7 Strategies to Navigating Family Photoshoots
with Neurodiversity in Mind
A family with mom, dad, three kids and a dog crossing a log in the woods.

A Photo Session with your Neurodiverse Family Doesn't Have to Be a Disaster

Have you ever found yourself scrolling through your social media feeds, admiring the beautiful family photos of friends and relatives, and wishing it could be you? Perhaps you've hesitated because you're convinced a photo shoot with your neurodivergent kids would only result in a chaotic meltdown before it even began or maybe you've experienced a dreadful family photo session and you're reluctant to try again? Sound all too familiar?

I'm right there with you. I've navigated through more meltdowns that I can count and I've learned some helpful things along the way. I want to share with you some of my tips and strategies I've used in my family photo sessions to accommodate for the needs of the neurodiverse population.

I'm a Family Photographer with a Neurodiverse Family

Before we dive into these valuable strategies, let me introduce myself. I'm Lindsay, a photographer and a parent of a highly sensitive child from Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

My personal journey with parenting a highly sensitive child and navigating my own high sensitivity and ADHD has equipped me with a unique understanding that not all families are the same. This firsthand experience has inspired me to create a guide designed to help families like mine through the process of preparing for a family photoshoot. 

One thing that always works for us is getting outside. The wild things bring us back to ourselves, whether it's climbing a tree, taking a hike, or just sitting on the steps listening to the birds. It's strategies like this one learned through lots of trial and error that I've included below. Interested to learn more about me to see if we'd be a good fit? Navigate here to read about my dog Beesly and my almost religious devotion to the show Ted Lasso.

Curious to see my strategies in action? Explore my homepage.

Family photos don't have to be chaotic, frustrating, or anxiety-inducing. 

Let's begin with one of the most important things that will set you up for a fun experience.

7 Tips To Ensure You Have A Successful Family Photography Session with Your Neurodiverse Family

1. A Family Photoshoot is the Main Event of the Day

To prepare your family for a successful photo shoot, make sure to schedule a relaxed day with plenty of downtime beforehand. This approach, especially beneficial for neurodivergent family members, helps everyone feel more at ease and ready to enjoy the session without added stress. Treat the photo shoot as the main event of the day to set the right tone.

I suggest giving each person in your family time to regulate before the session. For one of my children time outside is essential. We make the time before we leave the house to climb a tree or sit and listen to the birds. For another it might be listening to their favorite song on repeat. Whatever it is that helps to regulate make those things a priority prior to the session.

2. Make a Plan For the Family Photo Session and Be Ready To Go With the Flow

The neurodiverse individuals in my family thrive on making a plan. We'll talk through the day making sure we leave plenty of time in case things need to change. We discuss what could go wrong and how we might adjust if needed. Include your photographer in on the planning process and work together to create a schedule that will work well for your family.

Choose two or three activities your children love, and let the photographer capture your family engaging in these activities. 

Some of my favorite sessions have been the ones where a family invites me into their daily activities of playing in the backyard, making breakfast together or feeding the chickens.

3. Eat Well and Hydrate Before Your Photos!

Keep the hangry emotions at bay by providing healthy snacks and drinks before the session. Ensuring that your family is nourished and hydrated helps prevent meltdowns or fatigue. Talk to your photographer about keeping snacks and water nearby during the session or make eating a part of the session adventure!

We love to hike with a blanket and a bag of popcorn so if something like that is your norm why not capture it?

4. What to Wear and What Not to Wear

Select comfortable and familiar clothing that makes everyone feel confident and relaxed. Involve your children in choosing their outfits to ensure they feel comfortable and avoid unfamiliar attire. If you are hoping for them to wear something special, I'd start talking about and trying on the item a few weeks prior.  Although, if they want to wear their pajamas or a magic cape, embrace it. While avoiding clothes with prominent brand names is ideal, prioritize your child's comfort above all else.

My children are in their teens now but I love the images from their elementary stage when they were always running around in clothes from the dress-up bin. These are the things you'll want to remember.

5. Take Your Time - Longer Photography Sessions are a Better Choice for the Neurodivergent

Opt for a longer session duration to allow for breaks and exploration. While mini sessions are popular, they may not be suitable for everyone, especially neurodivergent family members who may need extra time to feel comfortable. A longer session provides flexibility and a more relaxed pace, catering to your family's unique needs.

My highly sensitive child usually senses my stress before I do. It's in everyone's best interest to keep calm instead of ratcheting up the stress level due to time constraints.

6. Give Your Children Ownership of your Family Photo Session

Empower your child by involving them in the decision-making process for the photo shoot. Let them choose their outfits, activities, and even the location if possible. This increases their engagement and cooperation during the session, ensuring a smoother experience for everyone involved.

During a consultation call with me I will want to know about each of your family members. How will they react to a stranger? In new situations are they quiet and reserved or are they more curious and energetic? Inform your photographer before the session of the specific needs of each family member to set everyone up for success. 

7. Please Don't Say "Cheese". Pressuring Neurodivergent Kids to Look at the Camera Usually Doesn't Work.

Choose a storytelling session over a posed session to capture genuine moments and emotions. Embrace candid interactions and heartfelt expressions rather than trying to force everyone to look at the camera and force a smile. Focus on capturing the spontaneous moments that make your family unique, resulting in authentic and memorable photographs.

When I look back on my childhood the images that mean the most to me are not the posed ones where everyone has a pasted on smile. I get choked up when I see the snapshots of my grandmothers kitchen or the way my dad gazed lovingly at my mom while we played in the background. These are the pictures that draw me in and tell of a life well lived.

Find the Right Fit for You and Your Family

When hiring a photographer, it's all about prioritizing someone who understands your family's unique needs and is patient, flexible, and accommodating throughout the session. An experienced photographer who specializes in working with neurodivergent families will ensure that your family's needs are met and that everyone feels supported and valued during the photo shoot.

If you're interested in working with me, good decision! I specialize in working with families who need flexibility and patience, families who are not just looking for the quick posed photo but the ones that document your everyday life. I think we could be a great fit. Click the button below to get the process started. I'll send you an email with some questions and we'll set up a zero pressure Zoom call to see if we connect.

Let's capture some beautiful memories together!

Using Format