How Has Flash Photography Impacted American Ways of Life


The impacts of flash photography on society are multifaceted and they are both negative and positive. If even one American is to be asked about the impacts of the camera, they will easily point out the diverse effects the flash camera has on them. There are numerous positive impacts on American ways of life including improvement in the documentation of history, the creation of employment, enhancement of scientific research, and the advancement of enjoyment and hobbies. On the negative side, flash cameras have altered the way Americans remember things and events and have also altered the way American celebrities carry themselves around because of paparazzi activities. The question that remains to be answered is, what were the immediate and extended effects of flash photography on American ways of life?

History of Flash Photography

The history of flash photography could be traced back to 1839 when L. Ibbetson utilized the oxy-hydrogen light in the photographing of microscopic objects. Limelight came about through the heating of a calcium carbonate ball until it became incandescent. The development of the flash photography was more advanced with the development of the flash powder from 1862 when Edward Sonstadt conducted experiments to prepare the metal for commercial purposes. More so, in 1864, magnesium wire was beings sold. Magnesium lamps became more popular in the 1870s and 1880s. The year 1887 was also instrumental as Adolf Miethe and Johannes Gaedicke came up with a mixture of magnesium powder and potassium chlorate to produce Blitzlitch. This stands out as the first ever flash powder that was used in the advancement of the flash photography technology. The flash powder formula was further refined in the 20th century and it was simplified. By the 1950s, flash bulbs were significantly replacing the flash powder in the market and set the pace for the development of flash photography. An example of the flash bulbs was the Flashcube that was being used by Kodak. The electronic flash developed by Harold Edgerton was instrumental in advancing the technology and its significance in the lives of individuals. The electronic flash gradually transitioned into what is being used in the modern day.


Immediate Effects of Flash Photography on American Ways of Life

Positive Impacts

Flash cameras impacted American ways of life by facilitating the documentation of history. As opposed to the traditional cameras that primarily relied on direct light from the sunlight, flash cameras immediately impacted the lives of Americans by playing an important role in the documentation of history by providing a record of the real events as they happen at a particular time. A record of such events includes parties, family get together, and even meeting with members of their families. The most important thing is that it does not exactly matter the time the photograph is taken to keep such historical moments because it is not dependent on direct light from sunlight. The ease of documenting historical moments in the lives of Americans was an immediate effect because many of them found it challenging to keep such memories in the initial days when such cameras were not available. They took the advantage of the existence of such cameras to ensure that no moment goes without being recorded and used for future purposes of remembrance of the good times that they have with each other. They took advantage of the fact that with flash photography, historical moments could be shared at any particular moment without necessarily having to wait to the direct light from the sun. This has also ensured that they are enjoying to a great extent every aspect of their lives because they can go back to them in the future to remember.

Another immediate impact of these cameras on the lives of Americans was the advancement of hobbies and enjoyment. Hobbies come in different ways and are made up of events such as hiking, swimming, or the general enjoyment of nature. For most Americans, flash photography meant the advancement of such hobbies by boosting the level of experience they have while in the different areas of enjoyment. Flash cameras gave Americans going for hobbies such as hiking, biking, and even nature visitations to have an extra moment of enjoyment in their lives by taking as many photos as possible and share with their friends or relatives. With flash cameras, the hobbies immediately became a great experience because most Americans could easily share them with others hence creating more fun on their part. It was extremely difficult to have an added flavor to the hobby part of life because the traditional form of photography was a bit unreliable in terms of enhancing the hobbies. Hobbies immediately went to the next stage of enjoyment with the introduction of these cameras.

The impact has also been felt by professional American photographers who initially could not dare waste a single shot from their cameras unless they were fully sure that it would turn out as required. With traditional photography, professional photographers had to attain some strategic positions before taking pictures. It was a big loss to take a shot when not sure that it was going to turn out in the required manner. However, there has been a dramatic turn of events for professional photographers in America because of the flash technology in America since they can take as many shots as possible while not feeling the pinch of having wasted anything in the course of their work. Taking cameras has become so instant and has frequently ensured that the professional field is more defined and interesting as opposed to the old times when it took a lot of time to prepare for photo sessions. For example, taking photos in events such as weddings has been transformed into a more interesting affair for professional photographers as compared to the olden times when they would find it difficult to fulfill the experience of the events.

