November 9, 2023
Finding a photographer to trust and accommodate for your medically fragile children can be scary. Special needs families. I see you. I know it can be scary, worrying, and overwhelming to think about family photos. As a special needs mama myself, I feel I plan things a little more than other parents for everything. Are we a place where we feel safe with our son and any behavior that may happen? Will the people around us be kind and not stare as they see differences in his appearance? Will we be able to enjoy ourselves?
I am writing this as a fellow mother and parent who wants every family to experience amazing portraits that are delivered with compassion and inclusion. I want to give in tips but also insight on how to make your photoshoot a better experience.
Some photographers have their sessions built over time. You pay for a certain amount of time. Others have it built by outfit changes, and some don’t really clarify. Make sure to ask time or if they have a time cap. If they don’t have a time listed, do they have a time they normally stop a session? If they have time, if you do not get the images can you pay for more time? These are always important things to ask ahead because not only do you want to prepare, but your photographer’s time should be valued as well.
Do you have any medical chairs, walkers or equipment that you may need accommodations for? Is their studio handicap accessible? If you plan an outdoor session, how far is an area to walk? Is the park or location handicap accessible with bridges or walking paths? It is good to know these things ahead of time to be able to see if the location is a right fit for your family.
Minis can be challenging for families in general. There isn’t a lot of time to warm up, they tend to be more fast-paced and rushed and with your time slot, you get what you get. If you must, ask about booking two slots for more time. This will be a higher cost because their time slots should be paid for more time allotted but can get a better chance of getting comfortable and genuine smiles. If your child is the posing and cheesing pro, then minis can work for you.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Trust me I know. This is for any family. But know your photographer’s policies ahead of time. Do you have an immunocompromised child who gets sick easily and you may need to cancel last minute? Find out your photographer’s policies.
If it is more posed or traditional make sure that works for you and your family.
If they don’t ask, let them know what sensory issues or accommodations your family needs. Does your child need a quieter space without loud noises? Or have light sensitivity? Many photographers work with lights. Make sure they know the best way to give your child a pleasant experience.
Share images of your child and the smiles you hope to achieve. As a photographer myself sometimes I don’t know the expression a family is hoping for. Sometimes kids do not smile for us as they would for you. And that’s ok! I just want to know what to look for and work and bring that out in your portraits.
Bring an item you won’t mind in photos that help your child calm down or feel more comfortable. We have a squid that is a cloth that my son loves. He uses it like a teddy. It is cute enough, if I need to calm him down it is a go-to for us for photos. Have your arsenal of things ready that you are okay with if they end up in a photo.
Talk to them about their editing process and anything you want to be removed or kept. My son has a large scare from open heart surgery. I would never want it removed because it shows his strength. On the other hand, you may have something too would like edited out. Make sure to mention that to your photographer. But also be prepared it may have an additional editing fee.
In the end, we really want to have a great Photoshoot no matter the situation, and photographers want to offer that. I always try to give my son every opportunity as his brothers and experience, but I know there will be times we have to focus on accommodations that make a better experience for our whole family. I hope you find the perfect photographer for your family and hey beautiful images to celebrate life and love.