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Photo Technical

Free software can eliminate red eye -A13

Every compact camera comes with a built in flash.  They are not very powerful, as was discussed in the previous article, but they come in handy for flash filling in shadows in daylight shots and simply allowing a good exposure when it’s dark.  Also, often, when using your flash to take people photographs, you can quickly pick out your devilish friends by their red eyes.  Of course, our pets being little angels are more likely to display, blue, green or yellow eyes when exposed by our pocket camera flashes.

What causes red eye?  It is the result of the flash being physically too close, almost in line with the lens.  The lens is capturing the reflection made by the flash from a subject being photographed.  It can be likened to shooting into a mirror, only in this case the flash is reflecting off the pink retina in the back of an eye out through the pupil.  The result to me is a less than a satisfactory photograph.

So how can this red-eye problem be avoided?  Last time I noted how to locate the controls for your flash and the different options.  The diagram below shows the typical flash symbol, the lightning bolt, and next to it an “eye” symbol.

Picasa2 copy small

When this “eye” symbol with the “lightning bolt” flash symbol is shown it indicates you are using the camera manufacturers’ method to try and reduce the red-eye effect.  Note I say “reduce” as many times it only helps a little, if at all.  What this does is send out one or more pre-flashes (or bursts of light) right before the actual exposing (picture taking) flash.  [Keep in mind from the last article the lightning bold with the ‘A’ means automatic or when the camera thinks you need it, and just the lightning bolt (without the ‘A’) means it fires every shot.]

What’s this pre-flashing all about?  Well, at night our pupils dilate to their largest size or opening to enable us to see in low light.  The “red-eye” effect becomes more pronounced with large pupils.  This pre-flashing is meant to reduce the size of the subjects pupils with the intention to reduce or eliminate the effect when the actual ‘final’ flash exposes the photograph.

But as I noted, in my experience it does not meet hopeful expectations.  This is especially true with a somewhat intoxicated party crowd where responses dulled to the pre-flashes.  [I’m never at those parties.]  One thing it does do is deplete the batteries faster, and if you’re out at sea with one battery, you have to be mindful of this factor.

So what else can we do?  The best solution is to use an external flash that could be held or placed at a greater distance from the lens.  Preferably placing the flash higher, straight above the lens would minimize unwanted shadows on either side.  Another solution would be to use a technique called bounced flash.  There is no point in going into detail on either external or bounced flash as both are not possible methods with compact cameras.

What’s left is, first, getting closer to your subject, which in effect results in the flash being further from the lens.  Think about it.  Another possible solution is having the subject avert their gaze so it’s not directly at the lens.

These suggestions may help, but let’s face it, they are not sure to resolve the problem.  Besides, I do not think with the impulsiveness by which we often take our best pictures we are not going to think about them.

One final option is available to us to rid ourselves of that evil red-eye and that is retouching software via your computer.  Because photography is my business I use PhotoShop.  The thing about this image enhancing software is that it has a demanding learning curve and it is expensive.  With this in mind I will steer you to software that is easy to use and it is free.  Go to www.google.com and put in a search for Picasa2, then download it.

The first thing it will do is organize all your photographs on your computer.  Don’t worry, they will be fine.  After this is complete, you can then click on any picture and it will come up in a window as shown below.  You can see all your options.  The third one down is Redeye.  Click on it and follow the easy instructions.

Next time I can discuss some of the other aspects of this program and get into metering or how your camera reads light.  For now note I have three images in the window below (a full size and 2 close ups).  This is something I did for this article.  In reality you get only one picture in the window at a time.  For now wishing you a Happy New Year, with your permission to come ashore.