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