How to Photograph People With Glasses While Avoiding Reflections

If you've ever shot a portrait of someone wearing glasses, you know it can be a particularly infuriating experience. Instead of resorting to posing tricks or wasting time correcting the glare in Photoshop, understanding the simple physics behind why these reflections occur can enable you to quickly and effectively eliminate them.

In this great video, Joe Edelman demonstrates the physics behind angles of reflection. Simply put: the angle at which incoming light strikes a surface is the angle at which it will exit the surface. If your camera aligns with the angle of reflection, you'll see glare. In the case of eyeglasses, this is complicated by the fact that the curved lenses create multiple angles of reflection, though the underlying physics is the same. While removing the glasses is always an option, some people prefer the way they look with them, or you might need them for the specific shoot you're doing. Thankfully, Edelman walks us through a number of lighting setups with different modifiers and demonstrates what makes reflections appear and how he gets rids of them. It all boils down to three tips:

  1. Change the position or angle of the light.
  2. Change the position or angle of the subject.
  3. Change the position or angle of the camera.

That's it! No special tricks or complicated Photoshop maneuvers. As a bonus, Edelman gives us this great reminder: "All great photography is an act of problem solving." Get out there and embrace the eyeglasses! 

[via DIY Photography]

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9 Comments

Kyle Medina's picture

Like the guy and his enthusiasm but the hand movements are so distracting.

Anonymous's picture

Just a tad bit too enthusiastic for me. :-/

Thanks to the laws of incidence and reflection, there's actually a fourth option that often works with reflections -- back away and reframe with a longer focal length. This works because by narrowing the angle of view, you reduce the number of angles of light that can reflect into the camera. Likewise, this is why sometimes when you move close and reframe wide, you suddenly have glare issues you didn't have before. I learned this from LIght, Science & Magic by Hunter, Biver and Fuqua, and it has made my life considerably easier; I'd recommend any shooter read it.

there's another option... pop the lenses out and forget about all of this other stuff

Tony Reitz's picture

As a wearer of glasses, I can say that it is not as easy as "pop the lenses out". I myself wear frameless glasses and those that I have with frames are not cheap and I could not condone the disassembly of them. As professionals, we should strive to find solutions to issues without inconveniencing our clients.

I'm just a hobbyist but I found out that some glasses are easy to shoot because they are flat and don't reflect much. But there are also really curvy glasses with coatings and they are a nightmare.

Tony Reitz's picture

Angle of incidence is also something to watch for when you are taking photos where there are framed pictures in the shot. Reflections can rear their ugly head at the most inopportune time.

Andress Kools's picture

Well, that was a fun 10 minutes easily explained in 3 bulletpoints! I regularly do hundreds of portraits on a day with a fixed setup of lights and chair. Besides reflections, the refraction can cause the background to seemingly invade someones face. One solution for this, when there's no possibility to shoot under an angle where there's no reflection or background in the glasses, is to shoot one portrait without glasses and fix it in post. Hardly ideal, but the best result for that situation.

Dennis Soans's picture

Love Joe Edelman - he works hard to share his knowledge and experience. His enthusiasm is infectious and gives us confidence that all photo related issues boils down to problem solving - his main theme in all his videos on Facebook and YouTube.