The Special Needs Photo Session:
If you have a family member with special needs, you may have given up on the idea of capturing family photos altogether. Certainly this is not something we do very often, but we do try every few years. We wrangle everyone into some collared shirts and find a way to document everyone’s growth over time. It helps if you find a photographer who relishes the challenge. Here are six other ideas to make your next special needs photo session more manageable.
Time of Day:
Try to stay away from your loved one’s witching hour – far away. For us that means early. Like crack of dawn and the rest of us are slapping ourselves awake early. But it means that he’s fresh, and we are also not running on empty. It also means we have the rest of the day to refill his sensory bank. Bribe the crew with donuts or hot chocolate- AFTER the photo shoot, of course. Or choose whatever time of day is the golden hour for your family member.
Sure you want to coordinate, but you also probably want to stay away from white or other light colors that might be soiled or stained before the session is over. (Also, save snacks such as cheese puffs, or the aforementioned hot chocolate for afterwards.) If you can find a heathered fabric, it will read as a solid in most pictures, but will more readily hide most small marks or spots.
You also should choose the most comfortable clothes that are still presentable. Do you need elastic waists? Then plan for an untucked shirt that hides the waistband. Are zippers or snaps an issue? Then stick to an outfit with few fasteners. For us, this usually means pull-on khaki shorts or pants, with a soft polo shirt.
Does your loved one get spooked or tense up just by the presence of the camera? If so, then ask your photographer to try a long lens. When Mr. Diggy knows a camera is pointed at him – whether one of our iPhones or a “real” camera – his sixth sense somehow causes him to writhe around or to hide his face entirely. Undeterred and a creative thinker, our photographer set up across the lawn from us with long lens. Despite the distance, she managed to get some great shots (as well as some hilarious wide-frame outtakes!)
Before attempting a special needs photo session, everyone needs to take their “patience pills.” This is not a good plan for a day when the photographer has sessions booked back-to-back. A little patience and flexibility goes a long way. Give your loved one a break, a (not-too-messy!) snack, a favorite toy or fidget (which can be cropped out!), or anything else you can think of. And if your family is like my family, you probably don’t attempt this very often, so an hour or so of effort every couple of years is worth it to capture the best family memories that you can.
Creative Editing and Cropping:
Which brings me to the final step – the after-session editing. Find a photographer who is willing to excerpt the smile out of the otherwise chaotic scene. Find a photographer who is willing to take your special needs’ loved one’s face from one frame and edit it into the next one where the rest of the family is looking at the camera. In other words, an important step in special needs photography takes place after the session itself is over.
Share the Love:
And when you have found a photographer who has created a special needs photography session that works for your family, share their website widely, tag them on social media, and support their work in any other way you can.
Want to look more pulled together before your special needs photo session? My fellow autism mom and blogger, Laura Epstein, shares her tips with us here.
Want more ideas? Come follow me on Pinterest here.