This is a question I've been asked just once during my time as a photographer, but in light of a recent national newspaper article, I felt compelled to blog!
The article in question claims that a three month old Chinese baby has been blinded by a camera phone flash. *Sigh*. I really do wish newspapers would avoid running sensationalist, unproven stories to fill their empty pages or at least, do their research and give a balanced view.
According to Snopes.com the story that was published came from an unreliable source, who allegedly got it from another source, who got it from another.....and so on. At no point in the worrying story have facts been provided such as, where did the incident happen? What were the parents' names? Who were the 'experts' quoted? Where was the child treated?
In short, there is no evidence to back this story and photographers like myself are inwardly groaning and thinking of all the worry being caused to parents who might come across this article.
I completely understand the concerns that parents have when it comes to the safety of their children, of course I do - I've got three children myself and I've had all those same worries. And yes, as a newborn photographer I've also looked at the flash question - and I am satisfied that the appropriate use of flash is not harmful.
Obviously, common sense must prevail. If you visit a photographer who points a powerful bare, undiffused flash directly at and a few inches in front of your face, I would suggest you politely decline to have your photo taken.
On the one occasion I was asked about flash safety I was able to reassure my clients by explaining the following. The flash I use is diffused through a large softbox, the softbox itself having three layers of diffusion material in front of the bulb. Added to that, the flash duration is a miniscule 1/200th of a second and the light source is feathered (meaning that the softbox is angled away) so baby is lit by the softest edge of the light.
My dad took hundreds of flash photos of myself and my brother as we were growing up - our eyesight has always been fine. Think also of the hundreds of millions of photographs that have been taken over the years by proud relatives of their family's new arrival. If flash has been used on these occasions you can bet that in the majority of cases it would have been the undiffused and direct pop-up flash on top of a camera. I have to ask therefore, if flash is dangerous for baby's eyes - where are all the similar stories to the one that has recently been published, and where are the government health warnings that would surely have been produced by now?
I'll end with the final paragraph from Snopes.com;
"In fact, several reputable sources have stated that a camera flash is not harmful to a baby’s eyes. The Orange Regional Medical Center, for instance, encourages new parents to take photographs of their babies in the NICU:
We encourage you to take pictures of your baby. Flash cameras are allowed and will not harm your baby.
Thanks for reading!