I prefer bounced and/or diffused flash using very large diffusion sources such as an entire wall. Also, you obtain far more pleasing results with such flash techniques, and photos do not have to look totally flat if the lights are adjusted properly.
Other discussions on the topic of babies and flash photography.
The Trusted Source
Leann M. Lesperance, M.D., Ph.D.
Leann M. Lesperance, M.D., Ph.D., is a lecturer on the Harvard Medical School faculty and a clinical assistant professor at SUNY-Upstate Medical University. She practices pediatrics in Binghamton, New York. She also holds a doctorate in medical engineering and is a research assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Binghamton University.
August 15, 2003
The flash of a camera, even if used to take many, many pictures of your newest family member, should not harm an infant's vision. Although the flash seems very bright, it actually isn't much different from normal daylight. It only seems brighter because it tends to be used at night or indoors when there isn't much other light around. In addition, a flash lasts for only a tiny fraction of a second.
In order for the eyes possibly to be damaged, they would have to be exposed to bright light for a long period of time. I can think of two common times this might happen:
Being out in the sun. Too much sun definitely can be harmful to both the skin and the eyes. It has been shown that looking directly at the sun for more than 90 seconds can cause damage to the back of the eye (retina). Remember being told never to look directly at a solar eclipse? Damage to the eyes also may happen just from being out in the sun (even on cloudy days) for long periods of time. As you may know, there are different bands (wavelengths) of light, some of which are more harmful than others. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun has been shown to cause cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Therefore, we recommend that infants be kept out of direct sunlight (in the shade) whenever possible and especially during the brightest hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Even on cloudy days you should keep your infant in the shade, since much of the light passes right through the clouds.
Being treated for jaundice. Newborn babies who have yellow skin (jaundice) sometimes need to be treated with special bright blue lights (phototherapy). Their eyes usually are covered during phototherapy because there is a very small chance that the bands of light used for this treatment, which may last for hours and sometimes even a few days, could cause damage to their eyes.
While a camera flash is bright, it isn't bright enough and doesn't last nearly long enough to cause damage to your infant's eyes. Infancy passes quickly and you should feel free to capture as much as possible on film!
According to Dr. Arun K. Mishra, Ophthalmic Surgeon, flash bursts don’t do any damage to adults or babies. He says, “We even take electro-diagnostic tests for retinal function with flashes.”
I then ran across this article on NatureScapes.net written by a veterinarian and a doctor. Feel free to read it yourself, but I’ll give you the meat of it. It states that intense, concentrated beams of high intensity light are needed for long durations to damage the eyes. It’s kind of like the sun through the magnifying glass when you were a kid. That dried leaf sits happily on the sunny sidewalk, but as soon as you start concentrating the sunlight on it using a magnifying glass, that leaf isn’t so happy any more. POOF! Lord Of The Flame!
Flash bursts are extremely short and the light is diffuse rather than highly focused so they don’t pose any danger. This article also sheds more details on the retina test in the quote above and states that the test is many times brighter than a camera flash and is positioned just centimeters from the eye.
As I did more research I found more of the same. Lots of information backing up the claim that strobes are perfectly safe, and nothing showing that they are harmful.
So, what’s my conclusion?
Strobes and flashes are perfectly safe for babies. Of course I’m no M.D. (that’s my brother’s job) and you shouldn’t blindly take my word for it, although it would be nice to have this sort of power over so many people…
So what do you think? Think I’m full of it? Don’t care? Even in the face of medical evidence, are you still afraid of the unknown? Let me know your opinions in the comments.
Safe from day one. The story that flash is harmful to baby's eyes is an urban (or photographer's?) myth.
But from the previous answers you can see: it's more than simply pop on a flash and fire away if you want to have pictures that look at least a bit better than this.
i have been using flash on my kid since she was born. from camera flash to 1000w strobes. she is almost 6 mths old now. she has been in more studio shoots than some xmm models here. she is more likely to become short sighted than blind when she turns older.