Photographing People with Intellectual and Physical Disabilities

Don’t think of it as Special Needs, it’s simply Different Needs.

Working with people with intellectual and physical disabilities has been an honor. We have been fortunate to provide senior photos to people with special needs all across the front range. During this time, we partnered with various high schools to find out why we do not see more professional senior photos for people with special needs. The results opened our eyes to the reality and we made a choice to change that process. We knew it was our responsibility to ensure more seniors with special needs have professional photos; both for the yearbook and  their family.

Our team at Brian Johnson Photo has been trained to work with, and have extensive experience working with individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities in various capacities. We are advocates, supporters, coaches, and volunteers at organizations such as Special Olympics Colorado, T.A.C.T., and the Temple Grandin School. We have the knowledge, experience, and patience to ensure everyone who comes to us will have an enjoyable session and walk away with incredible images.


Patience, Care, and Concern

Photographing individuals with special needs is not difficult, it simply takes a little more patience and care. However, more than anything it takes consideration for your client and your client’s individual needs. Because it is important to understand the behaviors and triggers prior to the schedule session we always make sure to ask about any subjects, words, or actions we need to avoid. We also ask if there are any items, snacks, affirmations, or awards we can offer during the session to make our client feel more comfortable.

Even with the best laid plans session can go awry. Perhaps the two biggest things to remember when scheduling a session with someone who has a disability are patience and flexibility. As an example, a few weeks ago we finished a session that had originally been scheduled 3 weeks prior. Our senior is on the spectrum and on the original day of the session our senior was having a rough day and about 15 minutes before the session his mom called to let us know she was not sure if our senior would make it to the session. Our response is simple, we ask to reschedule. In our eyes a bad day was not going to prevent our senior from having his photos! Three weeks later the session was incredible and everyone walked away feeling good.



As a small business, it is not always easy to reschedule, especially when we have to work around yearbook deadlines are close.  Being a customer-service-oriented business it is our job to make necessary accommodations for our clients in order to ensure they receive the best. When life happens to your client, it is a disservice to both your senior and to your business to move forward with the session. Yes, there was a chance our senior could have made it to the location, but he would have not have had a good experience. We do not simply want to simply provide beautiful photos, we want our clients and their parents to experience the joy of a photo session, to understand that the experience can be enjoyable for someone with a disability! We understand that bad days can happen, and we will never charge to reschedule a session for someone with special needs.


Check Back

Over the coming weeks, we are going to explore tips for working with people with special needs, as well as the different techniques and strategies we use to help facilitate the session. While these strategies will mostly discuss High School Seniors, they will be applicable to people of all ages and are transferable to any type of session.