Have you ever tried taking pictures of someone wearing glasses?
When my daughter Ellie got her first pair of glasses in early 2011, I found a new photography challenge. Since she wears glasses all the time, it is important for her self-esteem to photograph them on her. Since it is harder to photograph someone in glasses than without them, I had to learn how to avoid and embrace glasses glare.
I had no idea how challenging it would be until I started taking snapshots and portraits. The light reflects off the glass and hides the eyes. It sometimes creates odd green colors on the surface or reflections coming from every direction.
After much practice in the past year here are tips to help you photograph people in glasses:
1. Look for the light. Just as you do when looking for catchlights, look for glare on glasses too. This is tricky but watch as the light and glare hits the glass. Rotate or turn the head slightly as needed. Sometimes finding just the right shaded area blocking light helps too.
2. Photo-journalistic or story-telling. If your subject is not looking directly at you, usually you will have less glare or it just becomes less important.
Ellie looking away from the camera.
Ellie looking down:
3. Tilt the head. I am 100% sure Ellie gets tired of hearing me say tilt your head down or angle your head this way. Tilting or angling the subject’s head down slightly helped to get rid of glare in many situations. The only potential negative is that sometimes the eyes get cut off by the glasses. And the entire eye and lid is not showing through the glass. But this to me is still better than reflections in many cases.
In this first photograph, see the greenish glare over her eyes?
In the second image, her head is tilted down and at an angle. It is a trade off and often, I will snap a few of each type.
4. Shade them. Use a hat or something from above to partially or completely block certain beams of light causing the problem.
For this super silly photo, Ellie has a hat on. There is light glare on the sides but none covering the main part of her eyes.
5. Remove the lenses. This is not something I have done personally. But many photographers have the subject pop out the glass from the frames. This way you capture the subject how they look, but without glare. This makes it super easy for the photographer, but who wants to remove lenses from a frame? Not me. I’d ruin them…
Used in this project and related actions:
6. Angle the glasses. Another trick photographers sometimes use to avoid glare, rather than having the subject tilt his/her head, is to actually angle the glasses. Instead of resting the back of the glasses on the ears, they are lifted above them, which tilts the glasses downward. This sometimes looks awkward so it is not a method I use.
7. Take your time. Explain to your subject that glasses often reflect light and other objects, so you may need to pose them in ways to avoid light covering their eyes and causing distractions. Take your time while shooting. It is way harder to get rid of glare and white spots on glasses in post processing and Photoshop.
8. Take them off. When I got glasses in college, I always took them off for photos. For people who only wear glasses occasionally, this is the easiest way. But it is not a great solution for people who have worn glasses for a long time or, in my opinion, for kids. You do not want a kid to feel something is “wrong” with them just because they wear glasses. In my daughter’s situation, if I asked her to “take them off,” even if it makes photographing her easier, it might send a message that she is not as pretty with them or that glasses are too much trouble. I would never want to damage her self-confidence. So unless she happens not to wear them, they stay on. Also, if you are a professional photographer, unless your customer does not want glasses on, it is not a great idea to suggest removal. Before you start taking money for your photography, make sure you can shoot a subject with glasses if needed.
9. Sunglasses. One of the easiest ways to shoot in the sun is when the subject has sunglasses on. This is a great way to handle outdoor snapshots, though it may not be a solution for professional photographers for portrait sessions.
10. Embrace glare. Sometimes, especially on open sun and when subjects are with multiple people, it is impossible to avoid. The biggest goal is not to have bright spots of light covering the eyes, but if the light hits on other parts of the glasses, it is not always a bad thing. And even if it does, sometimes the photo still works. How could I possibly dispose of this image just because of the light?
And if I asked Ellie to tilt her head, it would have ruined the essence.
If all else fails, there’s always Photoshop:
- Shoot two and swap in Photoshop. Here is a tutorial on swapping eyes from one image into another, showing you how to take a photo with glasses, then a second without. Then merge parts of each to get a photo with non-glare glasses.
- More editing tricks. While there is no Photoshop action to get rid of glasses glare, there are some things you can do in Photoshop to help.
- Try the burn tool set to a low flow to darken the haze caused by glasses
- Use a Photoshop action like the MCP Eye Doctor to sharpen, lighten or darken parts of the eyes, just where it is needed. Sometimes you will find only one eye needs darkening or sharpening since the light affects one lens more than the other.
- Use the clone tool, patch tool and healing tool, as needed for removal of small bits of flare at a time. These tools can be tricky and time consuming, but also effective.
- On rare occasions, you may have one eye that is fine and one with bad glare. You can duplicate the good eye and sometimes replace the bad one, with good layer masking and transforming.
- If you are not strong in Photoshop, you can always hire a professional retoucher who can make almost any problem go away, for a price.