Updated: Oct 1
An overview into all sensory aspects of a photography session
It seems like within the past 5ish years, EVERYONE is talking about sensory needs or being sensory-friendly. Not sure what any of that means? I gotchu! While I am absolutely not an expert neurologist or occupational therapist, I have spent close to a decade on learning about all things "sensory." When you see or hear the word "sensory," it is generally referring to how someone responds to stimuli in their environment. I like to think of this as a line graph--at one end you have people who prefer little to no outside sensory stimuli (sounds, sights, physical touch, etc.) at the other end, you have people who prefer TONS of outside stimuli. The people who prefer little to none are known as sensory-avoiders and the people who prefer all the outside stimuli are referred to as sensory-seekers. All people live somewhere on that line! While most people generally live "in the middle." So what does this have to do with photography? Keep scrolling!
Have you ever had a moment where you felt pulled too many directions and you could just scream? Maybe the dog was barking, the TV was on, a kid is asking you a question, you smell dinner burning, and it's all just too much?! That is being overstimulated. As adults, we can often pick apart what components of situation are overstimulating us... children cannot. So when they are overstimulated, it may look like a "tantrum."
How to adapt for sensory-avoiders
I am going to start with the most obvious--sensory-avoiders! Sensory avoiders are typically more likely to be overstimulated. Things that photographers need to keep in mind when photographing a sensory-avoider are; how noisy the session location is, how bright it is either outside or in your studio, the frequency your flash may be firing (not touching on seizures in this post, I will link that post once it is out!,) as well as how loud your own voice is and even how visually busy your own clothing is. Sensory-avoiders usually respond better to games like "no smiling" or silly prompts to get them to smile. They are less likely to love crinkle paper or a fart machine. You likely want a calmer environment for these kiddos (and adults!)
How to adapt for sensory-seekers
Sensory-seekers are the adrenaline junkies. Generally, they love all the thrill. The louder, the crazier, the goofier--THE BETTER! They connect well with boisterous personalities and love more "invasive" games like Bop the Bunny. When a sensory-seeker is not getting enough input, they will create input! This could look like running around in circles, spinning, or even more "undesirable" behaviors like running into objects or other people. They crave as much stimulation from their outside environment as possible!
The Big Picture
Keep in mind, those are the two "extreme" ends of the spectrum and everyone lives somewhere on that linear chart. Just keep this into consideration next time you have a session and want to know where to start when it comes to pulling tricks out of your photographer's toolbox!
Until next time!