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Photoshop Tutorial: Red Eye Reduction

Perhaps the most common edit done in digital photography is the red-eye removal. When a strong flash bounces off the back of ones eye, a bright red reflection is seen. This is especially common with point and shoot cameras where the distance from the flash to the lens is small. It is also more common at night when people's pupils are dilated.

The following quick tutorial shows you one easy way to correct the red eye look in Photoshop CS. These steps should work with most recent versions of Photoshop.

Before Red-Eye Reduction

See the bright red-eyes on the girl on the right.

Before Red Eye Reduction

Select the red-eye

One needs to select the regions of the pupils that are affected by the red-eye look. This is the hardest step, but the Magic Wand tool makes it fairly painless.

Select Magic Wand Tool

Photoshop's Magic Wand tool selects an area of the image that is similar in color or intensity to where you click. Select the tool in the toolbox at the left.

Set Magic Wand tolerance and Add-to-selection

Now, one needs to specify how much of an area the Magic Wand will reach. By default, the Magic Wand is set to only select adjacent pixels of the same color as the one that you are clicking on. This corresponds to a setting of "Tolerance 0" and "Contiguous" checked. As the red-eye regions are not perfectly even in color, you will need to increase the tolerance value such that each click will select most of the red pixels nearby. If you find that it often leaks out and selects regions of the iris or other areas, reduce the tolerance value. In this example, I found that a tolerance setting of 16 worked well.

It is also very important to make sure that the Contiguous checkbox is selected. This ensures that the Magic Wand only selects pixels that are near each other. if you didn't select this, then clicking on the red-eye would also select other regions of bright red in your photo too. We want to limit our selection to the red eyes only.

Lastly, ensure that the selection mode (at the far left of the options bar) is set to Add to Selection. This allows you to keep clicking and adding to the same selection, letting you gradually fill all of the red eye regions. Similarly, it also lets you work on the second eye at the same time.

After selecting both eyes with Magic Wand

Zoom in closely to the affected regions (in this case I've used 400%) so that you can clearly see the edges of the red eyes. Click a few times in each eye in an attempt to select most of the red regions.

Expanding the selection

You'll notice that it is pretty hard to select all of the red eye pixels. The best bet is to try to select most of them, and then expand the selection you've already made. Expanding the selection by 1 pixel allows most of the edge pixels to be added to the selection as well.

Finally, once the selections have been made, it is time to copy the selection to its own layer. This allows a non-destructive red-eye correction to be made, and will not affect the original photo layer.

Make new Layer via Copy

Create a new Layer via Copy (Press CTRL-J in Windows) and the selection you've made in the background layer will be copied to its own layer, called Layer 1.

Getting the red out!

Edit Red's Hue & Saturation

Finally, we can reduce the amount of red we see in the new layer (which should be just the pupils). Selecting Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation will let you change this layer's color properties. Make sure that the Preview checkbox is selected. Select Edit: Red and then drop the saturation down most of the way until the red is almost completely gone. Then, reduce the Lightness value until the pupils look reasonably black (but not completely). Click OK and you're done!

After Red Eye Reduction

The final image... much improved!


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