My camera flash manual would say the answer is to never use a flash within one meter of a child. An actual medical professional, however, would beg to differ. Here is the definitive answer to the question, ‘Is camera flash dangerous to newborns?’
Is Camera Flash Dangerous to Newborns?
The Answer Is No.
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 a 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. If that isn’t an option (rainy day, or 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 flash dangerous to newborns??? No. No one’s pupils will do well by looking directly into a light – irrespective of age, but you will not be damaged as a result of camera flash. [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.
Continuous Lights Are a Solution for Newborn Portraits
For the portrait of little newborn Luca, I stuck strictly to natural light from windows in the nursery. That said, I have now upped my lighting game and bring with me continuous lights that offer a softer form of illumination. I use Godox LEDP260C Bi-Color LED Light Panels, which can be adjusted and color balanced as necessary. For an example of the photos that result with continuous lights, take a look at these images of newborn baby Everett.
Interested in setting up your own newborn portrait session? Drop me a line and let’s talk about scheduling.
If you would like to see more images from my family portrait portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com.