May 9, 2017

How to Solve the Glare Issue When Lighting People with Glasses

"Glasses, we meet again." —Every Cinematographer Ever

There's a reason why filmmakers try to avoid having subjects wear eyeglasses or shades while on camera if it's not necessary. It's not because people who wear glasses are dweebs—it's because getting rid of that damn glare from the lights can be a job and a half. However, unless you refuse to work with spectacled individuals, the situation is inevitable, so it might be wise for you to learn how to manipulate your lighting setup so effectively deal with reflections. Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter shows you how in the video below.

Here are four things that will help you get rid of glare and reflections when lighting subjects wearing glasses.

 Light positioning

Obviously, putting a light right in front of your subject's face is going to produce a reflection right in the middle of their glasses, so you're going to want to find a position/angle for your lights that 1.) eliminates that reflection, and 2.) still lights our subject in the way you want them to be lit.

As Pike explains in the video, you'll want to go "up and over" when you place your light, so raise your light high, angle it down, and position it off to the side of your subject until you don't see a reflection. Now, this might cause there to be a significant shadow on one side of your subject's face, but you can fill that in with a reflector (Pike uses a piece of white bead board).

Change your light source

Another thing you can do to fix this issue is use larger, softer light sources. You may still end up with some glare and reflection, but it won't be as noticeable as it would be if you used a small, harsh light.

Tilt your subject's glasses down

Your lights aren't the only things that you can reposition to get rid of glare—you can also tilt your subject's glasses down. You can ask your subject to simply tilt them down, but if for some weird reason that's not enough, you can try to pin the stems to your subject's hair (if they have enough) with bobby pins or tape them to your subject's head. 

Use a polarizing filter

In some cases, a polarizing filter might help get rid of some of that glare. If the angle of incidence of the reflected light is at 56-degrees, the polarizer will be able to work its magic, but if it's not, the polarizer won't do much of anything. But, if nothing else is working, it doesn't hurt to try.

Do you know any tricks on getting rid of glare and reflections from a subject's glasses? Let us know down in the comments!     

Your Comment

5 Comments

Really good video.
These common problems are hard to solve.
Especially in case of sun glasses.

May 10, 2017 at 3:58AM, Edited May 10, 3:58AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
1142

Good video. Thanks for that!

May 12, 2017 at 9:34PM

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Erik Lu
Director
85

How about taking the glass out?

I watched old episodes of The Avengers recently (no not those, the ones with Steed and Emma Peel). In scenes where there was a large glass pane in a door, they removed the pane. Whilst that worked for 1960's TVs, it was entirely obvious that there was nothing there on my rather more modern flat screen.

December 8, 2017 at 1:29PM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1259

Your post reminds me of being sent out to shoot my first local auto dealer commercial (scheduled for noon) by advertising sales reps who had no understanding of the concept of glare and wanted mostly shots of the showroom.

June 25, 2018 at 10:24AM

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Marc B
Shooter & Editor
495

Make sure you have the talent look at their main eyeline, sometimes talent will get distracted while idling in front of the camera while the crew is busy preparing.

Sometimes people get more expressive during the actual interviews/performances than when they're just blocking/rehearsing, which can lead to more head movement or looking around. If you thought you were safe, be aware that that can change and you could still get hits of reflections that are hopefully momentary and not a big deal.

Also thinking laterally, you may find yourself in environments with practical lighting that you cannot directly control and end up causing problems e.g. overheads in a store. Options in this case might be blocking the lights with a flag, throwing a diffusion frame in there to diffuse individual light sources into a more abstract and less offensive shape, changing your orientation in the space, or probably at worst asking the talent to modify their movement or adjust the position of the glasses on their face. Making asks of talent is the least ideal because of course you don't want to interfere with their performance, especially when dealing with non-actors who are already feeling very self-conscious and uncomfortable.

Not all reflections are bad either, depending on context and style. But ones that obscure your talent's pupils+iris are usually killer.

January 6, 2018 at 11:13PM, Edited January 6, 11:16PM

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