Charles Ormand was born on June 17, 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. He was the son of Charles Ormand Eames, a Pinkerton security officer and amateur photographer, and Marie Celine Adele Pauline Lambert. The family resided briefly in Buffalo and Brooklyn, New York, before returning to St. Louis, where Charles entered elementary school.
His father died in 1919. The following year Eames found his father's photographic materials and experimented with wet-plate printing.