The Camp Family
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" - Dr. Seuss
If there is one thing I have learned in over a decade since I began my photography career, it is that no two families are the same. Isn't that a beautiful thing, though? Every new family I have the opportunity to work with is unique and special, and my job as your photographer is to document all the things that make your entire family, well, YOU. It's about documenting each of the relationships and capturing all the little moments.
The Camp family arrived for their sunrise session bright and early on Sunday morning. As we were walking into the field together, Cayla pulled me aside and said "by the way, I should have told you sooner, but my son is autistic. So, if you try to get him to look at the camera and smile, it probably won't happen". I assured her that this would be absolutely no problem, and that my goal is always to document the relationships in whatever form they naturally occur.
Mind you, this is far from the first time I have photographed a family with special needs, and although I am always happy to make whatever adjustments are necessary, rarely if ever does it really change my approach to the session. Of course I always plan to do your average "everyone look at the camera and smile" pictures, because honestly it is just an expectation from a portrait photographer. But that's not where the magic is. The magic is in the connection with one another. And let me tell you, that is not something most special needs children or adults struggle with (at least not in my own personal experience).
Cayla's session was a little different in that she wanted to include her sister along with her two sons, so the dynamic was not necessarily "traditional" either, however as I already mentioned, what is normal anyway? I asked her what types of breakdowns she wanted, and she told me her list of what she had in mind before asking "can we do all that in 30 minutes?" I giggled a little (thinking back to a session which lasted only 7 minutes due to a last minute freak storm in which I still delivered more than double the promised # of images) and again I assured Cayla "I will have absolutely no problem with that".
If you know me, the beginning of the session is typically when I knock out the traditional "face me and say cheese" pictures, but this time I just followed their lead. While mom was changing her shoes, I let her sister walk with the boys through the field.
Usually I would give each kid some special individual time with me to show off their personality, but neither of the boys really wanted that kind of one-on-one attention from the camera, so my job was to (somewhat discretely) capture pictures of them alone when the moments presented themselves.
For most of the session, both boys wanted to be held and loved on, so I captured all the sweet moments. We did a little more walking, a little dancing, a little ring around the rosie, and a lot of running around!
I asked if they could sit down to do a few more traditional pictures, and also wanted to get the tickling and playing around pictures too. But, Cyrus wanted to pick a few of the weeds instead, so we went with it, and everyone else "fought" over who he would give it to. Fortunately, he got one for everyone, because that's how sweet he is!
Then for a few more of the boys playing with their aunt, who they absolutely adore (and she clearly adores them too if you can't tell!)
My biggest goal of the session was to get photos of just the two boys together. Since they were so attached to their mom and aunt, I could tell it might be a challenge to get them to separate and hang out just the two of them. But, I suggested holding hands and running through the field and they were game (that is probably one of the reasons I love the field so much, kids absolutely love to be free to run and play). I also had my wooden crate that they wanted to sit on, and was able to get a few sweet pictures of them together with that as well.
After I was confident with what I had captured of the boys, I turned to mom and her sister and said, "ok, now it's your turn!" We let the boys run free and got some cute pictures of just the girls.
Once the session was finished, I was discussing all the details with Cayla regarding turnaround time and such, and I found myself really admiring her beauty as the sun came up behind her. I stopped mid-sentence and told her, "I just HAVE to get a photo of you by yourself". While I never intend to make mom an afterthought, as a mom myself, I know we get so caught up in being mom and taking care of the kids and wanting cute pictures of them, a lot of the time we forget to appreciate ourselves and our own beauty, and rarely do moms ask for a photo of them by themselves. But, that's why I am here to show you the beauty that I see and remind you just how gorgeous you are.
We wrapped up the session, I picked up all my props, walked the Camp family back to their car, and looked at my clock for the first time. 30 minutes on the dot. I smiled to myself and sent them on their way. Another successful session in the bag.
Just in case there is someone reading this who thinks that a portrait session is out of the question due to any kind of special needs you or a loved one may have, I would love to chat with you about how I could accommodate your family and capture all the incredible memories and connections that make your family one-of-a-kind.
After all, EVERYONE deserves beautiful images of their family.