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18 Secrets to Taking Beautiful Photos of Children With Autism

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When more than one parent reader asked our Mighty team for tips for photographing children with autism, we went to the experts — other parents! We asked our readers on Facebook to share their tips to getting a great photo.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “As a photographer with a daughter with autism, I find [taking pictures] is a great chance to work on eye contact, even if we can only grab it for a minute. I started by asking her to see if she could see something in my lens. Then, as she got more comfortable, we would work on short spurts of eye contact. I don’t usually pose her. The less you interfere while taking pictures, the better it will be.” — Kate Sytsma 

Kate Sytsma


2. “Hold something your child likes at the right eye level behind the photographer so their eyes and smiles are facing the camera.” — Lynn Siegler

Lynn Siegler

3. “[My daughter] responds to music. So if I want a picture, I sing to her or play music. Then I can get a great picture.” — Melissa Cote

Melissa Cote

4. “Take a full-length mirror and place it on a wooden deck or floor. Let the child look in the mirror and photograph the reflection.” — Andrea Armitage Connors

5. “Our son loves to see himself on the screen, so I bought a camera where the view screen on the back rotates and flips to the side so he can see himself in it. He smiles and makes faces, and I just click away.” — Susan Dietz

Susan Dietz

6. “We use short sessions and don’t tell him to pose, cheese or smile. We also make sure he’s not hungry or tired and has a book or toy. One of our best family pictures happened when he was melting down and I had a big lollipop in my purse.” — Kathryn Hazelwood

Kathryn Hazelwood

7. “My daughter is super into emotions right now, so I ask her to make a happy, silly, sad or bored face, and the finished product always somehow turns out pretty good. I’ve learned to be quick as well.” — Justin-Amanda Thiessen

Justin-Amanda Thiessen

8. “I take a video of my son. Then, I go through it frame by frame and I screen shot the frame I like. It’s a natural shot, and no one knows it was done that way.” — Larisa Shrewsbury 

Larisa Parker

9. “Photograph them doing something they love. My little man loves to play and be tickled, and we get the best shots of him when he’s in his element. Candid shots are always my favorites. They are genuine.” — Jessica Crane

Jessica Crane

10. “My son is 19 and has autism. We’ve learned through the years to let him guide us. Eye contact is never the issue. We want to see him smile through his eyes.” — Nicole Bonvini Del Purgatorio

Nicole Del Purgatorio

11. “I just take as many pictures as I can. They’re all natural and capture the pure joy in whatever [my son] is doing. Sometimes I even get a good one where he is looking straight at me that I’ve caught by playing peek-a-boo.” — Christie Ashby 

Christy Ashby

12. “Explain everything — what [the camera] is, what it does, why it does it and when it will do it. Doing so helps them to not be so afraid.” — Candace Gudenburr

13. “Patience, lots and lots of patience. Every child is beautiful and capturing those candid moments is where you will find them.” — Beverly Popolo 

14. “I use my zoom lens and catch my son doing something he enjoys from afar.” — Annabel Lawlor

Annabel Lawler

15. “I find it works best when my son is in his natural environment where he’s comfortable and doing something he loves. The photos can’t be rushed. He has always been fascinated with opening and closing doors. This photo was taken at our front door after it was opened wide. Pure joy.” — Tyann Sheldon Rouw

Tyann Sheldon Rowe

16. “My son loves reciting parts of movies, so I recite some of his favorite lines while the photographer snaps pictures. He’s giggling up a storm!” — Joyce Rohe

Joyce Rohe

17. “I’m a photographer and my son has autism. Be ready. Don’t push them — let them be themselves. I always ask if he can see the dinosaur, car or kitty inside my camera lens. Let them try out your camera and take your picture.” — Kirstin Aitken


18. “I try to make my son genuinely laugh. We talk, we laugh, and I just take the picture. He is who he is and he’s beautiful — looking at the camera or not. Truthfully, it’s the spontaneous, honest pictures that are the best. They show so much more heart than portraits.” — Jen Milburn
Jen Milburn

*Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Do you have your own tip? Let us know in the comments.
Originally published: August 25, 2015
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