October 8, 2007 HelpLine

Q) Red-eye has been a problem that I thought might go away with my new camera. I talked to someone and they were talking about red-eye reduction and red-eye correction. When I took a picture, they said that my camera didn’t have red-eye reduction because the flash only fired once, but my manual says it does. What’s going on?

Frank Y.
Austin, South Dakota

A) If you’ve read my column in the past, you know that I must start with the obligatory “quick review.” Red-eye is caused by light reflecting off the back of your subject’s eyeballs when you use flash.

Red-eye reduction works on the principle that if you can somehow reduce the size of the iris in your subject’s eyes, less light will enter the eye and reflect back, therefore less red-eye. One way to accomplish this is to make the flash fire briefly before the exposure, causing the iris to narrow. This technique is so common (in both film and digital cameras) that many people are used to it. They know that when red-eye reduction is engaged, the flash needs to fire before the shot.

But not all cameras use the flash for red-eye reduction. Many cameras have a red-eye reduction LED that’s near the lens and turns on just before the exposure. This LED is usually orange and quite bright. So when your friend says your camera doesn’t have red-eye reduction but your manual says it does, this could be the reason.

Whether your camera uses the flash or an LED for red-eye reduction, the feature won’t work unless red-eye reduction is turned on.

Red-eye correction is when you “correct” the red-eye by replacing the red with black or some other appropriate color. While this is usually done in image-editing software, some cameras allow you to do it in-camera, as well.

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