A professional photographer who has a son on the autism spectrum and specializes in photographing kids offers parents five tips on how to capture great photos of their own children.
Kerry St. Ours is a Long Island-based professional photographer who prefers to train her lens on little ones. St. Ours photographs all types of children, including her two kids, 9-year-old Natalie and 4-year-old Tristan. But her experience with her son Tristan, who is on the autism spectrum, has opened her eyes to the unique beauty of kids with special needs. “I’ve met so many children with special needs that I’ve fallen in love with,” says St. Ours, who has a background in early childhood education. “They’re innocent, they’re funny, they’re sweet. They’re just a joy to photograph.”
While she enjoys her work, St. Ours admits that photographing special kids can be challenging. With her son Tristan, St. Ours says her biggest struggles are getting him to make eye contact and stay focused. “Sometimes if I want to photograph him playing, my son will be more interested in the camera itself and I lose the moment,” she explains, adding, “I think any parent has challenges photographing their own children because they know you and they know how to press your buttons.”
Tristan (pictured), St. Ours says, can often be seen looking down at his hands. St. Ours strives to capture the little gestures like this, which show "the spirit of the child."
For parents who aren’t professional photographers, St. Ours offers the following tips for capturing great shots of their kids, whether they have special needs or not:
1. Patience, patience, patience.
2. Make it fun. Be prepared with a bag of “tricks,” like bubbles and toys, and put your child's favorite music on. Try to make the photo session as informal as possible.
3. Don’t make it a big ordeal. Remember, it’s just a picture, not life or death. If your child sees you get frustrated, she's going to associate photographs with Mommy or Daddy getting frustrated, and that’s going to ruin your future chances for pictures.
4. Have realistic expectations. You know your child better than anybody, and you know what he will or won’t do. If you know your child is going to become frustrated if you ask him to sit down and look at camera, try for a different shot. Know that you can get great photos of your child playing, relaxing, and even sleeping.
5. Learn from your experiences. You’ll learn over time what does and doesn’t work when photographing your child. Eventually you’ll develop a rhythm and learn how to make photographing a pleasant experience for both of you. And even if a session doesn’t go as planned, try to end on a positive note.
St. Ours photographed three very special kids for NYMetroParents’ Special Parent magazine, including twins Christian and Gaven Perez of Long Island, who are on the autism spectrum, and Ashley Johnson of Queens, who has cerebral palsy.
To see more samples of St. Ours’s work and get information on booking a session, visit kerrystours.com.
All photographs by Kerry St. Ours