Are Camera Flashes Harmful to a Baby’s Eyes?

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When I was born, my grandmother was a professional photographer. Think of how many photos a normal grandmother takes of her new granddaughter, and multiple that by 1000. Until I was old enough express my disinterest, she would have the camera set and ready for a full-blown photo shoot. She would have special outfits laid out for me, and sometimes we would even go to her studio for shoots. Heck, I was even in the sample photo for all of the frames at her local film shop. Though my mom was thrilled to have so many photos of me in different outfits, she did admit recently that she used to worry about my eyesight. I was exposed to the bright, powerful flash very early. As my cousins grew up after me, I actually wondered the same thing about their eyesight as they stared helplessly into the beam. For their sake and everyone’s with a photo-crazed grandmother after me, I decided to do a little research. 

As further evidenced by my own good eyesight now, studies show that bright camera flashes in infancy will not do any permanent damage to a baby’s eyes. The flash of a camera actually isn’t that bright at all. It only seems bright because it’s often contrasted by dark or indoor settings. The flash of light is no brighter than the light outside in the middle of the day, which is fine for a baby in small doses. The only really harmful light condition you should help your baby avoid is direct and constant sunlight, so always make sure you point your baby’s face away from the sun. Babies that undergo phototherapy for jaundice will also need protection.

Though the flash itself isn’t harmful, research shows that it can actually indicate whether or not your child’s eyes are properly aligned when it causes redeye. When most people get redeye, both eyes are affected. When a child has pupils that are not properly aligned, one will look more bright or centered than the other. You should bring this up to your baby’s pediatrician immediately, as it could inhibit your baby’s ability to see. Ocular alignment should be perfect by six months of age, and corrective treatment might be required otherwise.

You adorable and innocent baby will only stay that way for a year or so. Don’t be afraid to whip that camera out every chance you get.

Source: Karlene Nguyen et al: Differences in the Infrared Bright Pupil Response of Human Eyes. Eye Tracking Research and Applications pp. 133-138 2002

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