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Tutorial: Fix Optical Distortion from Prescription Eyewear in Portraiture

200707we_glassesimage01 By Tony Hopman, Cr.Photog., CPP, API, FDPE, FSA
All images ©Tony Hopman

Prescription glasses for nearsighted people cause a distortion that makes the portion of their face seen through the lens look as though it's farther away than the portion not covered by the lens. Many people are so accustomed to seeing it that it doesn't register in face-to-face interaction, but it becomes more noticeable in a portrait.


“Can you fix that?” my client asked when she saw the distortion through her husband's lenses in their portrait. "Of course," I said. "We can fix almost anything!" That was easier said than done. After several unsuccessful attempts at cloning and painting the missing cheek within the glass frame, I decided there must be a better way. I finally arrived at a method that works well without adding too much work.


Set your Quick Mask options so that color indicates selected areas.

(Double-click the Quick Mask icon, located under the Foreground/Background color palettes of your Tool bar, to access the options.)


Make a Quick Mask selection of the eye and the frame of the glasses.
(Press Q, select the Brush and paint with black at 100% opacity.)


Press Q again to see the marching ants outline identifying your selection.

Select Layer > New > Layer via Copy (cmd/ctrl + J) to copy your selection to a new layer.

Click the eye icon on the Background Layer to reveal Layer 1 by itself. This shows the result of your selection process.


Now add a Layer Mask to Layer 1. (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All)


With a black paint brush, paint out everything outside the lens, including the glasses frame and nose pad, on the Layer Mask. Black hides, white reveals.


This is the result of painting on the Layer Mask:


Accuracy is important here; take the time to create a nice soft-edged mask. It will benefit you later.

Click the eye icon box on the Background Layer to view the entire image again. Place two guides along the edge of the face to help you determine how far you must transform the selection.


Cmd/ctrl-click on the Layer 1 thumbnail to select the pixels on that layer and select Edit > Free Transform (cmd/ctrl + T). Hold down the Shift key and enlarge the area to the guides. The enlarged portion now covers part of the glasses frame.


It may be necessary to slightly rotate the transform selection, as shown here. To rotate, move your cursor outside one of the transform box corners until it becomes a curved line with arrows on each end. Click and drag to rotate.


Click on the Layer 1 Layer Mask and paint with black to hide everything except the glasses frame on the background layer.

Press the X key to switch back and forth between black and white paint to hide and reveal.


You have now achieved the desired result. The eye has been restored to its true size and there is no longer a distortion through the glasses.


By holding down the Option /Alt key as you click on the Layer Mask, you will see your masking efforts full screen.


By clicking on the Layer 1 icon, and having the background layer turned off, you will reveal the actual image of the transformed eye with the effect of the Layer Mask. The edge of the selection is not tack-sharp in order for it to blend naturally.


In some cases, it will be necessary to do this effect on both eyes. It just depends on the strength of the prescription.