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Dangerous effects of flash photography to eyes? (babies)

Renee Marie , Apr 01, 2006; 09:30 p.m.

I had someone tell me not to take a lot of pictures of my baby because the flash can hurt or damage her eyes. Can anyone please give me their opinions on this subject? I certainly don't want to be doing any damage to my girl.

I shoot with a Nikon D70 on camera flash (when needed), SB800 or Alien Bee B800 Strobes in double diffused soft boxes.

Thanks, Renee


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Brooks Short - Tampa, Florida , Apr 01, 2006; 09:34 p.m.

This question has come up fairly often. It would really be interesting to find out from a qualified source. Perhaps you could ask your pediatrician?

My thought is that flash has no bad effects and certainly less effect than using a very bright hot light but I would really like to have an experts opinion.

Stephen H , Apr 01, 2006; 09:56 p.m.

I've seen the question before and the concensus from seeminlgy knowlegable people was that no, it won't hurt anyone.

Personally, I don't care for a flash popping in my eyes, and hate to do it to others without a good reason. Do check into doing more natural light pictures. But not because it actually hurts them.

John Murphy , Apr 01, 2006; 10:17 p.m.

I have attempted to research this on the web before but was unable to come up with a definitive answer. Searching for "photodamage" or "light toxicity" or "photoretinopathy" I find a lot of generic warnings, like this one but few actual studies on this topic. Obviously, brighter light and longer exposure times will increase the likelihood of injury.

A trip to the Library of Science in NYC to check in the multi-volume textbook sets on ophthomology housed there would no doubt provide an answer, but I've never bothered to undertake that venture.

I do recall an article a few years ago on the dangers of the intense operating room lights used in eye surgery and their effect on the retina, that led me to conclude that the duration and intensity of the flashes used in photography are nothing in comparison to operating room lights, and therefore pose minimal risk.

The short attention span of children tends to limit there cumulative exposure to flash anyway. Furthermore, the amount of light striking the retina can be reduced by shooting in a bright enough environment that the pupils are moderately constricted. Thus, I photograph my own children without concern for damaging their eyes.

Continuous (hot) lights are a different story altogether...

John Murphy , Apr 01, 2006; 10:30 p.m.

If anyone is interested, here's the link to the article I mentioned above.

Kirk Darling , Apr 02, 2006; 12:25 a.m.

I had an eye exam once in which the doctor first dilated my pupil, then attached a device to my eye to hold the lid open (something invented by Nazis, I'm pretty certain). Then he gave me an extremely nauseating solution to drink, had me put my eye to a camera, and proceeded to fire a high-powered electronic flash into my eyeball at a rate of 3 flashes per second for a full ten seconds. My retina gave it up at about the fourth flash and everything went completely green.

Well, that was 20 years ago, and I don't appear to be the worse for wear.

As mentioned, this has been discussed and researched and there hasn't been any real evidence that electronic flash at the levels we use are harmful to babies.

It's certain, though that the flashes used for ordinary photography don't come anywhere near a few minutes of bright sunlight in total radiation, and it's the total that counts.

Ignacio Feito , Apr 02, 2006; 12:40 a.m.

I'm sure a little bit of fill flash in the middle of the day when pupils are closed (less dilated) will probably affect your eyes a lot less than a bright flash pointed straight at you in a pitch dark room.

Probably worth using some common sense; even if it doesn't affect your babies eyes it will probably be bothersome for him to see a bright flash in the middle of the night.

Remember that epilleptic (sp) attacks can be triggered by strobe lights, so there is one effect of bright lights on a human brain.


Kenneth Katz , Apr 02, 2006; 09:21 a.m.

It's your child, why are you asking us? Ask your pediatrician!

John Murphy , Apr 02, 2006; 09:47 a.m.

A pediatrician won't be an authority on this topic. An ophthomologist might know offhand, or would be able to research it in order to obtain an answer.

Mark U , Apr 02, 2006; 10:52 a.m.

Minimise the impact by using bounce flash, fast apertures and slightly higher ISOs.

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