Albinism and Photography

One of the first things any new parent of a child with albinism learns, is that taking good photos of his/her child can be an unbelievable challenge. Why? Because of the red-eye effect caused by the camera flash. I was able to find a really great explanation for what causes that red-eye effect on the blog Photocritic.

After reading that and understanding why it happens, it’s easy to see why it’s even worse if the person has reduced pigment in their eyes. It’s not like the typical red eye you see in photos of people without albinism, which can be corrected with a red eye reduction program. Because of the lack of pigment in the eyes, the flash causes a much brighter and bolder red or hot pink color, not just in the pupil, but in the entire eye.

The brightness varies for each individual depending on the amount of pigment they have in their eyes. In Lyra’s case, if you try to use red eye reduction, it just colors her entire eye black. I’ve tried using Photoshop to manually edit her eye color, but it always ended up looking fake or cartoony. I’ve tried using the flash at various angles and distances. I’ve tried filtering and deflecting the flash. In the sequence of pictures below, see the second and third pictures, taken from 10 feet and from 20 feet away. Nothing helped to reduce the red eye. One option I had would have been to continue to use the flash and then just convert all of her pictures to black and white. I wanted color pictures of my baby, so I decide to give up flash photography all together.

Low light photography, especially indoors, is NOT easy for your average non-professional photographer. The first thing you realize after snapping a few pictures is that if the camera or your child moves AT ALL, you end up with something resembling a Monet. You can see an example of this in the first picture below. In my opinion, to be able to successfully take pictures in low light you really must have a digital camera, because you will likely need to delete the 75% that turn out blurry. Having a really good digital camera is nice, but knowing how to use it is even better.

After doing my research, I learned that 2 of the main things you need to understand as far as camera settings, when dealing with low light photography, are aperture and shutter speed. I don’t know this stuff as well as I should, but basically aperture deals with the size of the opening where light enters the camera and shutter speed affects how long that opening stays open. It can all be very confusing and annoying overall. Having a really fast shutter speed is good, but not TOO fast or not enough light will get in and your pictures will turn out dark. Other times I’ll finally get the shutter speed nailed down, but then I’ll have the aperture setting too low and my pictures turn out too bright and discolored. You just have to find a happy medium.

The BEST place to take no-flash pictures is outside. Unfortunately our babies/kids are very light sensitive and usually we like them to have their eyes open when we take their picture. 😛 When Lyra was really little, she rarely EVER opened her eyes outside. Now, in the evening after the sun goes down or on a really cloudy day, she’ll keep her eyes open. The last 2 pictures in the sequence pic below were taken at dusk. She squints a lot outside, but her eyes are definitely open.

When I take her picture inside, I have to turn on every single light in the room and open the curtains, but if she moves even a little, we end up with blur. It would be helpful to have a tripod as well. Even when I don’t feel like I’m moving the camera, I know there is some subtle movement or even just vibrations in my hands. The first picture in the sequence below was taken inside just before the outside ones, so because it was dusk, I didn’t get much light coming in from the window.

Overall, I prefer the way the coloring turns out in pictures taken outside compared to no-flash ones taken inside. One of these days I will buy myself a better camera and then maybe a year later I’ll figure out how to use it. 😛 My photography skills have improved significantly since Lyra’s newborn days, but I can always do better. Here is a helpful article with a lot of information and tips for low-light photography: No-Flash Photography In Low-Light Situations


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