I’ve had a few situations with photos that just don’t look right when iPhoto corrects the red eye. The algorithm in iPhoto is sometimes just too sloppy, ruining nearby parts of the photo, especially if there is too much red tone to the skin around the eye. I needed a better way, and here it is.
What you’ll need
- A tool with “Instant Alpha”, the feature introduced in OS X Leopard’s Preview.app tool. You could also use Keynote, but I find Preview to be the best
- A compositing tool. Compositing is the process of combining two images. I use OmniGraffle for this, but you could also use Keynote, OpenOffice, etc. The key here is that you will need to draw an object and be able to place it behind your photo after applying the Instance Alpha.
Step by step
Try it in iPhoto
Here is my original picture:
And here is iPhoto’s attempt at red eye reduction:
Note the over-ambitious red eye reduction turning my green/brown eye blue and bruised!
Get the red out
To get the red out, I use OS X’s Preview.app to apply an Instant Alpha filter. This tool is great and gives a lot of control over the size of the selected red area. Open the tool, click and drag starting in the “reddest” part of the red eye, and drag until the entire pupil of the eye is selected by the tool. Repeat for the second eye, then hit the “enter” key to apply the mask. You should see some ghostly white eyes in your picture.
Get the black in
Okay, so far I’ve gotten the red eye out of your picture, but it’s not anything you’re likely to publish. To do this step, we copy the image into the compositing tool (OmniGraffle in this case). OmniGraffle is what they call an object drawing tool. After copying the image into the tool, we just draw a plan rectangle right over the eyes. Make it big, but smaller than the original picture. Next, change its color to black. You may want to play with the color to get the best result; adding some red to the black will soften any red edges that might have been left during the Instance Alpha stage. Or, you might feel that a deep gray gives better results. You should really zoom in on the eyes to make sure you’re satisfied, because you’re almost done!
Save your new picture
Once you’re satisfied with the picture, use the Export command of your compositing tool to save the image as a JPG. Since it’s a photo, this is the format I highly recommend. You could also use PNG, but JPG will give you the most natural results.
Finish it off
It is only at this step that I recommend you bring the new photo into your photo tool (I use iPhoto) to adjust exposure, etc. Adjusting these setting before getting the red out could make the process more difficult. Crop, size, and upload your photo to your favorite service!