I am sometimes inundated in my email with the pictures that new parents take. Either they are too excited with their newly purchased digital camera or their new baby. Of course, we all would like to have pictures – loads of them; especially, of when we were babies when we looked beautiful.
This sort of question always comes up with anything that is new, that we are not used to. For e.g. would you stop using a mobile phone as some claim that it could cook your brain (we all use microwaves to warm foods)? Some even warn that micro-waving food is also damaging to your health. I have no idea, and I am cautious. As I believe that research that proves wrong is usually funded by a company that has a commercial interest in selling microwave devices.
Does Studio Flash Photography Affect Newborn Babies?
The quick answer is: most probably studio flash does not affect a newborn’s eyes (see reference links below). There are studios across the world that photograph young children and newborns, and we have not seen any widespread adverse effects, so rest assured.
Having said that, you may be a cautious parent, and want to avoid using flash immediately after birth. Here are some guidelines that you can follow if you want to be cautious.
Guidelines For Newborn Photography Without Flash
If you’ve just had a baby, this question may cross your mind before taking your baby’s portrait at the studio.
If you must have your child photographed, but are hesitant to use flash despite the data at the links below, we have formulated some guidelines for you to minimize the risk. Using these guidelines, you can go ahead with taking beautiful portraits. Here are some Dos and Donts.
Do This While Photographing Newborn Children
- Avoid using Flash. Make sure you have reflected sunlight light coming in through large windows while taking pictures. It goes without saying that a good time to take the picture is during the day when the sun is bright.
- Use large apertures (i.e. smaller numbers) to let enough light in.
- Use faster ISO such as ISO 400-1600, but it would bring in more noise. Don’t worry too much about noise, though. You can get less noisy pictures by using slow ISO such as 100, but best taken when you have a tripod, and when the child is asleep.
- Use longer exposure (this is the shutter speed) while indoors. This is doable only when the child is asleep and not moving. The longer, the better for brightness, but very long shutter speeds are again … not good. Using a tripod is advised.
- Photograph them when they’re asleep. This is a good idea for multiple reasons. There will be less movement, and you can use slow exposures with low ISO. However, you may want to capture the beauty and expressions while they’re awake too.
A mix of various types of images, in different locations, moods, and lighting photographed as they grow, up will allow you to have a wide range of images for your memory.
Do Not Do This While Photographing Newborns
- Do not use flash in a dark room and while she is awake. I do not know whether it is harmful to the eye, but strong flash can be irriting to the eyes and I am sure the babies feel it too. If you absolutely must use flash, remember that a dark room increases the contrast, and the apparent intensity of the flash. If the newborn is asleep, their eyelids offer some additional protection.
Conclusion: Flash is Safe, But Play it Safe
There seems to be conclusive evidence that Flash is safe for babies. However, I would avoid it. After all the child’s well-being is more important than a photograph.
The easy way to do it is; you can tell the camera to turn off the flash, take photographs in a bright location, and buy yourself a tripod & a zoom lens. This will be less intimidating to the child and you will be guaranteed to get stunning pictures that will tell the story for life.
But one thing that I always have a problem with, is that I do not know how to command the baby to stay still, do you know how?
Further Reading: Some Sources that Say that ‘Camera Flash is Not Harmful to Babies’:
We may not know for sure, but here are some sources that have a definite opinion. The strongest is probably the first link.
- Orange Regional Medical Center: NICU Parenting guide (Archived): “We encourage you to take pictures of your baby. Flash cameras are allowed and will not harm your baby.”
- Do numerous camera flashes have a negative impact on a baby’s eyes? – American Academy of Opthalmology
- Are Camera Flashes Harmful to a Baby’s Eyes?
- Blinded by the light (snopes.com)
- Is it possible to blind a baby with a camera’s flash?
- Photos Can Help Diagnose Children’s Eye Problems and Save Sight (for children older than 6 months) – AAO.org
This is an article written by a good friend, about what he’s learned about flash photography and babies.
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Published: June 20, 2007 | Last Updated: February 1, 2022