To the Parent Using Flash Photography in a Restaurant

Dear parent,

I know you were very excited to be attending the end-of-season party for your child’s sports team at a local restaurant today. The entire team was there enjoying pizza and talking to each other, sometimes very loudly. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the celebration, and this letter isn’t to complain about the noise (though my brother wasn’t happy about it being so loud). My problem is that to document this occasion, you decided to take several photos with the flash on. By doing this, you ruined my evening and could have sent someone to the hospital.

You see, I have chronic migraines that are triggered by strobing or rapid flashing lights, such as those from a camera. When I see those lights, I get an intense migraine that knocks me out for a few hours. However, it’s not just me and fellow migraineurs who can have an adverse reaction to flashing lights. Some people have photosensitive epilepsy (though it is more common in children), and those flashing lights could trigger a seizure. Seizures aren’t just limited to epilepsy, either – there are many other conditions that can have non-epileptic seizures caused by flashing lights. Some people have light sensitivity in general, and bright flashing lights can be an issue. Even people with anxiety disorders or PTSD could have flashing or strobing lights as a trigger. That’s a lot of people who could be affected by a rapid camera flash!

I understand wanting to photograph your child with their friends, but by using flash photography, you could be putting other people around you in danger. A better solution might be to take a big group photo at the beginning or end of the event, so that way you can see everyone. You can also just turn the flash off and continue taking pictures like you were, and simply retouch them for lighting later.

I’m pretty sure you ignored my mom when she told you that your camera could trigger a seizure or a migraine like it had in me. My hope is that someday you will understand just how dangerous flashing lights can be for others, and you will think twice before using that camera flash in a crowded restaurant. For all you know, your child could develop a condition like this, and then you’ll be the one wishing all of the flashing lights would disappear.


The girl sitting two tables away with chronic migraines

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Thinkstock photo via DrRoc.

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