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News & Insight

Can a Camera’s Flash Blind an Infant? Not Likely…

By Alicia D'Amico on August 6th 2015

Three-month-old Baby Left BLIND by Phone Camera’s Flash

Imagine being a newborn photographer or even a proud parent and seeing this headline in your news feed.

A baby is left blind in one eye after a family friend forgot to turn off the flash while taking a close-up photograph. – Daily Mail

Last week, Daily Mail published a translated article stating that a three-month-old Chinese baby boy was rendered blind in one eye due to a flash from a cell phone.  The report claims that a family friend was taking pictures of the baby while holding the phone just 10 inches away from the child.  The family reportedly noticed something was wrong with their baby’s vision soon after the photograph was taken.  They took the baby to the hospital where they claim that the doctor told them the damage was irreversible.

BlindBabyFlash

The Internet Fervor

I find myself cringing when something goes viral before it’s even been fact-checked.  Viral news tends to stir controversy and draw lines in the sand where opposing parties take joy in spending hours debating their side.  Generally speaking, I find it amusing when people get so riled up over hot topics in the news as it most often does not directly affect me personally or professionally.  However, with one of my specialties being newborn and child photography, it was bound to come across my news feed multiple times and grab my attention.  What shocked me the most was how many of my colleagues fell prey to this being a plausible reality.

Being the skeptic on this, I joked immediately that this story would be disproved on Snopes before long.  Meanwhile, my news feed continued to update me with postings in several of the groups I belong to, ranging from moms to newborn photography groups.  It was a hot topic and was re-shared for a couple of days straight, eliciting the same arguments over and over again.  Expectant and experienced mothers alike argued over whether or not their babies could be harmed by a flash.  Photographers argued their preferences to natural light photography, and some went as far as to agree with the article, claiming that this was why they never use artificial light due to its “harmful nature.”

My Thoughts

Somehow, I managed to keep my opinions to myself when this turned from a story about a child becoming blind to a platform for photographers to smugly say, “This is why we only shoot natural light!”  Knowing in the depths of my core that it was impossible that this child became blind from a camera’s flash, and that some were using this as an excuse to justify never learning artificial light, infuriated me.

Let me clarify now that my anger wasn’t over whether someone prefers natural or artificial light but instead was ignited by people perpetuating this hoax as a justification of their professional choices to abstain from using other lighting solutions. Every time a photographer wrote on their personal Twitter account or Facebook wall, “This is why we only use natural light at our studio,” along with a link to the original article, it furthered the irrational widespread fear. Not to mention, it put an unnecessary black cloud over photographers who elect to use artificial lighting in their studios.

BabyStockShimmeringLights
Shimmering Lights Photography

 

Yahoo Parenting ran a fact-based news story including an interview with Dr. Alex Levin, Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Ocular Genetics at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.  He told Yahoo Parenting, “If this story were true, there would be lots of blind babies out there,” and went on to call the reported events “inconceivable.”  To see more of Dr. Levin’s interview, view it here.

Conclusion

It’s not my job to tell people whether they should use this or that brand of camera, Photoshop or Lightroom, natural or artificial light.  These are personal preferences, and I have respect for each person choosing what is right for their business.  It is my hope that every photographer pushes themselves past their comfort zone to try new things and finds what works best for them.  Rest assured, though, it’s perfectly safe to use studio lights and flash when photographing babies

Alicia D’Amico is a Portrait, Fashion, Underwater and Wedding photographer based out of Tampa, Florida. She and her partner attract clients from far and wide that want a unique photographic experience. Her work has been featured on numerous magazine covers and featured editorial spreads. Alicia loves to travel the world, teach others, cuddle on the couch with her puppy and enjoys fun game nights with her closest friends.

To see more of her work or find out about her mentoring, visit her website, workshops, Facebook and Instagram.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. GRAHAM,T T

    Ok I have been taking photos for over 40 years, In the early days we had to be careful with our flash bulbs cos they stayed burning bright for nearly 1 second so they could be sure that the cameras shutter was at it max opening while the light was at the brightest, So in those days we erred on the side of caution.. (didn’t stand too close) these days with electronic flash the flash is over in 30,000 of a second and cos of the computer controls exposure settings is only bright enough to get a exposer that you set,,,,, as far as the baby’s eyes size being smaller,, look it up in a medical book the eye is the same size all the way through your life.

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  2. Gabriel Rodriguez

    Im gonna start using candles…j/k guys! Nice article!

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  3. Michael Old

    There is a rare eye cancer (retinoblastoma) that only shows up when a bright light is shined in to the eyes and the causes the pupil to glow.
    Therefore flash photography saves lives.
    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/science/toddlers-life-saved-flash-photography-5109909

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  4. Ralph Hightower

    I blinded a street light when I took a photo of sleet/freezing rain covered trees at night using a flash. The street light eventually figured out that it wasn’t daylight.

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  5. Marlin Woodruff

    Great article, and the internet is full of false information, there needs to be a fact check, and people need to be held accountable, for the information they put out…

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  6. Cosmin Cojocaru

    The debate is interesting and whilst a phone camera flash is less likely to cause permanent damage, a good flash can be quite dangerous if improperly used.

    What I’ve shot of kids was done with off-camera flash double bounced opaque umbrella -> ceiling. Better safe than sorry (and sued to hell and back).

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  7. Graham Curran

    The Daily Mail is not what I’d regard as a totally trustworthy news source.

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  8. robert raymer

    According to another viral news site, that story was concocted by a natural light photographer. In an interview, they admitted fabricating the story to drum up more business and hopefully steal potential clients from their flash using competition. *

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  9. Joram J

    With a lot of things, a bit common sense would be nice, right!?
    Then again, look at our selfs, we don’t like the in your face flash neither, at least i don’t.
    So nice soft light won’t kill any one (i hope ;) )

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  10. robert garfinkle

    The following statement is true, the preceding statement was false –

    Everything you read on the net is true. has to be? Just ask Al Gore? He invented it.

    The fact is, there are more opinions on the internet passed off as facts. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

    People are so poised to join in the drama and react. they unconditionally trust what they are told. it’s what’s wrong in today’s societies.

    a bigger problem in today’s society; people flat out lie to themselves on such a systemic level. truth does not get a fair shake. the truth must be a lie. in most cases.

    The McDonald’s theory of relativity – just because they’ve served billions of people doesn’t make the product any healthier, right?

    Just because the masses, sit in front of a lie, does not bring anymore truth to it.

    the media (and they shall remain nameless because we know exactly who they are anyway) – tells a story, involving a black man and a white man who experience an opposition to each other. it could be a disagreement, an arrest, etc. yet the media tosses in the race card, calling it racism. and their audience believes it, as it were the truth. btw, to be clear, it was not the opposition between the black man and white man that was racist, it was the media outlet who tossed the racist card, they are the racists in these cases.

    you choose to believe what you want to believe, but there is only one truth.

    truth is not a function of what you say it is. it is not a function of your opinion.

    that’s my opinion.

    I’m outta here

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  11. Cindy LaFrance

    Very well said! You are so talented Alicia! <3 all the work you do!

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  12. David Hall

    Great article. Thanks.

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  13. Stephen Jennings

    I knew it was a bs story from the start, babies for starters have smaller pupils that allow in less light in than an adult, a camera flash would be more harmful to an adult than a baby.

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  14. Kyle Stauffer

    I’ve always meant to research this topic before getting the question of “can flash be harmful to newborn eye’s”. Thank you for this article!

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