even more so when your subject is wearing glasses
  • A rather strange suggestion is to have your subjects tilt the glasses downward only 1/2 an inch (just push them up from where they rest on their ears). This tiny bit of angle and make a huge difference. In the same manner, you can also experiment with having them tilt their head or the angle from which you’re shooting.

{A Pound of Cure}

If you couldn’t avoid glare or didn’t realise it was happening, there’s a rather easy fix you can do in any editing program which allows for work with layers in your image. If you troll the web, you’ll find a few ways to edit out glare and no one particular method is a cure-all method. You’ll have to use the tools in your editing arsenal to draw on your creativity and what you know to do the trick. For the image below, these are the steps I took to remove the umbrella glare.

Original Image:

1. I used the healing brush tool on ‘replace’ mode with a very soft edged brush to replace the reflections using a sample of the area directly next to the reflection. In progress using the brush:

2. I sized down the brush and resampled using the black eye liner. I used the brush to draw on new liner, resampling the brush continuously throughout the process.

3. That’s it! Check out the after:

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Elizabeth Halford is a Hampshire Photographer and keeps a rockin'photography blog where she writes about photography and business in "real.plain.english". She's addicted to Facebook and can be found answering photography and business questions every day here on her page

  • http://www.maxbelloni.com Massimo Belloni

    In similar case, I’ve resolved in a different way, even if a bit hard: I’ve dismounted the lenses from the glasses structure, so no reflection problems at all (of course only if the lenses are just clear and non tinted)

  • ykj

    I just did a shoot with my sister. Her lenses tint black in the sunlight, so we went to her eye dr. He removed them for the shoot, and put them back in for us afterwards. Great shoot, and no reflection worries. No, you can’t tell her lenses are missing. We were not charged by the dr. either.

  • http://www.donrisi.com Don Risi

    I agree that glare and reflections in glasses can be difficult to control, especially in candid shots like the ones above (since there is no telling how the subject is going to turn their head), the statement, “All those tips for creating great catchlights? Forget ‘em. Reflectors aimed at the eyes, facing a light source…all these techniques will only show up as mirror-like reflections in the glass.” bothers me.

    I covered the problems of reflections in glasses in portraits in an entry on my blog last year. You can read that entry by going here.

    I’ve included lighting diagrams as well as samples.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  • Pearle

    Thanks for the great advice and tip!

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason Collin Photography

    In this sideways portrait of a person wearing glasses I just did some basic clone stamping to remove the slight reflection from the off camera strobe (SB-600)

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/5/2/grandmothers-kiss-in-sepia.html

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason Collin Photography

    Sorry, hit submit too soon….I appreciate the practical tips that do not require software editing to fix glasses reflection problems. I will definitely try the 1/2 down tip next time.

  • http://Www.lancashireweddingphotography.co.uk Tim Emmerton

    Just a thought if you have enough light you could use a circular polariser to get rid of reflections. Just remember you’ll lose around a stop and half of light so watch the shutter speed and if you are in a studio using a flash meter you’ll need to adjust your aperture to compensate. No need to retouch or move the glasses. Hope this helps, Tim Emmerton.

  • Bruce Douglas

    There’s another technique I find very useful with people with strong glass prescriptions where the lenses will reflect everything. This is where you use the trick people use to light wine bottles by putting the light source (usually a large diffusion panel) just barely outside the frame. It reflects in the glasses but the reflection is much softer and transparent so it doesn’t block the eyes.
    I use this technique in video, where you don’t have resources to paint out reflections frame by frame and the motion of people’s heads when talking often make them move out of the sweet spot where you can avoid the reflections.

    Here is an example by Douglas Kirkland:
    http://www.ascmag.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/18_Laszlo-Kovacs-1991.jpeg

  • http://nerwin.net Nick

    Great tips, I think I remember someone telling me that they use a polarizing filter in certain situations, especially if the lighting is bright to prevent glare on glasses/sun glasses. Not sure if it’s true or not, I haven’t tired this method yet.

    (sorry for the double, I don’t know how I commented on the picture, very odd)

  • http://www.jackiegoldston.com Jackie

    i have found that trying to get the no-reflection shot in an outdoor lighting situation is impossible. i am a headshot photographer) (99% actor’s headshots) and i do tell my clients to remove the lenses, …but none of them have complied. LOL. i have to resort to an indoor studio shoot for those with glasses…and, well… it’s just not ‘headshot friendly!’
    thanks for the article and all the responses – it’s always great to hear what others are doing to get it right :-)

  • http://www.ericnelsonphotography.com Eric Nelson

    Great tutorial and information…thanks! Another option that I have used in CS4/5 many times if only one reflection is visible is as follows;

    1. Copy the good lens (no reflection)
    2. Place on new Layer
    3. Flip Horizontally
    4. Edit as needed

    Watch the eyes when you do this, may need to clone in the catchlights to limit the cross-eye effect.

  • Valerie Farr

    I have done the copy the good eye, flip and paste onto the bad eye method before. Sometimes it works really well other times the eyes look cross-eyed. Ha ha!

  • http://www.caleblong.com Caleb

    Very nice job on the second one. Good tutorial too, I will have to try this.
    Having said that, the first example of the girl with pink glasses is beyond my liking. It looks like her glasses are fogged up.

