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Lighting 101: Lighting for Glasses

This one is gonna be quick and dirty. If you already know how to do a portrait without having to worry about reflections in peoples' glasses, just scroll down to the bottom and move on.

But if glasses have been giving you a Devil of a time, this is gonna be one of those Homer Simpson "D'Oh!" moments. And if you are having trouble with it, don't feel bad. I did, too.

The problem is that if you are going to the trouble to light someone, you are naturally inclined to have them face toward the light. Which is fine.

Unless they are wearing glasses.

To avoid refections in glasses, simply light from one side and have the person face the other. There is no need to be shooting all of the way in profile, either. A flattering, 3/4 angle (subject to camera) will work just fine.

But honestly, you do not have to go even that far for your angle. Just a smidge will work fine. The important thing is to light him slightly from one side and have him look slightly toward the others.

What if you have more than one person in the photo? No problem. The principle still works. Let's try it with an 11-person group shot:

Bam. Look at that. Not a shiner in the bunch. And four of them are wearing glasses. And I knew I was okay before I tool my first test shot. Light is coming from camera left — speedlights in two big umbrellas.

But look at my group. All five(!) people wearing glasses are standing (or sitting) on the left. And facing slightly right. Are there still reflections? Yep. But they are falling harmlessly out into space at far camera right.

(For the record, there is a second flash at back camera right adding that splash of rim light.)

Think of the light hitting the glasses as a pool ball. It's going to reflect off of the glasses, no matter what. The thing is to position the glasses so that the angle is such that the light reflects off into space. Doesn't really matter where. Just not towards your camera.

If the subject is looking away from the light, that's a piece of cake. That's all there is to it.

A little fun story: There are other ways to do this, too. Some more complicated. Some ... less elegant.

I read about a wedding photographer in China who has everyone who is wearing glasses take them off and replace them with one of the sets of glasses out of the box he brings.

Only he has removed all of the glass from those frames. Clever as hell, actually. But I'd think you'd want to be pretty early in that line rather than last. Because I can't imagine that the empty frames are all that great looking...

Next: Lighting 101: Long-Throw Hard Light


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