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Photographing Children with Special Needs – Part Two

Photographing Children With Special Needs

Photography is about a lot of things, but mostly it’s about capturing the magic of special moments in time on film. These captured moments can be powerful visual aids to help us recall our fondest memories in vivid detail. All that said, it’s understandable that photographs can be an important part of making memories with children.

As I touched on in my last post, working with special needs children presents its own set of unique challenges for a professional photographer. There’s certainly an art to capturing a child on film as it is. Special needs children are similar, but with more quirks that sometimes call for extra resourcefulness.

The trick to getting those special moments you’re looking for down on film are all about connecting on a personal level with the child by being friendly, approachable, and creative. The personality and natural joy inside the child simply takes over from there. At that point, all that’s left is for the photographer to use skill and timing to capture it perfectly.

Working around Unique Limitations

Although each condition is going to come along with some challenges a photographer can predict, it’s important to realize that no two special needs children are going to be alike. Some limitations are emotional or mental as we discussed previously, but others really are physical in nature, calling for practical workarounds to get the shots you want.

For instance, I worked with a lovely young lady once who had cerebral palsy. Her condition required her to spend her days in a wheelchair, so helping her become comfortable in front of the camera by having her run around and play was out of the question. I tackled the issue by finding a gorgeous location full of fig trees. One was over three hundred years old and had roots that almost took the shape of a cradle.

Her dad picked her up and placed her in this tree while her brothers and sisters gathered around and began to play. The young lady with cerebral palsy was just so happy to be there in that tree surrounded by her loved ones and it showed on her face and in her demeanor. A beautiful moment was created and some gorgeous portraits came out of that for certain.

The Importance of Patience

As many photographers can tell you, sometimes it really takes a bit of patience and staying power to get exactly the right shot you’re looking for. This is even more the case when working with special needs children, especially if you’re looking to get fabulous group shots that also feature their siblings, parents, pets, and so forth.

I find that when I’m relaxed, open, and having a good time that the children I work with naturally seem to tune in on that and relax themselves. That’s when the magic happens. Sometimes this takes a little time and might call for the taking of more pictures than you expected, especially when it comes to getting the right looks on everyone faces, the right group demeanor, and so forth. The key is to simply go with the flow, enjoy yourself, and enjoy the company of the portrait subjects. It’s an exciting process, really… and a rewarding one, too.

Feel free to get in touch and I can walk you through it with more detail.

Talk soon, Margherita :)

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Photographing Children with Special Needs – Part One

Photographing Children with Special NeedsIf you’re the parent of a special needs child, then it’s more than a little likely that you and your family have your own set of challenges when it comes to capturing them on film. Naturally, special needs children don’t always respond to outside stimuli in the same way that other children do, so getting them to pose successfully can often be difficult. I’ve been told by special needs families in the past that they don’t feel the shoot will go smoothly. Often parents feel especially apprehensive about taking their children out of their comfort zone.

That’s where a little hands-on experience can really help. For instance, I’ve had the pleasure of working personally with many special needs children over the years and collectively, they’ve covered a lot of range as far as the needs they had. Some have Down’s syndrome. Others are dealing with cerebral palsy, Asperger’s, pronounced autism, or even blindness. The solution on the photographer’s end should always be to find a way to connect with the child, discover their needs, and then continue in a fun way that works for everyone.

Choosing environments where the child feels comfortable

Photographing children with special needs is no different in that the key to capturing absolutely charming shots of them lies in making them feel comfortable and at home, as well as in choosing locations where they’re sure to be safe. This can even mean actually doing the shoot in the child’s home, although places like the park or the beach that bring out the best in kids are terrific ideas, too.

For instance, I once worked with a family that wanted portraits taken of their 14-year-old son. He just happened to have severe autism and the challenge involved with this particular boy was figuring out how to deal with the very limited attention span he had. He had a tendency to run away and get lost, so we decided to do the shoot in the family’s back yard so that there wouldn’t be any “unplanned adventures”, so to speak.

The yard and family property gave me some wonderful opportunities to capture him engaging in activities he enjoys and playing with his siblings. I just joined right in and made myself at home with the family, encouraging everyone to act naturally and play. I captured some wonderful memories that day as a result and the family was very appreciative.

Photographing Children with Special Needs – bringing out the joy

Another incredibly important part of photographing special needs children lies in being resourceful enough to connect with and draw out that natural enthusiasm that all children have. An easy way to do this is to set a scene that involves places, people, or animals that make them shine from within with happiness.

For instance, I once photographed a boy with Asperger’s at a beach location. The key to getting the happiness he felt inside to express itself on his face was to encourage him to play with his dog that he dearly loved. The radiance and joy in his face shone right through and I was able to capture it on film for his family to treasure forever.

In a nutshell, shooting special needs children is very achievable. With a little planning, creativity, and a relaxed fun approach that includes everyone involved, we’ll create wonderful portraits of your children and make some memories to treasure for years to come.

Feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have.

Talk soon :)


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