5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits

by Melissa Stottmann

About two years ago, my three year old daughter began having eye issues and it turned out that she needed glasses.  All of my studying and learning to find “good” light wasn’t always applicable when attempting to avoid the dreaded glasses glare.  I’ve learned some tips and tricks along the way and today I’m going to share them with you.

Attempt to Avoid the Glare:

1. Angles.

It’s all the light and your subject’s angle to that light.  I always aim for the glasses to be lower than my light. When your light is on the same level as the glasses the light will reflect directly into your subjects glasses.
These images were taken at the same time with the same light but ended up with drastically different results.

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits photo

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits photo

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits photo

What angles should you change?

Subject: Have your subject put their head a bit lower and turn slightly away from the light.

Glasses: Alternatively, you could have your subject tilt their glasses down just a bit.  By changing the angle of the glasses, but keeping their face in the same position, the light will not pick up quite as much in the lenses.

Look at the tiny change in how she moved her head.  It’s really slight and you can see light being introduced into her glasses.

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits photo

2. Forget everything you know about catch-lights.

Those big beautiful catch-lights that light up the eyes? Yeah… sorry… they also light up glasses.  With this image, I typically would have had her face towards the window, but that would have made her glasses full of glare and reflections so instead I had her turn her head just slightly away from the window.

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits photo

Sidenote: How cute is the pipe cleaner crown?! I got the idea from the fabulous Breakout Session from Shalonda Chaddock, The Magic of Childhood.

3. Try backlighting.  

Light coming from the back will be less likely to shine back into the glasses (unless there is a reflection bouncing back).

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits photo

3. Take the glasses off.  

This is not always an option, but one to consider if the person does not wear their glasses full time.  I don’t take my daughter’s glasses off for pictures, though. We are at a point now that if she took off her glasses she wouldn’t look like her and that’s definitely not my goal.

So You Got Some Glare? What now?

4. Edit them out (or make them less noticeable).  

If the glare isn’t directly on the subject’s eye, I can often edit portions of it out in Photoshop.  
Use the patch tool to grab the area and drag it to a clean non-glared skin area.

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits photo

You can also attempt to clone it out by choosing a good area and then cloning just enough of the reflection out. I will often do this at 50% opacity to just make the change subtle.  The burn tool can also be powerful in really reflective glare.

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits photo

If the edit is especially tricky, try a retouching service. I have been pleased with both the work, price and turn around times from many of these companies!

5.  Merge two images.  

Take one shot without glasses and then another shot with glasses.  You can then use the eyes from the first shot to add to the glasses shot similar to a head swap. Make sure you take these two images in the same spot and same lighting so that they match up seamlessly!

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits photoMelissa Stottmann, Delaware
CMU Instructor, CM Mentor
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Instructor of CMU’s Shooting 212: Photographing Your Family’s Everyday, Extraordinary Days, and Everything In Between, Melissa Stottmann is a newborn, children and family (including her own!) photographer from Wilmington, Delaware that is working on slowly getting her feet wet in the wedding industry. Shooting primarily with her D800, though using film occasionally, Melissa is often found with a 35mm or 85mm lens attached. Melissa believes that every moment is significant and uses her camera to bring attention to otherwise ordinary moments. Her portrait, lifestyle and documentary work revolves around the peaceful and serene life she craves.

Read all photography tutorials by Melissa Stottmann.

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23 Responses to “5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits”

  1. Feb 04 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing Melissa!!

  2. Meghan
    Feb 04 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    Thanks- I tried removing a child’s glasses and then after just a minute or two he said he couldn’t see/eyes went cross without them so we had to put them back on.

    • Feb 10 2014 at 10:38 am #

      Yes! This is also why I can’t take off her glasses. Her one eye crosses and then that creates issues, too! Glad this post was helpful!

  3. Feb 04 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    Thanks for the tips! My 8 year old daughter started wearing glasses a year ago and I’m still struggling a little bit with photographing her wearing them. I never ask her to remove them for photos because A) She doesn’t look like herself and B) I don’t want her to think she’s less beautiful because she wears them because that’s totally not true!

    • Feb 10 2014 at 10:39 am #

      I love BOTH of your points, Kellie! Our picture taking is secondary to their self esteem and looking like them… I still absolutely get some reflection in glasses sometimes, and that’s completely fine and normal as long as I can see the pupils I try and let it go <3 Thanks for your comment!

  4. Feb 04 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    Such good tips but i have to say, she is so cute!!!!!!

  5. Feb 04 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    Another idea is there is a special tool you can get or if your customer brings the glasses to their optometrist that can pop the lenses out temporarily.

  6. Feb 04 2014 at 9:23 pm #

    Awesome tips & she’s so adorable!

  7. Feb 04 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    great article, Melissa!!! and she is so beautiful!

  8. Feb 05 2014 at 9:21 am #

    So happy for these wonderful tips, Melissa! This is one of those questions that is asked so much. You’re ideas are perfect! Thank you!

  9. Feb 05 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    awesome tip! I recently use a reflector to diffuse some of my light and that really helped :)

  10. Feb 07 2014 at 12:49 am #

    Thank you, Melissa. Wonderful tips and such a beautiful model! :)

  11. Feb 07 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    Thanks for the tips, these are great ~ and your daughter is GORGEOUS!
    I just wanted to ask, even more than lens reflection, I have had issues with the glasses distorting the face behind. One particular larger lady, who wore glasses that were smaller than her face. When I shot pictures of her face turned to the side, I didn’t notice as I shot, but when I saw them on the screen at home there were ‘chunks’ of her face missing (hard to describe) ~ not literally of course, but as if there were. This was caused by lens distortion. I did manage to clone and build her face, but that obviously wasn’t ideal! Any tips on how this can be avoided?

    • Feb 10 2014 at 10:43 am #

      I’m actually not totally sure about this, Tinny! I’d love for you to share a shot on the forum and tag me @MelissaStottmann and see if we can figure it out!

  12. Tinny
    Feb 09 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    I ALWAYS carry a small eyeglass repair kit with me on shoots. When I have a client with glasses, and the glasses are part of their everyday look, I ask them if I can temporarily take out the lenses for the shoot. It takes 5 minutes to take out and put in.
    I’ve never had anyone say no, and not only does it remove glare, it also means that there is no distortion on the face behind the area of the lens.

    • Feb 10 2014 at 10:41 am #

      Great idea! You definitely have to be careful with kiddos with crossed eyes, though (like my daughter) because they glasses straighten them for us ;)

  13. Feb 09 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Great tips! Thank you for sharing.

  14. Sarah P
    Feb 09 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    So great! Thank you! This has been my biggest photography challenge with my active 3 year-old bespectacled son.

  15. Feb 09 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    I always seem to have trouble with this! Thanks for breaking it all down so that maybe I can finally get it right :-) haha

  16. Tamber
    Feb 09 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    That was great thank you and your daughter is adorable!!!! My daughter just started wearing glasses and I struggled when trying to take a picture for a testing site, glasses are required. Thank you.

  17. Harriet
    Feb 10 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Fantastic tips! I’m a glasses wearer and have been since I was 5 years old. They are a part of me, and it’s disappointing to get shots where I look gorky because of the light reflection. If only I’d known this stuff when I went to get my passport photo done!

  18. Jenna Melberg
    Feb 11 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Excellent tutorial. I have four kids in glasses and one who can’t take her glasses off with out eye movement. I do take one photo without glasses so that I have something to work with if I need to clone. I could never seem to understand where to put the light until your tutorial. Thanks!

  19. Ana
    Feb 18 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    Thank you, thank you! My youngest started wearing glasses recently, so this is super helpful!

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