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agc828 Oct 25, 2009 11:07 AM

The dreaded red-eye
Hello guys,

I have a Nikon D300. Was fooling around with the built-in flash. Purposely took photos of my dog that was backing a window. Wasn't an intense amount of light in the room but there was "enough" (a little diffuse sunlight.). Any how I did get the dreaded red-eye using the built-in flash. Tried reducing the output. Didn't really help. Why am I getting red-eye and how would I avoid it in this kind of shooting scenario?

I tried setting the built-in flash (sorry, I know this forum is for "external flash") to "square w/ flash symbol (lighting bolt)" (displayed on LED display on top right) and then the one that looks the same but with an eye symbol on it. Assumed that would remove the red-eye. It didn't.

Haven't even begun using my SB800 flash. Would Joe McNally's new book on using Speedlight flash help a complete flash novice? I think it's called "Hot Shoe Diaries".


mtclimber Oct 25, 2009 2:17 PM


There are several things you can do:

(1) get off to a 10 to 15 degree angle from your subject, so you are not photographing dead on.
(2) Use a diffuser to spread the light of the flash. I just cut out a small portion of a plastic milk bottle and taped it over the camera's built-in flash unit.
(3) When you use that SB-800 use bounce flash
(4) whenusing the SB-800 a Stofen diffuser works well.

Sarah Joyce

agc828 Oct 25, 2009 2:45 PM

Thanks Sarah.

I guess when you're shooting straight on it's hard to avoid red-eye even if you are using the camera's "lighting bolt/eye" setting. I did buy a diffuser that is to go over the built-in flash. It's made by Lumiquest ( Will test this out later. Should do the trick.

I also read about the cheapest diffuser and most readily available. Just grab a sheet of Kleenex. Never tried this.

When I do use the SB800 I plan to have bought a Promax diffuser kit ( Aiming the flash to the sky. As that is how you are supposed to position the head when using these diffusers.

Any one have an opinion on Joe McNally's The Hot Shoe Diaries?

VTphotog Oct 25, 2009 3:11 PM

The accessories you are looking at won't really do much for red eye. The diffuser gives you a softer overall light, and the reflector is intended to provide some direct light when using bounce flash.
As Sarah says, don't shoot straight on to subject, and bounce the flash.
If you need the power of direct flash, you should increase the distance between the lens and flash centerlines by using a flash bracket and a hotshoe extension.


agc828 Oct 25, 2009 3:20 PM

Hello Brian,

They won't help with red-eye? I assumed since the light being fired would be diffuse (or specular) there would be less or no chance of red-eye.

Just looked at some of my recent test shots. I did take some in the morning when there was some sunlight entering the room. I think I took the photo dead-on and didn't get any red-eye in all of the shots. I think it's when there isn't enough light in the room where red-eye is more likely. When you're not using the built-in flash for "fill-flash". True?

Actually I'm not sure if I did take those shots dead-on or at an angle. :) Guess I have some experimenting to do.

VTphotog Oct 25, 2009 3:35 PM

Red eye is caused by reflections from the back of the eye, when the iris or the eye is fairly wide. Bright ambient light causes it to close down, which reduces the amount of light entering and reflected. The red eye reduction systems in cameras fire a pre-flash with the intent of making the iris close down. This often is only partly effective.
With sunlight entering the room, the ambient light should be enough to prevent red eye.
In low light, whith the eye's iris wide open, and the flash very close to the centerline of the lens, conditions are ideal for red eye. Anything to change these conditions is going to help.


agc828 Oct 25, 2009 4:03 PM

Hey Brian,

That would explain why I could use the built-in flash when there was sunlight and not get red-eye on my dog. Yet when the room was almost dark. Or just without sunlight the red-eye would return.

If shooting head-on with a built-in flash is it impossible to avoid red-eye assuming the room is very dim with very little ambient light (no sunlight)? And shooting at an angle (e.g. 10-15 degrees to one side)...does that just reduce the chance?

Good thing post-processing programs can eliminate it. And though iPhoto isn't a true PP program it does an excellent job.

neilcrichton Oct 26, 2009 1:27 PM

I usually use an SB800 flash, bounced with a diffuser, and rarely get red-eye. However, if I do get it, it's easily eliminated in almost any editing software.

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