Getting great photographs of your special needs child can be extremely difficult. Because of this we’ve compiled a list of things that can help you prepare for individual and family photo shoots. Keep in mind that you’re going to be introducing your child to a stranger with a scary looking contraption and even with all the preparation in the world, it can trigger a negative response. Never be afraid to tell your photographer that you have to reschedule or you don’t think it is working. A good photographer will be understanding and will work to help you achieve a great family photo shoot; whether that means waiting for your child to calm down, rescheduling the shoot, or even showing your child their camera so they can get used to it.
- Find a candid photographer – “posing” a special needs child can be extremely difficult. So plan on candid shots instead of posed ones. With this in mind it is important to find a photographer who is good at candid photography.
- Experience with special needs – It’s important your photographer has an understanding of special needs and is willing to work around those needs. A photo shoot with a special needs child could be very different than a “normal” photo shoot.
Booking your photo shoot
- Pick a happy time of day – before or after naptime and on a full stomach.
- Pick a place you know they will be comfortable and happy at. This can be any place that they’re used to, parks, a library, specific stores, neighborhood playground, and sometimes the best place is your home, or your backyard, its familiar and is easier for the child to adjust to the situation.
- Communicate with the photographer about triggers and preferences. If your child doesn’t like certain noises, places, objects, etc., let your photographer know. This will help them understand and prepare for your shoot.
- Get cute props. You don’t necessarily have to buy props, if your child has a special toy or object use that. It can soothe your child as well as bring out his or her personality. If you do want to buy props the dollar store is the best place to get them. You’re looking for interesting toys or objects you know your child will love and will be eye catching in pictures.
- Get bribes. Bribes can make all the difference. Make sure to only use non-staining candies and treats like: fruit snacks, smarties, dum dums, etc.
- Start preparing your child weeks/days in advance by explaining you’re going to get pictures taken and it’s going to be fun. “We’re going to go to ____ and have our pictures taken as a family!” You can even show your child different pictures of SLR cameras to make them seem less scary. If it would help, talk to your photographer about meeting a day or two before and letting your child see the camera up close.
- Don’t stress out!!! If you’re stressed, your child will be stressed. It can take some time for your child to warm up to the camera. If you start out by playing with them, reading to them, distracting them from the camera it can lower their stress level and will help the photographer.
- Let them be them – don’t try to force any poses or make them sit still.
- Follow their lead – when they’re done with an area, they’re done.
- Use the bribes and props to keep your child happy.
- Most importantly, have fun!
Everyone wants, and deserves, cute pictures of their kids and family. Many times families of special needs kids feel great photography is a luxury that isn’t attainable because their special needs child won’t pose, or because it is hard to find a photographer who is understanding. It is true it is a bit more work to find the right photographer and prepare your child in advance. But you will cherish the pictures of your children and family forever.
Remember to check out Heather’s Autism Awareness Fundraiser. During the month of April family shoots are $50 and individual shoots are $30. Plus 50% of every shoot goes to the Carmen B. Pingree Center for Children with Autism. Great photographer, great price, great cause – book your shoot today!