I've been a fan of the Mother of Misfits podcast for some time and it was such an amazing pleasure to speak with Emily about the process I developed over the last 20 years for making the family photo experience so much less stressful.
Mother of Misfits
If you're not familiar with the Mother of Misfits podcast I highly recommend listening, following, and joining Emily's mailing list. She helps moms and families to feel empowered and to advocate for their kids, especially those with special needs. The guests she brings on from around the world offer incredible insight and I've learned so much as a neurodivergent person from listening to her podcast.
Making Family Photos a Positive Experience
Over the last 20 years I've developed a system around the goal of making family photos a positive experience. That system starts with communication. If you're booking family photos make sure you're communicating your needs to the photographers you're talking to. This applies not only to families with special needs but all families.
Communication is critical. Make sure any photographers you speak with understand your needs. As a photographer it helps us to know if there are time constraints or you need extra time. Are there things we as family photographers can do to minimize the disruption of having family photos done? Can we do them in your home, at a park that you and your kids love, or somewhere else that is less distracting and less disturbing of the routine that your family is used to.
Everyone is different. Finding a photographer that understands that a diagnosis doesn't define anyone is vital. Your family photos should be done by someone who wants to know about your family's specific needs, not just any diagnosis you or your kids might have.
What's the Policy?
Make sure to ask about cancellation policies, rescheduling fees, and how the photographer handles situations where you need to cancel, stop in the middle, or reschedule. Knowing these things in advance mean that you as a parent can be more relaxed.
Types of Family Photographers
There are different types of family photographers. Understanding these types of family photographers will help you feel more relaxed and know that you've made the right choice when hiring a family photographer.
Some photographers offer mini-sessions that are 15 to 30 minutes. They're quick and the poses they offer are all the same. They get you in, get the photos, and then you're done. If your family is worried about attention span or need to get photos done quickly this can be a good option.
If you or a member of your family needs more time, some breaks between poses, or to adjust to new situations a traditional session is likely a better idea than a mini-session. One thing to be aware of is that some photographers will also keep strict time limits for their traditional sessions. These photographers tend to focus on the volume of work they do so they're less expensive, but it means when your time is up that's it. Make sure to ask your photographer how strict they are when it comes to time.
Many family photographers, like myself, are more focused on creating family portraits that you love. We still charge a sitting fee but we don't see that fee as equal to our hourly rate. The time we take with you is less about clock-watching and more about making sure that we're respectful of each other and the fact that at a certain point we're going to get diminishing returns.
I don't ever schedule photo shoots back to back because I know that you and your family deserve a positive experience. That experience make take 45 minutes or it might take 90 minutes. What is most important is that you get family photos that you love, that you and your family feel good during your photo session, and that capture you in the way that you want.
Trauma Free Photography
At the center of everything I do is the idea of creating trauma free photography sessions. My job as your family photographer is to take photos of your family that you will love. To do that I won't create a situation where anyone in the photos is asked to do something they're uncomfortable with - even if that means no photo of them.
I feel that body autonomy and agency are critically important. That is not only true for adults but as kids as well. If we don't teach kids that they can set healthy boundaries with us as parents and with other adults then we're telling them that they can allow others to coerce them into all sorts of things. As a victim of abuse I take this very seriously. If a child tells me they don't want their picture taken I will not coerce them into it and I strongly encourage parents to also avoid this.
I will happily reschedule your session for a time when you or your child feels more comfortable. If we can we'll talk through what they're uncomfortable about or you can talk with them about it yourself and we can continue making photos so long as they agree but if they say no I respect that and encourage you to do the same.
Book Your Family Photos
If you're in the Pittsburgh area or nearby please visit my family photos page to see examples of my work, a list of my packages, and to contact me about scheduling your family photos. I do family photos and events in and near Pittsburgh but I also travel (for a small fee) throughout eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia, and through much of western and even central Pennsylvania. If you're in Youngstown, Cleveland, or Cambridge in Ohio I'm happy to book sessions with you. I also travel to Wheeling and Morgantown in West Virginia. I have also done sessions in Erie, Washington, Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, and Altoona in Pennsylvania.
Don't forget to give the Mother of Misfits episode a listen not only because Emily does a really amazing job but also because there is a special discount for listeners. If you have any questions or comments please contact me here.