Tips for Photographing Children With Special Needs

April 4, 2014

Tips for Photographing Children With Special NeedsPhotographing children can be a blast. After all, you get to be silly, make funny faces and generally be a kid yourself. However, you may find photographing children with special needs to be intimidating. When it comes down to it, though, kids with special needs are still kids, and many of the same smile-generating techniques still apply.

With any photo shoot, the most important thing is doing research beforehand. Talk to Mom and Dad ahead of time to learn more about their child, spend time getting to know your subject and budget some extra time for your shoot. Before you know it, you’ll go from being apprehensive about photographing kids with special needs to getting the kind of great results that will have parents singing your praises.

Before the Shoot

With any kind of photography, you need to know your subject. Talk to parents before the shoot and find out what their children like and dislike. Do they find loud noises surprising, scary or funny? Does making funny faces make them laugh or cry? Spend a little time finding out what makes them relax, feel comfortable and open up. A relaxed child is a happy child, and a happy child smile at you and your camera.

When planning the photo shoot, remember to be flexible and understand that you may have to throw out preplanned shot or pose ideas, or even come up with new ones at a moment’s notice depending on how the child responds and how the shoot is going. Whether you’re in a studio or shooting on site, make sure your location will be available for as long as you need it. Book some extra time. It’s better to not need it than to need it and not have it.

During the Shoot

Photographing special needs children takes patience. It pays to keep in mind that you’re not going to get the perfect shot on the first try. Be willing to give the children a break if they seem increasingly frustrated, cranky or tired. Let them cool down and find their happy place again. If all else fails, be willing to reschedule, even if it means having to put a rush on your post-processing to meet birthday or holiday deadlines.

In addition to patience, you need to be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice, and shoot a lot. Expressions can be fleeting, so if you want to maximize your shooting time, be ready to go the instant the child walks in. Have your equipment set up before the session starts and know your exposure and lighting settings ahead of time. Setting your camera to continuous advance can help you capture those quick smiles, as well as using lights that have a fast recharge time. Using the live-view feature on the LCD of your camera or an external monitor in conjunction with a remote shutter release can keep you ready to go and allow you to maintain eye contact with the child and not hide your face behind the camera.

Be Prepared and Have Fun

If you do your homework and go into the session with an open mind, prepared to have fun and ready to work through any little bumps in the road, you’ll find photographing children with special needs to be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Not only will this generate more sessions for you in the future, but you’ll be providing treasured keepsakes for families for years to come.

Photo credit: Morguefile