Quick and Effective Way to Remove All Reflections in Glasses for Portrait Photography

Glasses can be a real pain when shooting portraits. Perhaps the subject's glasses don't have the anti-glare coating or even if they do, sometimes your light source can still wreak havoc with reflections. Today I want to share a quick tip on dealing with this issue. Sometimes the reflections can be so bad, they cover a huge part of the actual eye. If it's a tiny spot in the corner of the glasses, we can easily clone it out but if it's covering half the eye that won't work so easily. 

My Solution

The way I approach fixing this is to get in the habit of shooting a frame without glasses immediately after the frame you intend to use. It's best to have someone grab the glasses so the subject doesn't move too much. 

My steps for using the images are as follows:

  1. Open the working image and the image without glasses.
  2. Make a selection of the face and drag (Move tool) onto the working image.
  3. Reduce opacity of the new layer with the "good" eyes to 50% (keyboard shortcut 5).
  4. Free transform (mainly for rotating if need be) and move it around and line up the eyes to match the eye location with glasses.
  5. Restore opacity to 100% (keyboard shortcut 0).
  6. Apply a layer mask to show none (Option-click on mask icon in layers).
  7. Using a white soft brush at 100% opacity and flow, erase the reflection by painting those areas (revealing your mask).

aligning new layer in Photoshop

Aligning the new eyes layer with opacity at 50%

Final Image

There will often be a slight eye size variation due to the prescription of the glasses distorting. In this case, her eyes appear very slightly larger which is usually desired. With the customer not having the before image side by side like we do, they will never notice. If the prescription is super strong and it's a big difference, then you may wish to free transform the eye to be more into a realistic size.

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17 Comments

And then we have this beautiful photo of someone wearing glasses without a glass... ;)

Bill Larkin's picture

you could also lightly brush back in a tiny bit of reflection to see the glass, but yet not so much that it takes away from the eyes. (if the look bothers) - I've been doing this for 10 years and never had a complaint about the lack of glass look :)

Would a circular polarizer not work? Asking sincerely.

Bill Larkin's picture

It very well might in certain cases...

Bill Larkin's picture

That said, the CPL might also change the coloring of other stuff in the image like the blue hues of the uniforms, etc. But it indeed could remove reflections in certain cases :) Thanks for reading.

Anonymous's picture

If that's the case then the color could easily be corrected with a color checker.

Ariel Martini's picture

it indeed looks like hipster glassless glasses

Adam Milton's picture

The problem with this technique is that if you know the glare is going to be an issue, you can light around it, unless I guess someone has Bubbles style thick prescriptions. For this to work well, you have to photograph the head sans glasses in an almost identical position, so really impractical when you end up with several selects in different poses.

michael andrew's picture

I grew up wearing glasses and around 13-14 started contacts and eventually laser eye surgery. I don't understand why people wear their glasses in professional photos? I look back at all of mine with glasses and absolutely hate them. It's funny to remember but it's really an odd custom to leave them on. I say we should promote a movement to always remove glasses for photos.

Anonymous's picture

In corporate photography, if they wear glasses...they stay on!

Kirk Darling's picture

A. Not all vision problems are amenable to either contacts or surgery.
B. If the person didn't require glasses, they wouldn't be wearing them. Asking clients to remove their glasses is offensive in the extreme. All that's going to do is result in people looking vague, unfocused, and uncomfortable.
C. Many people like their look in glasses; glasses suit their personalities.
D. As a photographer, it's your job to learn to handle it. Period. What do you do for clients with a physical disfigurement? Demand that they get plastic surgery?

michael andrew's picture

Do you ask people to remove their sunglasses outdoors? If someone wants to leave them on a simple preference question professional and will suffice.

Kirk Darling's picture

Optical glasses are for the correction of a physical problem. You know there is a difference. Just be professional and learn to deal with it as we'd deal with any other personal issue a client may have.

Ethan Chin's picture

Because of the thumbnail, I wouldn't have been surprised if the solution was to just remove the glasses entirely...

just move your light or your subject problem solves..

Jon Trengereid's picture

oh my lord, just pop the glass out for the shoot, and put them back on in when you're done...