Strobe and infants

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by tjaded, Jun 29, 2007.

  1. tjaded

    tjaded Subscriber

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    Hi all--
    Hopefully this is the right forum for a question like this. I am supposed to go take photos of my newly born nephew on Saturday and I'm trying to decide what to bring. Recently someone told me NOT to use strobes with an infant, that it is not good for them (I assume they meant not good for their eyes?) Anyway, is this true? I admit that being a shooter of 99.9% inanimate objects has me a bit worried about my abilities to do well with this project, but I was hoping I could at least control the lighting to my satisfaction. I tend to shoot people in a not-so-flattering way, which I am often happy with, but is not what most people want. Any thoughts?
    Thanks,
    Matt
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    I've heard the same thing about newly born babies and their eyes. Why risk the child's health? Better to error that it is true even if it isn't.

    The key to the infant pictures is people don't really care about the quality of light, all they care about is the baby. Concentrate on the baby's faces and the expression made, and you'll be fine.

    Use soft window light.
     
  3. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If the baby is sleeping, and they often are when they are brand new, then a strobe should be fine. Soft window light is a great suggestion, And actually, I think a continuous light source is a good idea. Will keep the baby warm, too!!
     
  4. DBP

    DBP Member

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    A newborn is basically an inanimate object, so you should be within your comfort zone.
     
  5. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I suspect that a small amount of bounced flash wouldn't be a problem, but you should check with someone who knows, such as a pediatrician.
     
  6. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Peter,

    I'd be surprised if anyone actually knew. Aftr all, how would you devise a test to find out? I've heard this asserted elsewhere, too, and it strikes me as belonging to the same brand of 'science' which says that flash damages paintings. Babies are small and delicate and therefore flash will hurt them: it's self-evident until you stop and ask how, and what sort of light levels might be required. Then you start wondering if there's any truth in it at all, and how anyone would know if there were.

    Given that flash at normal portrait levels isn't much brighter than sunlight, it doesn't sound like a great risk. After all, let's assume a flash duration of 1/1000 second (anything much shorter woukd lead to reciprocity problems) and an exposure of f/8 on ISO 100 and we have a couple of stops more peak brightness than a normal outdoor sunny day.

    This is not the same as advocating frying babies with megajoule flashes, nor is it the same as suggesting that some children may not be upset by it. Nor is it saying that I wouldn't like a serious, well-researched answer: I'd love one. I just doubt that there is one.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  7. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    While I think Roger is probably right, and no one really knows for sure, my inclination would be to err on the side of caution and NOT use strobe with a small child.

    Scientifically, it is known that brightly flashing lights can induce seizures in some people with brain abnormalities. Until it is known whether a particular child is susceptible to this problem, I would think that caution would be appropriate.

    But on top of that, direct strobe makes for the absolutely worst photographs (in my opinion), whereas the soft light from a nearby window is much more flattering and almost certain to not be harmful to the child.
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I never used flash with Melchi as a newborn, but I generally like natural light anyway. When relatives took snapshots with flash from their P&S cameras, he didn't seem to like it, so that seems like reason enough not to use it.

    He's almost seven months now and seems okay with such things, so maybe we'll try that studio portrait with strobes, but the light should be fairly diffuse. I won't be using the big fresnel as the main light.
     
  9. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    Hi Roger,

    I generally agree. Nonetheless, there could be some information regarding this. For example, there might have been cases where strobes directly lead to a problem, or there could be visual stimuli experiements done on other animals, or there could simply be an understanding of the appropriate mechanisms such that one could make a reasonable prediction about possible problems/non-problems. Explanantions in science don't have to necessarily be inductive. They can be abductive as well.
     
  10. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I don't like getting too close to a flash. I'm a lot older then a newborn :tongue:
     
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    I'd certainly agree with your first and last paras, but as far as I am aware, it is only rhythmically flashing lights that cause the problems noted in the middle para, i.e. true stroboscopic lights, not plain electronic flash. Is this perhaps one origin of this story, a confusion of true strobes with the common (and entirely wrong) use?

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  12. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Peter,

    Sure, there could be, and as I say, I'd be very interested to see any authoritative studies. It's just that I suspect (cynic that I am) that there aren't any, and that this is folklore, not science.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  13. DBP

    DBP Member

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    It's also possible that the belief dates back to earlier forms of flash, and there might be some valid concern about the effect of, let's say, a No. 11 bulb going off five feet from a newborn (or from anyone else, for that matter). If nothing else it would be a good way to get the kid to start crying.
     
  14. tjaded

    tjaded Subscriber

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    My hope is to get some nice soft window light or open shade even, but natural light doesn't always co-operate. I think I will leave the strobes at home, it's just one less case to drag along anyway! Thanks for the advice/thoughts...
     
  15. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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  16. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    Does Anne Geddes use strobes?
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    With big softboxes, I'd guess.
     
  18. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think the shock of discovering as an adult that you were a baby model in an Ann Geddes photograph would do far more lasting physical and psychological damage than a few strobe flashes. :tongue:
     
  19. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I'm going to come down with Roger on this one. The "better safe than sorry" position sounds good, but this seems to imply that we should only do something when we know that an infant couldn't be harmed by it. But that's way too strong. We do such thing all the time, such as drive infants in cars, take them on stroller rides... It's always possible that they could be harmed. What we have to do is think about levels of risk. Personally, I can't think of how a few strobe flashes could hurt an infant. In fact, people take flash pictures of infants all the time. I've personally done so, and I haven't seen any ill effects. That doesn't mean that there aren't possible negative effects, but in the absense of any indication that there are such effects, there's really no good reason not to do so.
     
  20. jamie young

    jamie young Member

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    I shot my daughter with a 2400 speedo pack and a medium bank on an 8x10, but turned it down a bit and it seemed just fine. She didn't mind or cry. she was 5 days old. Now she's 12 and just fine.Who knows?
    http://www.jamieyoungphoto.com/propeople 1.html
    middle b&w shot -3 sheets together.
    Do the hospital newborn photo services use flashes?
    I would be curious to see accurate information.

    Jamie
     
  21. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    In a past life, I worked for an outfit doing children's home portraits. We used big AC strobes, direct light, a main and a fill. We did not shoot before the babies were at least two months old. As others suggested, there should be ways around this and a single bounce would be the obvious solution, if the available light is not sufficient.
     
  22. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Ah yes, remember the good ol' days when they put newborns in the hospital "nursery" so all the dads and relatives could take pictures?

    Oh, and what about back a few years ago when all the rage was for Dad, now allowed into the delivery room, using his bright-lighted videocam to shoot "the birth event"?

    Folks, I believe you are over-thinking this!

    OP - just shoot the damned picture and next time - keep your mouth shut! :D
     
  23. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Dad (who was shooting TX/Acufine with a 50/1.2 and no flash) was told "no pictures in the nursery," but got off a good number of shots of Melchi before finding that out. I'm not sure if they were worried about liability, pedophiles, or what, but it did seem to be another sign that the world has gone mad.