When talking about book covers, the most frequent question I’m asked is why my book covers no longer show the heroine’s face. I thought it was a simple matter of marketing preference, but when I finally asked our marketing team, I got an answer that will truly shock you!

The fact is that recent research has shown that over-exposure to flash bulbs can have disastrous consequences…consequences that could have already affected you and your kids.

ALB - Dark Hair

Noelle Buss of Bethany House Publishers was kind enough to forward to me a letter from their modeling agency (whose name I can’t reveal) regarding a new policy that directly affects our book covers. BLOOD EYES! Have you EVER heard of this? Scary stuff. Here’s the letter:

RE: Photography Policy Changes 

Recent studies have uncovered a disturbing trend between repeated camera flash exposure and photosynthetic ocular rosacea (referred to as POR, or Blood­ Eyes), a permanent condition that results from Red-Eye effect. This condition is relatively new and there is still much to be learned. Until we can be assured of the safety of our models, we are implementing the following policy change: 

A Most Inconvenient Marriage (657x1024)During photo shoots, all models will be required to wear proper eyewear when facing the camera in flash photography sessions. The eyewear will be small and similar to that worn in a tanning bed. An expert in Photoshop may be able to edit the eyewear out of a photo. Otherwise, designing a cover in a way that does not showcase the model’s face may be necessary. 

We understand the great inconvenience this will cause to our clients. However, retina health is a growing concern in the modeling industry and we have decided to be proactive in this area. 


Here I thought they were just doing it so they could use the same models over and over, but instead they are trying to protect the health of these young ladies. And obviously we can’t work all of our story lines around a heroine who wears plastic goggles…especially writing historical fiction! It seems the only logical response is to crop the pictures so that the model’s safety gear is not visible.

AMMIT Black HairBut I had many more concerns, so I contacted Dr. Rebecca Urisik, a specialist in Photosynthetic Ocular Rosacea. Here’s a bit of my discussion with Dr. Urisik:

Exactly what causes Red-Eye in pictures?

The term “red­-eye effect” refers to the phenomenon that occurs when light from the flash reflects from the retina at the back of the subject’s eye. During a camera flash, the pupils of the eyes cannot constrict quickly enough to control the amount of light entering their eyes. Therefore, this large burst of light hits the retinas, reflects back, and is captured in the photo. The red color is due to the blood supply of the choroid.

When I see a picture of myself with Red-Eye, did my eyes actually change color for that second?

Yes. Contrary to popular belief, the eye does actually momentarily “change” colors. This is not usually seen by the naked eye, but occasionally caught on camera.

What is photosynthetic ocular rosacea?

Photosynthetic ocular rosacea (POR) occurs when the Red-Eye effect lingers longer than usual or even becomes permanent. Occasionally, flash photography models will present with Red-Eye effect for hours or even days after a photo has been taken. The “blood eye” appearance is disconcerting and enough to cause most models to immediately retire, as they can only find work in vampire movies or other paranormal dramas. Fortunately, most cases of POR will resolve over time, however there have been a growing number of cases in which it is permanent. All patients with permanent POR have had careers in either the modeling industry, professional welding or both.

Here you see what the original CITM cover looked like with the model following the safety procedures. The art department had to draw in her eyes for the cover, which is both time consuming and expensive.

If POR is dangerous for models, can regular people get it?

Absolutely. Pediatricians are reporting more cases of POR as social media increases the number of instances children are photographed. Selfies with flash involved seem to be particularly harmful, especially those taken in front of a bathroom mirror. Every time Red-Eye occurs, it takes longer for the eyes to transition back to their original color, running the risk that eventually they will lose the ability to switch back.

Is there a cure for photosynthetic ocular rosacea?

Currently, there is no cure for photosynthetic ocular rosacea. Colored contacts can help with the cosmetic issues, but the pain and sensitivity can be debilitating. Trying to color the cornea with a Sharpie marker is not recommended, either. Ophthalmologists are researching the option of eye transplants, but finding willing donors is an ongoing challenge.

Thank you, Dr. Urisik!

I can’t imagine what it’d be like to spend the rest of your life hiding behind dark glasses. I’d never wish that on any of these lovely girls. Now that I understand the reason behind the faceless heroines, I know I’ll never complain again about not being able to see the model’s face. In fact, I might enjoy writing about one of these real life heroines, if I ever stopped writing fiction.

So let me know what you think. Have you ever heard of POR? What precautions can we take to protect our kids while still chronicling their every achievement through photos? Help me get the word out about this potentially disfiguring disease!

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