  • Tiffany Wichert

    this was super helpful! thank you!

  • Jakob Møller

    Iam gonna do a family shoot soon, and they all wear glasses, so this was very helpful :-) thanks a bunch !!!!!!!:-)

  • Barry E Warren

    Great Read thanks for sharing, This is very helpful.

  • https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnthiel/ John Thiel

    Or you could use a circular polarizing filter.

  • https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnthiel/ John Thiel

    Another thing you can do is somehow dull reflective surfaces. In theater and film we typically do this with hairspray. Spray it on a mirror, glass, or other shiny surface and it dulls the reflections yet remains clear.

    But with people’s personal glasses of course that’s more of a problem. They don’t want their lenses or lens coatings ruined, so hairspray is out.

    I haven’t tried it, but it seems to me the way to go would be to clean the lenses of the glasses as absolutely as you do your camera lenses so that they reflect as little light as possible, because what reflects the most light is not the lens or lens coating, but whatever might be on the lens surface.

Some older comments

  • Caleb

    August 10, 2010 04:02 am

    Very nice job on the second one. Good tutorial too, I will have to try this.
    Having said that, the first example of the girl with pink glasses is beyond my liking. It looks like her glasses are fogged up.

  • Valerie Farr

    August 1, 2010 06:20 pm

    I have done the copy the good eye, flip and paste onto the bad eye method before. Sometimes it works really well other times the eyes look cross-eyed. Ha ha!

  • Eric Nelson

    July 24, 2010 07:33 am

    Great tutorial and information...thanks! Another option that I have used in CS4/5 many times if only one reflection is visible is as follows;

    1. Copy the good lens (no reflection)
    2. Place on new Layer
    3. Flip Horizontally
    4. Edit as needed

    Watch the eyes when you do this, may need to clone in the catchlights to limit the cross-eye effect.

  • Jackie

    July 23, 2010 05:41 am

    i have found that trying to get the no-reflection shot in an outdoor lighting situation is impossible. i am a headshot photographer) (99% actor's headshots) and i do tell my clients to remove the lenses, ...but none of them have complied. LOL. i have to resort to an indoor studio shoot for those with glasses...and, well... it's just not 'headshot friendly!'
    thanks for the article and all the responses - it's always great to hear what others are doing to get it right :-)

  • Nick

    July 17, 2010 09:51 pm

    Great tips, I think I remember someone telling me that they use a polarizing filter in certain situations, especially if the lighting is bright to prevent glare on glasses/sun glasses. Not sure if it’s true or not, I haven’t tired this method yet.

    (sorry for the double, I don't know how I commented on the picture, very odd)

  • Bruce Douglas

    July 17, 2010 10:43 am

    There's another technique I find very useful with people with strong glass prescriptions where the lenses will reflect everything. This is where you use the trick people use to light wine bottles by putting the light source (usually a large diffusion panel) just barely outside the frame. It reflects in the glasses but the reflection is much softer and transparent so it doesn't block the eyes.
    I use this technique in video, where you don't have resources to paint out reflections frame by frame and the motion of people's heads when talking often make them move out of the sweet spot where you can avoid the reflections.

    Here is an example by Douglas Kirkland:
    http://www.ascmag.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/18_Laszlo-Kovacs-1991.jpeg

  • Tim Emmerton

    July 17, 2010 10:12 am

    Just a thought if you have enough light you could use a circular polariser to get rid of reflections. Just remember you'll lose around a stop and half of light so watch the shutter speed and if you are in a studio using a flash meter you'll need to adjust your aperture to compensate. No need to retouch or move the glasses. Hope this helps, Tim Emmerton.

  • Jason Collin Photography

    July 17, 2010 05:07 am

    Sorry, hit submit too soon....I appreciate the practical tips that do not require software editing to fix glasses reflection problems. I will definitely try the 1/2 down tip next time.

  • Jason Collin Photography

    July 17, 2010 05:06 am

    In this sideways portrait of a person wearing glasses I just did some basic clone stamping to remove the slight reflection from the off camera strobe (SB-600)

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/5/2/grandmothers-kiss-in-sepia.html

  • Pearle

    July 17, 2010 03:31 am

    Thanks for the great advice and tip!

  • Don Risi

    July 17, 2010 03:17 am

    I agree that glare and reflections in glasses can be difficult to control, especially in candid shots like the ones above (since there is no telling how the subject is going to turn their head), the statement, "All those tips for creating great catchlights? Forget ‘em. Reflectors aimed at the eyes, facing a light source…all these techniques will only show up as mirror-like reflections in the glass." bothers me.

    I covered the problems of reflections in glasses in portraits in an entry on my blog last year. You can read that entry by going here.

    I've included lighting diagrams as well as samples.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  • ykj

    July 17, 2010 01:10 am

    I just did a shoot with my sister. Her lenses tint black in the sunlight, so we went to her eye dr. He removed them for the shoot, and put them back in for us afterwards. Great shoot, and no reflection worries. No, you can't tell her lenses are missing. We were not charged by the dr. either.

  • Massimo Belloni

    July 17, 2010 01:00 am

    In similar case, I've resolved in a different way, even if a bit hard: I've dismounted the lenses from the glasses structure, so no reflection problems at all (of course only if the lenses are just clear and non tinted)

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