Photography, Is Flash Bad for Babies?

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.

Anyway, 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.

Does Flash From Powerful Studio Lights Affect Your Newborn’s Eyes?

The quick answer is: most probably 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 the cautious parent, and want to avoid using flash anyway.

Guidelines For Baby 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’s

  • Avoid using Flash. Make sure you have proper light coming in through large windows while taking pictures. Goes without saying that the good time to take the picture is the day time.
  • Use big apertures (i.e. smaller numbers) to let enough light in.
  • Use faster ISO such as 400, but it would bring in more noise. 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. Longer the better but too long not good. Again 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.

Don’ts

  • 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 his/her well-being is important.

The easy way to do it is; you can tell the camera to turn off the flash, buy yourself a tripod and 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?

Happy Taking-Pictures.

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.

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: August 19, 2021

3 thoughts on “Photography, Is Flash Bad for Babies?”

  1. Hi Susheel,
    Excellent article but I don’t agree with the tripod though. The answer is ur last point. We cant ask them to stay still especially 7 months to 2 years kids.
    The best possible solution I ve found out is the burst mode or continuous shooting. Sure it wastes lot of pictures but I end up with one picture which captures the innocence to my satisfaction. In the digital world of photography wasting pictures is not a big deal.
    Even the lower end cameras have this burst mode.
    I also tend to do a lot of wide angle shots because babies tend to move fast and always I prefer shots with head intact 🙂
    Regards,
    Rengarajan.J

  2. IF YOU DON’T KNOW — DON’T WRITE AN ARTICLE ON IT 😀
    You can name it i.e. “how to avoid using flash for beginners”.
    But you name it “is it bad?”
    then write “I don’t know”
    then conclude “don’t use it”
    Nice joke. 🙂 Take it easy.

    1. Oleg,

      This article was written by a friend so I have left it intact. However, I did a little digging and found some answers. I’ve added a few links to the article that conclude that flash is not harmful to babies.

      I will write a more comprehensive post about it sometime soon.

      Cheers!

      Susheel

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