Firstly, it is pretty definitive that a camera flash will cause no harm to infants (see below):

Is camera flash actually harmful to infants or newborns?

My question targets photographers who had faced concerned clients. This question is about how do you communicate with your client as a photographer.

What is a good approach to convince and comfort them that using a flash is perfectly fine, without asking them to read an essay?

Do you have a leaflet or printout that do the explanation? Do you simply say "a doctor told me so" or "I have done my research"?

I would love to hear photographers share their experiences of how to get the message across in a simple, polite, clean and powerful way.

  • why would they think it is harmful? I have a newborn and Ill fire my flash at her, no problem. No bouncer. Sep 27, 2013 at 20:35
  • @MichaelNielsen You would be surprised how many people think otherwise.
    – Gapton
    Sep 28, 2013 at 16:44

5 Answers 5


"flash does not harm infants but just to be sure instead of using direct flash I'm going to point the flash at the wall/put it in this big softbox and turn the flash's power way down"

Parents of small babies are not rational (especially if this is the first baby), don't show them research and don't try to convince them - make a big show about doing stuff to make the flash non-harmful.

  • 4
    Agreed. I have done baby shoots in the past, and always try to diffuse the light from a flash, either with softbox, or bounce. Although it may be safe, even I would not wish to point a powerful flash gun directly at such young, tiny eyes... Besides, a nice even light is better than direct brightness of a flash pointed directly at the subject (no matter what it is) anyway... :)
    – Mike
    Sep 24, 2013 at 13:08
  • 2
    -1 Provided they've had enough sleep, parents of small babies can be quite rational; assuming that they're not is insulting. Try holding a 600EX-RT or a SB800 at arms length and firing a full power flash at your face -- it's not pleasant. Based on that alone, concerns about the safety and comfort of a baby aren't unreasonable. Softbox or bounce are good ideas, but you should use them because a) they make for better photos and b) they'll make baby and parents more comfortable, which leads back to (a).
    – Caleb
    Sep 24, 2013 at 14:49
  • 6
    @Caleb - 1. why are you firing a 600EX-RT/SB800 from arms length in a baby photograph? are you trying to overpower the sun? what I meant is that you use bounce/softbox/other diffuser anyway so you can point to it as a "protection device" to make the parents feel safer and 2. generally speaking parents of small babies are sleep-deprived, overly protective and extremely irrational (trust me, I have 3 kids, I've been there)
    – Nir
    Sep 24, 2013 at 14:56
  • 4
    @Caleb - also, if you think people (parents or otherwise) are rational you should really pick up one of Dan Ariely's books. people are irrational period, telling this to their face is insulting but expecting them to act rationally is counterproductive.
    – Nir
    Sep 24, 2013 at 15:00
  • 2
    @Nir I would never fire a high powered flash at a baby at close range -- even if it's safe, it'd scare the crap out of them. I assume you wouldn't either. What you perceive as irrational may just be sensible people operating with a different combination of values and information. They don't know that you're not going to stick the flash right in the kid's face. They don't know that big, soft light will make a better photo. They might not know that flash is plain old white light. You should build trust by showing that you honestly understand and respect their concerns.
    – Caleb
    Sep 24, 2013 at 15:15

Use a big soft box and bounce it off the ceiling if at all possible. The answer isn't to explain it, it is to make it look soft and cuddly so that they aren't worried.

If they are still worried and you have big, fancy looking diffusers on it, you can explain (accurately) that they reduce the strength of the one point of light and make it more comfortable. I would tend to shy away from outright lying to them, but there are a lot of ways you can make it sound and look less scary. Be creative based on their concerns.

It's also worth pointing out that some showmanship is never a bad thing in the service industry. Most people don't know a "good photographer" from a great one when they see it, so "looking" professional can also help increase the satisfaction your clients have. You can make the best photos ever, but if you look like you don't care while doing it, you will get poorly reviewed.

Similarly, an average photographer that can really sell themselves with their actions will tend to do well even if they aren't the best at what they do. You have to manage people's expectations and not only give them a great product, but also give them a great service.

  • @MattDM, so I do, guess I still sometimes change my thought process half way through a sentence. Thanks for the fix.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 24, 2013 at 14:45
  • +1 for not making the parents nervous to begin with. Big diffuser might do good anyway, and also steers you clear of the problem in question. Sep 24, 2013 at 20:25

After taking my little girl to some photo sessions in studios when she was 1mo, 2mo, 3mo, 6mo, I have some opinion about it (from the consumer side, just to give a perspective from who is paying for it):

1 - My little girl wasn't crying before the flash and began to cry after you shoot it: it's your fault. Doesn't matter if it will harm her little eyes or not. She didn't like all that light on her face, neither did I.

2 - You have all those lenses with all those speeds and apertures and everything else: choose the ones that will require less light. You can do it.

3 - The room doesn't need to be dark, with light flashing just at the photos. Put some soft light on it

4 - Sometimes you don't need to put that much light, we want to see her beautiful smile, not screen her for skin defects and so on.

5 - Side, back, top lights can create some funny shadows and won't bother her that much.

Of course, bounce it, use soft-boxes, put it at the minimum essential. Be creative, play with the child/baby, make her find it funny when you make some sound, some funny face, and that light appears. Give time so that the little one is confident that that thing (=light, sound) won't do any harm.

Ask parents to help you with that. For example, my little one always look at me or at my wife when something unexpected happens. If we just smile, or play with her, the 2nd or 3rd she won't even bother seeking for a signal of "should I cry or not?".

As you can see, the "will flash hurt his/her eyes" is just a small part of everything. A piece of some other answer gives a good point: not only make good pictures, make it a good experience, a professional time, and give some care to the parents, too. You'll find that in the end (=in the second half of the studio time) you'll get wonderful pictures, if you spent the first half gaining confidence.

  • 2
    Great insight about how to work with the child to make them more comfortable as well. Not sure that it really answers the question since it isn't really addressing how to make the parents more comfortable directly, but I suppose indirectly comforting the kid comforts the parents, so I'll give you a +1 since it was also an interesting read.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 24, 2013 at 20:47
  • @Gapton to update: 9mo was much easier and flashes were less problematic. The open window with sun (not direct sunlight) helped a lot Dec 9, 2013 at 15:21

Preempt the question, by explaining everything you are doing to make the experience safe and comfortable for the infant.

  • Keep the studio very warm -- tell the parents ahead of time how they should dress light, regardless of the outdoor temperature as you will have the studio warm for the baby's comfort.

  • Ask the parents about the infants schedule, plan a time when they can feed the baby at your studio.

  • Have towels on hand, let them know it is not an issue when the baby spits up/urinates, babies are babies and this is just part of being a baby.

  • Explain how your large lights reduce the point intensity of the light, so it will not scare the baby.

  • Have lots of comfortable, clean, soft props.

Long story short tell the parents all the different things you are doing for their child, this will put them at ease because you are proactive about their child's comfort and safety.

  • Great general tips for working with parents and child!
    – Gapton
    Sep 26, 2013 at 0:49

The flash itself does no harm to the child but the child could be startled by it and begin to cry.

Keep the studio bright, this will diminish the sharp contrast in the amount of light in the room.

I agree that informing the parents is a good idea but don't over do it. They don't want to learn about photography.

Position the flash units as far from the subject as you can.

and yes, big huge soft box. Egg crate it if you are worried about light spilling everywhere.

You could also do a few test shots before the child gets used to the flashing. It makes no difference these days when everyone is shooting digital.

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