We’ve all had it happen. We excitedly wait to meet our new client, ready to take some gorgeous portrait shots for them under studio lights – or even under a bright blue sky. They arrive, and we start to get that sinking feeling. They’re wearing glasses. How are we going to see their eyes?
The glare that can appear on glasses when they are photographed is really difficult to deal with. In fact, any reflective surface can cause this problem. Instead of being able to look into their eyes and read their expression more easily, all we have is a bright white flare that covers the glass and hides all details.
It is possible to reduce and even prevent this glare when you are taking pictures, however. Here’s how to stop it from happening – and what to do if it does anyway.
Change Your Angle
The first thing you can do in order to reduce glare is to change your angle. Light is reflected from the sky, or the studio lights, and then to your lens – but changing the angle of your lens to the glasses, or the glasses to the sky, can break this direct glare.
Get your subject to move their face around to a position where there is no glare on their glasses. If this doesn’t work because of the way the lighting is hitting the rest of their face, you can move yourself instead. Even if you don’t completely remove all glare using this technique, you should certainly be able to reduce it down to the very edges of the glasses only.
It is, however, much more attractive to have no glare at all on the glasses. So, if changing your angle didn’t work for that, it’s time to try something different.
Move the Glasses
Let’s say you have found the perfect composition. The subject stands before you, just right. There’s nothing you can change about this or it would all be ruined. The thing is, you still have glare on the glasses. What can you do?
Well, you might not think about moving the glasses right away, but it can work. The way in which glasses sit over the wearer’s ears affects the angle at which they sit on the face. In other words, if you raise the arms of the glasses slightly where they end behind the ear, it will tilt the lenses of the glasses downwards. This means a different angle, which means no more glare.
It might be less comfortable for the subject, but unless you make a really extreme movement, it shouldn’t be too obvious in the final shot. Just make sure that they are still positioned in the correct place over the eyes!
Move the Light
As photographers, our instinct is usually to place a subject with lights pointing at them, so that they are evenly lit across the face. We focus on them rather than the background, and make sure that they are fully lit.
This is where it gets difficult for glasses-wearers, but there is another way to do it. Instead of lighting from the front, try moving your setup around 180 degrees. This may mean pointing your studio lights at the background, or just turning around so that your subject has their back to the sun.
Backlighting is another issue in itself – you don’t want to end up with a silhouette, but you also don’t want to blow out the details of the background to the point where it is just a white space if you have carefully chosen a location. So long as you learn how to handle this issue by exposing correctly for the face, you shouldn’t have any problems at all.
With backlighting, there will be no glare on the glasses. In a studio environment you may still have to look out for reflections, particularly of white objects in the studio, but this can be fixed with our first two tips – changing your angle or adjusting the tilt of the glasses.
Still Life Glass
If you ever need to photograph a glass or reflective object in the studio, you will likely come across the same issue with glare. You might want to take a photograph of a glass of wine to help promote a local restaurant, for example. If you have glare on the glass, it could ruin the image.
Just try using the same principles of the ideas above. Move your angle against the glass so that you no longer have glare, or move the lights to a new position. Backlighting is easy here as the glass is transparent, meaning nothing will block the light from either side! You can also composite still lifes very easily, by taking two shots at different set-ups and then combining them together.
Fixing Glare on Glasses
Let’s say that, despite your best intentions, the shoot ended up with glare appearing on the glasses anyway. All might not be lost, so long as you’re able to do a bit of handy Photoshopping.
If you have even a single image where the client’s eyes are not concealed by glare, you can use compositing to put the details back into place. This will involve carefully selecting the area inside the glasses on the clean image, and copying it. Then you will paste this selection into place on the image with the glare, and resize it until it fits exactly into the right space.
You might have to do some other techniques to ensure it looks realistic. Erasing the very edge of the pasted selected with a brush set to the softest possible setting will help take care of jagged pixels or sudden transitions, and you can also use the healing tool to blend it in with the skin around it.
If you know you’re bad at photographing glasses, but great at Photoshop, you might even consider deliberately getting a shot of the client’s eyes without their glasses first of all. Then you always have this back-up if you do end up with glare on the glasses.
Do you have any great tips for preventing glare when photographing glasses? Tell us in the comments!