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Chapter 4. Editing Photos > Reducing Red-Eye

Reducing Red-Eye

Perhaps the most annoying thing that can go wrong in a photograph is red-eye, a demonic red glow to subjects’ eyes that plagues flash photography. Luckily, iPhoto makes reducing the effect of red-eye easy, although its approach isn’t always ideal.

To reduce red-eye in a photo:

Drag a selection rectangle that includes the subject’s eyes (Figure 4.34).

Figure 4.34. To reduce the effect of red-eye in a photo, drag a selection rectangle around the subject’s eyes, and then click the Red-Eye button.

Click the Red-Eye button in the edit pane or the image-editing window’s toolbar, or -click and choose Red-Eye from the contextual menu.

iPhoto converts the red shades in the selected areas to dark gray.


  • Press and release to toggle between the “before” and “after” views.

  • It can be easier to select the subject’s eyes accurately if you zoom in first, as I’ve done in Figure 4.34. Remember that you can press while dragging to switch away from a constrain setting briefly.

  • If you’re unhappy with the results, try working with one eye at a time.

  • Unfortunately, iPhoto’s approach to reducing red-eye tends to make people look as though they have black eyes, which isn’t ideal if the subject’s eyes are a light blue or gray. You can achieve better results in other image-editing programs.

  • The Red-Eye tool looks only for specific shades of red, as you can see if you select an entire image and click Red-Eye.

  • Sometimes the Red-Eye tool fails. If you can’t edit the image in another program, try using the Retouch tool or convert the photo to black-and-white.

What is Red-Eye?

Red-eye is a phenomenon that occurs in photographs when light from the camera’s flash reflects off the blood vessels in the retina of the subject’s eyes. It’s worse when the flash is close to the lens, with young children, with blue or gray eyes (which reflect more light than darker eyes), and in dim settings.

There are ways to reduce the likelihood of red-eye occurring in the first place.

  • Try to cause the subject’s pupils to contract by increasing the room light, asking the person to look at a bright light right before taking the picture, or using a red-eye reduction feature in your camera (which pulses the flash before taking the picture).

  • Have the subject look slightly away from the camera lens rather than directly toward it.

  • If your camera supports an external flash unit, use it to increase the distance between the flash and the camera lens.

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