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My husband enjoys taking photographs. In his free time, he often grabs his camera and puts it to use, capturing great photos of the kids, the farm, and the local scenery. Over the years, he’s gotten much practicing taking pictures of our child with Angelman Syndrome.
Actually, his practice photographing children with special needs predates the diagnosis of our son Owen. When I was a special education teacher, I noted how terrible the majority of my students’ pictures came out from the school photographer.
In a quest to get a really good picture of each student to include in a present for parents, I asked my husband to come in.
He set up his portable studio in my classroom, and took his time photographing each student. The pictures turned out amazing, and the parents were thrilled. So was I.
It’s a task he completed each year that I taught special education.
Since then, he’s taken many great shots of Owen, and our other kids.
I asked him to share his tips for photographing a child with Angelman Syndrome (or other disabilities). Here’s what he said.
Take Your Time
Good pictures take time, especially when you’re working with a child who likes to move.
Owen doesn’t sit still for photos. Instead, he’s trying to eat any props we’re using, trying to get out of his wheelchair, or seeing how fast he can swing his body back and forth.
You have to have some patience with the photographic process. A rush job isn’t going to cut it.
Snap A LOT of Pictures
Bryan often takes a burst of photos when photographing the kids instead of taking them one at a time.
Most of these photos end up blurry and head straight to the trash can once we download them onto the computer. But, it’s amazing the difference in quality you can get between three shots all taken within seconds of each other.
By taking your time, and taking plenty of photos, you greatly increase your chances of getting a keeper!
I’m definitely thankful for digital photos – taking this many photos back when we used film cameras would have been too expensive.
There’s something comforting about being in your natural environment. Whenever possible, we try to take photos of Owen at home, around the farm, or in other places he knows.
By keeping the environment familiar, it’s one less thing to distract our child with Angelman Syndrome. He’s not trying to figure out where we are on top of dealing with the thrill of the portable studio set up, and the excitement of the other kids.
Of course, not every picture will be taken in a natural environment. When you’re out and about, it’s important to spend some time exploring first, and becoming familiar with your surroundings. That way everyone knows what to expect.
Include Their Equipment
Owen spends a lot of time in his wheelchair whenever we leave the house. Don’t be afraid to incorporate your special child’s equipment into photographs.
The picture above was taken in the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars in Idaho. As you can see, we used Owen’s chair in this one. Because of his lack of balance, he either needs to be supported by the chair or by someone else to keep him from falling when we’re outside doing pictures.
Let Them Play
Some of my favorite shots of Owen are ones my husband took while Owen was busy playing. These impromptu, unposed shots capture real-life moments that are fun to look back on.
Not every picture needs to be a portrait to be a keeper! Here’s one Bryan many years ago, when Owen was busy playing with a hose at a friend’s house.
Change the Angle
Sometimes, you need to zoom in or zoom out to get a better picture. Don’t be afraid to change your angle and shoot from up high or down low.
This often changes your results dramatically.
The zoomed in shot above was taken for a Christmas card back in 2013. It just worked well, but it isn’t an angle we typically think of when it comes to pictures.
Capture the Hard Moments
Life with a child with Angelman Syndrome isn’t always easy. Throughout the years, we’ve tried to take photos of Owen during hospital stays, and other difficulties.
These help us remember those days, and remind us to be thankful that every day isn’t like that.
Here’s one of my favorite all-time hospital photos of Owen, taken right after he had his G-tube surgery and Fundo.
Try Again Another Day
Some days, Owen just isn’t cooperative for pictures. There are days I know I sure don’t feel like being photographed, so I understand.
On these days, we’ve learned it’s best just to do something else for a while. Depending on what’s going on and where we are, we might even decide to just scrap the pictures for the day and try again soon.
Photographing a Child with Angelman Syndrome
Hopefully these tips help you capture great photos of a the child with Angelman Syndrome in your life. They’ll help you capture the good moments, along with those that were hard.