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How to Plan a Sensory Friendly Photography Session for Neurodivergent Individuals

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Planning a sensory-friendly photoshoot can make the difference between a photography session becoming a stressful ordeal and an extraordinary experience. If you have a neurodivergent person you want to include in your upcoming photoshoot, you’ll want to plan ahead to make sure your photographer knows how to run a sensory friendly photo session. Still Poetry Photography is run by a neurodivergent photographer who is versed in preparing for all types of clients!

So let’s talk about neurodiversity and what it can mean for your upcoming photo session.

What Is Neurodiversity?

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Before we talk about how to prepare for your sensory friendly photo session, let's talk about neurodiversity!

Neurodiversity is an approach to understanding learning, mental obstacles, and disability. It is defined as “the diversity of human brains and minds,” and actually wasn’t even a term until the 1990’s, when Judy Singer (who is on the autism spectrum herself) created a term to describe conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, and Autism. Learning about and becoming familiar with the word “neurodiversity” is incredibly important, because it’s critical to be aware of the complex barriers that people face, whether they be visible or invisible. After becoming familiar with the nature of these disabilities, we then can figure out how to create accommodations in our sensory friendly photography sessions so that everyone is comfortable, happy, and safe!

All of our brains are different, and so we all have different challenges that we face. The term “neurodiversity” means that some people’s brain differences affect the way their brain works and functions. Lots of different diagnoses fall under the category of neurodiversity!

For example, Tourette Syndrome, sensory processing disorders, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Down Syndrome, ADHD & ADD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, mental disorders like Bipolar, Depression, Anxiety, and so much more! Being neurodiverse does not mean defective. Neurodiverse people are unique, and should not be pressured to appear neurotypical. Still Poetry Photography celebrates diversity, and wants to capture you at your truest self!

Why Photoshoots Can Be Difficult for Neurodiverse People

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Photoshoots can be a joyful, happy experience, but they also come with a variety of potential stressors. Sessions can be difficult for neurodiverse adults, kids, or people with disabilities.

New sounds, lighting, multiple transitions, new attention, and even a new environment can be overstimulating and could possibly be overwhelming to some people. As someone on the autism spectrum, I found being the subject of a photoshoot quite challenging when I hired a photographer who was not very aware of neurodivergent needs. For me, the attention was the most triggering factor and the pressure to keep up with transitions was also difficult. What would have helped was to have some possible distractions or tasks to do while I was being photographed; it also would have been accommodating to have more time or a warning between transitions. Because my photographer wasn’t aware of how to work with neurodiverse people, I felt very uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and rushed. The photographs unfortunately reflected this as well.

Still Poetry Photography is well versed in working with neurodiverse clients. Sarah, the primary photographer, is neurodiverse and understands how to craft a session that minimizes triggers and centers the sensory-friendly photography session around the client’s needs and accommodations. They truly know how to make everyone feel their best!

Sensitivities and Stimuli

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Some neurodiverse people may be sensitive to certain stimuli, such as light or noise, and exposure to extreme variations of that stimuli may be triggering to people. For example: a camera flash, loud or repetitive noises, strong smells like perfumes or colognes, or the feeling of certain fabrics or textures can be quite distressing to some individuals with high sensory sensitivities. In general, people who are neurodiverse may be more sensitive to their sensory surroundings.

If you know that you have specific sensory triggers, make sure to talk with your photographer beforehand to see if they have solutions to accommodate them. Do certain fabrics make you uncomfortable? Ask what types of fabrics their client closet uses. Do you hate the feeling of sand between your toes? Ask them if they have good suggestions for a background that doesn’t include the beach.

Still Poetry Photography understands how to remedy all of that during a session to make the experience free from sensory triggers to the best of their ability. Being neurodivergent herself, Sarah understands the ins and outs of creating a sensory safe experience, and is aware of diverse needs that others may have or need accommodations for.

Understanding Transitions

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Transitions can be a huge trigger to people who are neurodiverse. If you are neurodiverse, you may experience a need to plan events far before their occurrence to properly prepare. This is possibly because fast transitions or shifts in events can lead to stress, anxiety, or melt down. Use of slow transitions can aid in pushing through these obstacles, whether working with kids, people with autism, or really anyone who struggles with transitions.

Navigating transitions is one of the skills Still Poetry Photography brings to the table during autism-friendly photoshoots. Through communicating with clients, knowing their needs and preferences, having patience, understanding, and lots of planning, they can craft a personalized session and alter transitions to make the session process as easy as possible! For example, getting to know their clients is the most important step! Will we be photographing any kids? Anyone who practices stimming? Anyone who’s prone to melt-downs? Anyone who’s sensory sensitive? Whether we’re photographing kids with autism, adults with autism, people with sensitive stimuli, Still Poetry Photography wants to get to know you.

When it comes to transitions, there are many ways Still Poetry Photography can accommodate your needs as a neurodivergent photographer. Giving a 5-10 minute warning before transitioning is one way to prepare for a smooth session. Maybe you need more than ten minutes to help prepare for a transition. That’s okay! The key is to let go of any expectations, prepare for slow transitions, and work at your own pace!

Explaining sounds, lights, and possible textures that will be introduced is another way to prepare for transitions. Fortunately, lighting is something the photographer usually has lots of control over. Still Poetry Photography will be able to explain and give examples of any lighting or flash used, so we know exactly what will be incorporated in the session!

Let’s talk about tips for navigating transitions as the client! Communication is key. As a neurodivergent person, I find that I’m often on a different level than the people around me. I have to ask lots of questions about what's going on, ask what the subject of a conversation is about, and what people mean when they use figurative language. Participating in a photography session is no different! We all have different brains, different ways of existing, so being brave enough to be yourself and ask lots of questions would help the flow of the session tremendously. It also would be helpful to communicate any needs to the photographer. If you’re non-verbal, make sure to let Still Poetry Photography know so they can understand how best to communicate with you!

Flexibility is Key!

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All neurodivergent kids and adults are unique, and it is our mission to cater to their individual needs. During a session, it is important to be open to changes and allow any neurodivergent individuals to set the tone and pace. This time is about you, your personality, your achievements, and your special moments. Still Poetry Photography’s flexibility is essential and foundational in making these sessions a success! Neurodiverse people are unique, but so is everyone, whether you’re timid, outgoing, on the autism spectrum or off, everyone deserves to see how awesome you are!

Capturing the Experience

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Photography sessions are more than just stiff poses and forced smiles. When properly done, they tell a story about you or your family. You should have fun creating new memories with your family, and the photos should capture that! Photography sessions should be centered around fun! Whether you’re documenting a special event, or a certain milestone, the experience of getting your photo taken should be enjoyable!

As a neurodiverse photographer, Still Poetry Photography captures this exciting experience with their skills, awareness, and education on how to work with all types of people. We really want you to enjoy yourself on this special occasion!

Booking Your Sensory Friendly Session

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If you have a family member who is neurodivergent, the best thing you can do is hire a photographer who has experience working with neurodivergent kids and adults! This will ensure that the session runs smoothly through any meltdowns or hiccups, and also provides the peace of mind that your photographer has your needs and concerns in mind at all times throughout the session.

Book your session with Still Poetry Photography today! Sarah is a neurodivergent, woman-owned, Delaware family photographer who can’t wait to capture these special moments with you! Get to know Sarah and her team by sending her a message today!


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