How To Avoid Glare on Glasses in Portrait Photography

If you've ever had to take a portrait of somebody in glasses, you'll likely know that it can be a tricky process. With the eyes tending to be the focal point of a portrait, glare on their glasses can ruin everything, and so you need to know how to handle it.

The first time I ever realized that glasses can be an issue in portrait photography was when I bought my first strobe light and softbox, and decided I want to practice with some self-portraits. From there, I sat in that room in my house and I tried every different angle and filter. I learned more in that brief period of experimentation than I had in many full tutorials. In fact, what I learned became crucial to my career later on.

I have written about one of my biggest regular clients before. They have hundreds of employees and I take each of their headshots, as well as multiple shots of each working. So, I end up taking thousands of pictures of people, many of which have glasses. You seldom get long with each subject, and getting the lighting right has to be a fine art. That becomes more difficult, however, when the person has glasses of varying sizes and thicknesses.

This video is a great introduction to the problem and offers some potential solutions. I would implore any budding portrait, wedding, or event photographers to put the time into learning how to deal with glare — it will pay dividends!

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12 Comments

Marc F's picture

Remove the lenses of the eyeglasses and wear only the frame…
(This also has the advantage that the eyes won’t look enlarged or reduced by the glasses)

Alexander Petrenko's picture

This will also have the same disadvantage - eyes won't look like people see them every day.

Marc F's picture

They don’t always look the same anyway. Vision changes, new ophthalmologist prescriptions, new glasses, reading glasses vs distance glasses…

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Sounds like returning client to me… :)

Naruto Uzumaki's picture

Sadly, removing the lenses will make it look like someone is wearing fake glasses. Even if you remove the glare, the lens can still be seen in glasses as no pair has 100% transmittance, and no pair a pure optical flat. The subtle changes even from the weakest of prescriptions, helps to maintain a genuine glasses look.

Marc F's picture

The video says to have the glasses anti reflection coated and to use smaller eyeglasses. It’s cheating anyway…

Naruto Uzumaki's picture

In the case of anti glare coatings, it reduces the visibility of the light modifier slightly but it still retains the same size and shape, the main benefit is if you cannot avoid certain reflections, they will at least be more transparent, and obstruct the face less.

Smaller glasses help since it reduces the amount you need to move lights around in order to remove the glare.

Anthony CHAPITEAU's picture

Removing lenses is a bad idea.
I suffer from serious myopia, and without glasses (or lenses) I have a tendancy to squint on photos.
Besides it's not always easy to remove and put back lenses for some frames, so I will not ask this from a client since
1) There are ways to avoid it
2) I don't want my client to look uncomfortable because he's not able to see/focus properly

And there are glasses without frames so you'll have to deal with it anyway sooner or later

Marc F's picture

Just shoot without the eyeglasses and then ask the client to choose the eyeglasses to be added with photoshop. This works even with clients that never wear glasses… 😂

Mark Houston's picture

Now do safety glasses......

Jessadayut Speers's picture

Would a CPL filter cut the reflection from the glasses?

Robert K Baggs's picture

Though it sounds logical, a CPL filter will very rarely work with glasses. Furthermore, it can affect the subject's skin, so I would avoid using them for portraiture, personally.