5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits

  • how to photograph someone who wears glasses by Melissa Stottmann

5 simple tips to get rid of glasses glare in portraits

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.

how to photograph someone who wears glasses by Melissa Stottmann

how to photograph someone who wears glasses by Melissa Stottmann

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.

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.

how to photograph someone who wears glasses by Melissa Stottmann

2. Forget everything you know about catchlights

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.

how to photograph someone who wears glasses by Melissa Stottmann

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).

how to photograph someone who wears glasses by Melissa Stottmann

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.

how to photograph someone who wears glasses by Melissa Stottmann

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.

how to photograph someone who wears glasses by Melissa Stottmann

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!

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About the Author:

Instructor of CPS’s Photographing Your Family’s Everyday, 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. Visit Melissa Stottmann online.
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35 Comments

  1. gretchen willis Feb 04 2014 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing Melissa!!

  2. Meghan Feb 04 2014 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Melissa Stottmann Feb 10 2014 at 10:38 am - Reply

      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. Kellie Feb 04 2014 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    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!

    • Melissa Stottmann Feb 10 2014 at 10:39 am - Reply

      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. Elena Feb 04 2014 at 5:08 pm - Reply

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

  5. Dawn Feb 04 2014 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    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. chavi Feb 04 2014 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    Awesome tips & she’s so adorable!

  7. Nina Mingioni Feb 04 2014 at 9:37 pm - Reply

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

  8. Melissa Feb 05 2014 at 9:21 am - Reply

    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. creole wisdom Feb 05 2014 at 2:15 pm - Reply

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

  10. Lisa Benemelis Feb 07 2014 at 12:49 am - Reply

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

  11. Tinny Feb 09 2014 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Melissa Stottmann Feb 10 2014 at 10:41 am - Reply

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

  12. Great tips! Thank you for sharing.

  13. Sarah P Feb 09 2014 at 4:49 pm - Reply

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

  14. Leah Feb 09 2014 at 7:08 pm - Reply

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

  15. Tamber Feb 09 2014 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    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.

  16. Melissa Stottmann Feb 10 2014 at 10:43 am - Reply

    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!

  17. Harriet Feb 10 2014 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

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

  20. Kira Nov 27 2014 at 6:23 am - Reply

    Melissa thank you very much, it is very important information.

  21. Heather Apr 08 2015 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    If the glasses are treated with a good anti-reflective (AR) coating, you will not have as much trouble with reflections. I didn’t have a single reflection issue when I had my wedding pictures done by a friend. AR is also visually helpful by increasing light into the eye and reducing optical noise (aka light reflections). It’s helpful for computer and digital device use and night driving and helps reduce eye fatigue. Everyone should have it on their glasses.

  22. Elizabeth Flora Ross Sep 05 2015 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Great tips, thank you! I have a session later today. Just saw the mom put a photo on FB of her daughter wearing the new pair of glasses they picked up this morning (which she hadn’t mentioned to me). Glare city. So I did a quick search for some pro tips and ended up here. So glad I did! 🙂

  23. Lexi Sep 27 2015 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    Tinny, I would certainly say NO to poping out my lenses. Wow. I can’t see a thing without my glasses and would be horribly uncomfortable. I will cause headaches and it’s just not good for your eyes. Not to mention that it might be difficult to get them put back together right and you have to go get them adjusted, ect. If the photographer is not professional enough to work around it I’d just say forget it and find someone more qualified and understanding. You clearly do not have bad eyesight to come up with something so disrespectful to eyeglass wearers. :/ Photographers should know how to deal with a common thing like glasses.
    The tips on the actual site are great though. My little girl also wears glasses and we struggle with this. I usually have her tilt her head down and get some good shots.

  24. Danielle Nov 14 2015 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Hi. Which photoshop do you have? Is it Element 13 or 14? Or which one??

  25. sanjuro Mar 25 2016 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Useful tips, thanks. Although the light conditions (and possibly the glasses) are so bad nothing seems to work for me. I’m waiting for less light. We’ll see. Your kid is such a cute model, she brightens up this article. 🙂

  26. Jennifer May 01 2017 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this. What would you do with someone that wears transition glasses?

  27. Robert Collins Aug 18 2017 at 5:54 am - Reply

    Your advice helped me a lot and I wear glasses, too. Sometimes because of the refection, I just can\’t see my eyes, so I need to practice adjusting the light.

    • Melissa Stottmann Aug 29 2017 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      Great! Glad it was helpful, Robert! It is definitely a challenge in self portraits!

  28. Donna Young Oct 27 2017 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Great post! I struggled with this a couple times and will definitely keep these tips in mind for the future!

  29. Caroline Wilhite Jan 16 2018 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Great suggestions! Thank you!

  30. Mark Davis Jan 27 2018 at 6:02 am - Reply

    Hi,
    Many many thanks for sharing such a superclass tips. I am really impressed by your tips. It’s definitely helpful. I will certainly dig it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

  31. Eric Mar 20 2018 at 9:34 am - Reply

    Thank you for the tips, I have had to use photoshop a lot to remove the glare!

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