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Getting the Red Out without Eyedrops

Red eye occurs when the subject of a picture looks directly into the flash, and the unfortunate result is that eerie reddish luminescence in the eyes that says, "Not only didn't I get any sleep last night, but I'm also auditioning for the remake of Michael Jackson's Thriller video."

The flash bouncing off the blood vessels in the retina and right back into the camera's lens causes the red-eye effect. You'll see red eye most often in pictures taken in dim light because the pupils are at their largest in low-light conditions. You may also see red eye if you're using a camera with a flash that's very close to the camera's lens (thereby making it easier for the light to bounce straight back into the lens). The best way to fix red eye is to avoid it completely. That usually means getting a flash camera that can work around it:

  • Many cameras have a red-eye prevention mode. Usually, this mode triggers a quick, bright preflash just before the actual picture is taken. The preflash causes the subjects' irises to contract, making their pupils smaller when the second flash (that is, the real flash) goes off.
  • Some cameras mount the flash high or to one side of the lens. This simple trick also minimizes the chance of red eye.

However, these preventive measures are of little solace when you have a great picture that features bright red pupils as its most dominating feature.

Here's a quick way to paint out red eye and restore your image to a less zombielike look:

1. Open the original photo with red eye showing.

2. Select the pupil of one of the eyes.

An easy way to avoid changing the color of more than the red part of the eye is by painting the selection by using the Quick Mask tool.

3. Double-click the Quick Mask icon in the Tool palette.

The Quick Mask Options dialog box appears.

Make sure that the Selected Areas option is selected. This tells Photoshop that the area you're painting should be considered a selection.

4. Double-click the Color preview box to produce the Color Picker dialog box. Choose a bright green color as the mask color.

Photoshop uses a red hue by default that would make it difficult to see what part of the image you've already painted, so using a contrasting color eliminates this problem.

5. Click OK to dismiss the Color Picker dialog box, and then click OK to close the Quick Mask Options dialog box and begin painting a mask.

6. Choose a fuzzy-edged brush from the Brushes palette and paint around one iris.

7. Press Q to exit Quick Mask mode.

Only the pupil of the eye is selected, so you can paint without fear of covering up any other parts of the eye.

8. Choose Select --> Save Selection and store the pupil selection. Give it a name, such as "Last Iris."

You can reuse the pupil selection later if you accidentally deselect the area while working.

9. Select the Brush tool and choose a small fuzzy-edged brush.

10. In the Options bar, choose Hard Light as the blending mode from the Mode drop-down list.

11. Choose a color that matches the iris color but is quite a bit darker.

Pupils are ordinarily much darker than the iris that surrounds them.

l2. Paint over the pupil.

You may notice that two catchlights (reflections of light sources such as windows or the flash that made the picture) on the eye, which is unnatural. Of course, having no catchlight at all is even more unnatural! Cover the extraneous left catchlight in each pupil, but try not to obscure the main, right catchlight.

If you must paint over one of the main catchlights to remove the red-eye effect, use some white paint to insert a new one.

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