*Originally published March 16, 2015*
The only thing I love more than being a photographer, is being a mother to the beautiful, intelligent, comedic genius that is my daughter, Natalie.
Natalie was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) at 19 months. It hasn’t always been easy; although there are a lot of good qualities that come from her autism, there are some not so desirable ones as well.
As all special needs parents know, bringing outsiders into your child’s life can be stressful and anxiety inducing. I often hear from parents that decide not to have family photos taken, for fear of how that photo session might go. This breaks my heart. Those beautiful photos are definitely yours to have. This can be a pleasant experience for your family. The key is choosing the right photographer to capture those moments. Here are some things you should look for.
Extreme Patience – Your child may take a while to warm up to strangers. A good photographer will be understanding of this, and take the time to make your child feel comfortable so that their true personalities can shine.
Flexibility – Activities with a special needs child do not always go as planned. Your photographer needs to be able to roll with the punches. If something’s not working, move on to something else.
Shoot from a Distance – Many children have sensitivity issues, which can be aggravated by a camera in their face. The sound of the shutter or light from a flash could be meltdown inducing. Make sure your photographer allows for some space between your child and their lens.
Use What They Love – My daughter is very into dinosaurs right now. It’s currently the theme of all her favorite toys, books, and TV shows. Take along one (or a few!) of your child’s favorite object(s) and have your photographer incorporate it into the session. Not only will you get to see their eyes light up, but you’ll forever have memories of your child’s current interests.
Photojournalistic Style – Allowing your child to be themselves is the best way to capture their true personalities. No one should try force a pose, or make them look at the camera, if it’s not something they’re comfortable with – it will only frustrate them. Choose a photographer who will capture them in the moment.
Communication – No one knows your child better than you. Be sure to let the photographer know what your child is sensitive to, and if there are any quirks or behaviors they should know about. Let them know what makes your child calm and happy. Choose someone you feel comfortable talking to, because open communication is your best chance for success. The more the photographer knows about your child, the easier it will be for them to build a rapport.
Photographing special needs children is not for everyone, so I hope these tips help you find the right photographer for your family. Don’t let a previous bad experience deter you. Instead, find someone who understands how you’re feeling, and if they don’t already understand, they are ready and willing to learn.
If you have any questions, or would like to chat further about this or any other topics, my door is always open! Leave a comment below, or feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.