Negative Impact

On the downside, the immediate impact of flash photography on the lives of Americans was the alteration in the manner they remember things as most of them have now to look at photos to confirm the things they have done and events they have attended. This is a negative element of flash photography because it makes it difficult for most Americans to remember even the simplest things in life because of the feeling that they will just get such memories from the pictures that are taken. The level of remembrance of particular events has sunk to the lowest levels and some find it extremely difficult to remember even the fundamental events that they have attended. It also portends a big risk to the future of America because this mostly affects youths who have the tendency of attending many events where they take photos. The difficulty of remembering events has subjected Americans to the habit of taking photos at every give instant and every other event they have in a single day to ensure they will have a possibility of remembering in the future. For example, the flash cameras on phones have even made it worse because most Americans must go back to their cameras when they think they have forgotten a particular event that took place in the course of their lives.

Extended Effects of Flash Photography

Positive Impact

The first notable extended impact of flash photography on the lives of Americans is the enhancement of scientific research. It is undeniable that the emergence of flash photography has had positive impacts on the development of scientific research across America. Most Americans have shifted their focus into more inquisitiveness about the happening of particular phenomena. The ability to take photos at particular moments makes it even more interesting and satisfying to advance scientific reasoning. It is worth noting that flash cameras have become a significant tool of research because they have resulted in the ease of documenting new species, the documentation of scientific field trips, and the enhancement of brain scanning and the assessment of human anatomy. This was a big challenge with the use of traditional cameras because some elements of the species were obscured and could not be seen well as required.

The second positive impact of the flash photography has been the creation of employment for most Americans. Flash photography has not only been a source of enjoyment, but also a source of employment for most Americans. For example, most Americans have got the opportunity to be employed as sellers of flash cameras, repairers of the cameras, and even photojournalists. The employment opportunities offered by the development of the flash camera has been instrumental in giving Americans the opportunity to work in different capacities and share their development ideas in these capacities. The availability of jobs has also ensured that the level of dependency is reduced significantly because of unemployment. The growth of the American economy has also been supported by such individuals employed in the opportunities offered by flash photography. This is also because there have been learning opportunities in the employment sector with the positive fortunes brought about by flash technology. In this section, this is the particular point of focus because many people tend to narrowly look at how flash technology has made it easier for Americans to take photographs without necessarily evaluating their importance in securing job opportunities for Americans. In fact, some jobs especially journalism have become even more interesting with the invention of the flash photography. It is easier to pass the required news elements to the population by capturing all the moments of the event while at the same time not leaving out anything important. The job sector has just gone to the next level with this development in place.

Negative Impact

American musicians now have a difficult time with paparazzi’s because of the advent of the flash camera. It is clear that the flash cameras play an instrumental role in capturing the moment as it happens. This has affected many individuals in America including celebrities who have to carry themselves in a particular manner while in the eyes of the public. Any moment they go astray is always captured by the paparazzi cameras advanced by flash technology hence making it difficult for them to live normal lives. This is does not only happen to celebrities, but also other members of the public whose image and identity is likely to be soiled by the use of flash photography. Thus, it could be stated that the flash photography is negative because it tends to subject Americans to living cautiously where they are not themselves. They have to live under some restrictions when in some places because of the fear of soiling their identities.


Flash photography has had both immediate and extended effects on the American ways of life. It continues to make life more interesting for most Americans while at the same time making it challenging in some particular instances. For example, it is now easier to store key memories for most Americans as they can just be stored in the form of an immediate picture. As much as these memories are stored, the ability of Americans to remember naturally is being dented as they always have to go back to their cameras to remember these memories in most instances. The extended effects relate basically to the advancement of scientific research and the creation of jobs that contribute to the growth of the economy. The camera moment is becoming more interesting with the development in the flash technology.

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