Choosing a family photographer that works with neurodivergent children can be challenging. This is because neurodivergent minds work differently than neurotypical minds.
Parents with neurodivergent children do not need to worry about their children during a family photo session. With some understanding of neurodivergence and employing strategies that work for the neurotype, such as using visuals or working in shorter bursts of time, it is possible to have successful sessions with beautiful photos. A photographer who understands this can help you decide which style of photography works best. Candid, posed portraits, directed and unposed, or any other photography style you prefer. This will help create an environment where your child can feel safe while doing something they may be uncomfortable with at first.
The best fit for a family session with neurodiverse children is outdoors. Studios can feel restricting and unfamiliar, and children may have difficulty knowing expectations or be uncomfortable. Studio lights and flashes can also be over-stimulating to some children.
Using an outdoor location will help them feel more comfortable, even if they’ve never been there before.
Throughout a session, there will be plenty of times for sensory breaks, and children can use these times to play in their environment, pick up and throw leaves or rocks, climb trees or get their feet wet in a river.
I personally have several photo locations rich in sensory input that have been very successful with neurodivergent children. Using a sensory-rich location means that your child can be given plenty of breaks throughout the session to interact with the environment and be photographed candidly.
A photographer that plays
Find a photographer that will take the time to understand your child’s need for different sensory input or who knows how to use strategies for neurodiverse kids, such as playing games or being playful in general.
When a parent says ‘say cheese’ and beckons to their neurodivergent child, they may not be able to process the instruction as meaning you’re asking them to smile nicely for the camera.
Posing traditionally for photos can be difficult even for the neurotypical person. Let’s face it. It’s not the most comfortable feeling in the world. But we all love seeing photos of us that capture who we are and make us feel beautiful.
Using play in a photo session can help achieve that. Simply put, when we are relaxed and comfortable, we are most photogenic.
Being goofy, using playful prompts and laughing authentically (no cheesy smiles!) will create the best looking photos.
(If you are interested in more information about my approach, please get in touch using the link at the bottom of this page).
Use a photographer who is neurodivergent themselves.
Not all photographers understand neurodiversity in children and may be unaware of how to work to get the best results. A family photo session can take up to an hour or more, so you want someone that will listen to your children’s needs throughout this time frame!
A neurodiverse photographer will know what it feels like to have a body and mind that processes things differently. They’ll be non-judgemental, patient, open-minded and use creative solutions.
Use the environment and explore together.
Your photographer will know how to use the environment to their advantage and ensure that your children are comfortable.
Exploring together can help neurodivergent kids feel safer and more confident in a new space or situation while also providing them with opportunities for sensory input.
When I explore locations with families, I make sure to touch leaves, climb trees, and, yes, get a bit dirty.
Capturing the in-between moments.
Capturing the in-between moments is what I love most about my job, and these can be the most memorable moments captured too.
A parent who is comforting a sad child who has scraped their knee.
The child who is running from the family because he’s spotted a tree to climb.
Or brothers that are playfully tackling each other on the ground.
These moments may not be planned and can happen at any moment. But they are the moments that make an album special to parents. These photos show who your family really is, on good days and bad days too.
I like to ask families how their day has been so far, and this conversation can help me gauge if it’s best to allow them to lead or give them some choices to get us started.
One way neurodivergent children can feel more comfortable in front of the camera is to have a child-led photo shoot where they are given free rein for what photos they want to be taken.
Providing kids with a few choices and allowing them to choose what we do can help them re-engage and be interested at any point in the session.
As a neurodivergent myself, recently diagnosed with ADHD in my thirties, I’ve always struggled when people tell me what to do. Even if I was already interested in doing a task… As soon as someone comes along and tells me what to do, I’d lose interest. I find it very hard to find the motivation to push through to get it done. In my own experience, when people allow me to do things “my own way” or present alternatives to me, where I feel like I get to choose my own adventure keeps me interested and involved.
This is the same approach neurodivergent children need.
They need to be allowed to explore their surroundings and play naturally. “Child-led photo sessions” allow neurodivergent children to move through a session at their own pace with guidance from parents or a family member, rather than being told what poses to strike.
Knowing neurodiversity can empower parents to find the right photographer for their family.
A neurodiverse photographer will know how to work with children with ADHD and autism in a way that works best for them and creates beautiful, happy photos of your entire family!
Our studio has three neurodiverse photographers available to work with. If you’re interested in booking a Playful Family Photo Session with us, get in touch by using the link below.