SP2B: Photographing People Wearing Glasses

As a spectacle-wearer and someone who take a lot of self-portraits I am acutely aware of the drawbacks of shooting people who wear glasses.

The first and most obvious I guess is that of reflections and glare.  Oftentimes, one of the subject’s eyes will be completely hidden by the reflection of the light source you are using.  This is all down to the angle of incidence and angle of reflection (don’t worry….they physics doesn’t get any deeper than that!) which essentially means that the angle of the reflection off the glasses matches the angle of the light hitting the glasses and if your camera is in line with this reflection then you get glare!

So how do we avoid reflections ruining the image?  Well we could ask the subject to remove their glasses but for many people who are full-time spectacle-wearers this isn’t really appropriate.  Their glasses are as much a part of their identity and style as anything else and the world is accustomed to seeing them in glasses.  Another suggestion is to remove the glass from the rims for the duration of the shoot.  Again, I don’t think this idea is really going to work for a lot of people.

The other option is to ensure that the reflected light doesn’t hit the camera.  Adjusting the chin of the subject downwards a little might be sufficient or ask them to tilt the glasses forward a little (so the arms are  not resting on the ears)…the light still hits the glasses but the reflection is now diverted below the camera and as such isn’t a factor for the image.  Equally we could move the light to change the angle of the light at source or is the glasses themselves are small then a smaller light source might do the trick.  If we do ask for the subject to lower their chin a little we have to be careful that we don’t end up with the rim of the glasses blocking or bisecting the eye or even casting an unwanted shadow across the eye.

The second issue which is a little more difficult to rectify is that of distortion.  When you see parts of the face through the lens of the spectacles they can appear further away than the parts of the face not covered by the lens.  This effect isn’t all that noticeable in real-life as our brains tend to compensate for it but it can be significant in still images.  In the image below you can see the effect on the subject’s right eye where the outside edge of the eye socket no longer looks aligned with the rest of the face.

Personally, I don’t think it is a huge issue although I must admit I have rejected images from this and previous shoots where I felt this distortion was distracting to the image overall.  There are some photoshop fixes out there for people who really dislike the look but they are not without their difficulties to produce an image that looks natural.

So tell me if you would have thought twice about the distortion until I pointed it out to you?  Any comments?

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One Response to SP2B: Photographing People Wearing Glasses

  1. Greetings! Very useful advice within this article!
    It is the little changes that make the most significant changes.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

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