Well, it depends upon whom you ask. (And as a NYC newborn photographer, I get asked this quite often.) My camera flash manual would say never use a flash within one meter of a child. An actual medical professional, however, would beg to differ. Here are the details.
I would always recommend natural light for portraits of infants just as a stylistic choice. It’s a baby, and they are plenty cute on their own without any harsh lighting. That said, what if you are trying to photograph your newborn in a darkly lit apartment?
The best solution is to place the baby near a window in a room that gets the most light and cue the cute to happen naturally. If that isn’t an option (rainy day, and the room is still too dark), then try to diffuse the light as much as possible. That means bouncing the flash off of the wall or using a light modifier such as placing a simple tissue over the flash so that you cut down on the harshness of the light.
Ok, but is it dangerous??? No. No one’s pupils will do well by looking directly into a light – irrespective of age. [Note to photographers: if you are doing a commercial shoot and asking your models to look directly into the light, make sure you give them ample breaks and time to look away from the flash.] Since newborns normally don’t take direction well and aren’t prone to fixating on a light for any amount of time, they are well equipped for self-protection. Further, since newborns have smaller pupils, there is less light directly reaching their retinas. (See here for links to doctor testimonials.) The bottom line is that camera flash harming a newborn’s eyes is simply an urban legend (started in China) and the danger has been unproven. As long as you aren’t lighting your baby with a laser beam, you should be just fine.
Accompanying this post are photos of little Luca. Enjoy the photos and give me a call if you have a new family member needing a portrait!
To view other examples of my family portraits, please visit my website.