Have you searched every Facebook Photographer group for "family poses with wheelchair?" and found absolutely nothing? Yeah, me too. By very high request, today we are talking all things posing with wheels and wheelchair photography!
While I will be saying "wheelchair" when talking about posing today, please know that all of these tips are applicable to any medical equipment with wheels--like walkers and gait trainers (image in the second row on the left.)
Wheelchairs come in all shapes, sizes, & functions
Assistive equipment (like wheelchairs) comes in a wide range with customizable options to best serve the user! While some wheelchairs seem like a seat with wheels, others may have headrests/armrests/harnesses to keep the wheelchair user in an optimal position. Some wheelchairs even tilt/recline or can lift. Always feel free to ask your client what their chair can and cannot do! Addressing the wheelchair or any equipment is never rude--it shows that you are taking all factors into consideration to give this family the best photos possible! Not to mention, it is a beautiful opportunity to honor their season of being wheelchair bound.
Adjustments to Make for Wheelchair Poses
Some adjustments I like to make (if possible) on a wheelchair prior to photos are:
-Lowering handles to lowest position so there is less distraction behind your subject's face.
- Removing any medical equipment bags. Many chairs have storage bags on the back that can be easily removed and set aside for photos. Sometimes these can carry oxygen or suction machines, so you can leave them if needed!
- Removing headrest--very much "if possible." Many people need their headrests or they are too cumbersome to adjust for photos, so this is not a dealbreaker
You are always welcome to ask your client any questions regarding their chair and preferences in terms of posing with it.
Due to the nature of wheelchairs, people naturally stand a little further from them than they would another person not in a wheelchair. Why? Something about the extra 4-6" of metal surrounding the wheelchair user creates odd spacing in family photos...unless you do something about it! I always prompt all family members to snuggle in nice and close to the wheelchair user. They may even be touching the wheelchair wheels or leaning against the back--that is totally fine! We just want everyone as close together as possible!
Just like anything, wheelchairs have more flattering angles in photos! I prefer front wheels slightly angled to keep the wheelchair user the focus of the image! Sometimes straight on can be not-so-flattering for people wearing shorts/skirts/dresses. Plus, it just looks like a more natural moment to me when the chair is not "perfectly" positioned fully sideways or straight on.
Just about any pose can be adapted to get a similar (or in my opinion--better!) look with a child in a wheelchair. In all my sessions, I try to incorporate 3 different family poses--sitting, standing, and moving. In the gallery above, you can see options for standing and moving ("walking"). Below you can see some options for sitting where kiddos transferred out of their chairs. My clients know that I am comfortable posing both with and without any equipment, so we often do both whenever possible.
In the end, the goal is never to hide or disguise a wheelchair. Wheelchairs are worth celebrating--they bring independence and comfort to their users! The goal is to create stunning family photos designed around wheelchairs so that families of all abilities can have images that reflect their love and the beauty in their lives. Wheelchair photography and photos with wheelchair poses are some of the most beautiful and fun shoots to have!
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