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Quick learning skills about the individual child is generally required as prep for a session with a disabled child. They are all different in unique ways. This boy was easily distracted. Various tools are used to encourage attention. 


The photographer in this session was able to get good results with a plastic "bonker" toy. The caveat is that the child may become fixated with a toy and not want to part with it (if he gets a hold of it). Maintain order. Promise to allow "play time" after the photo session is over. 

Hearts & Lens

Hearts and Lens has evolved from Special Kids Photography of America nonprofit organization, founded in 2000 out of a mother's frustration when she attempted to obtain a professional portrait of her one-year-old son who was born with a physical disability. She walked into the studio where the photographer took one puzzled look at her child then back at the mother, as if to say, "You want me to take a picture of him?" Needless to say, the mother was devastated. Throughout the next week, this young parent was filled with emotions of confusion, hurt and anger. That's when she began to formulate the idea to provide training to photographers who would benefit from unique skills beneficial for successful photographic sessions with children who are disabled or seriously ill.

In 2022, Special Kids Photography needed to grow. The disabled community no longer looks with favor on the term,  "special," because that word sets people apart as a segregated element of the community. Along with a change in name came the need for inclusion of all persons who will benefit from a photographer's unique imaging considerations during a photo session. 

Hearts & Lens provides training and accreditation specifically designed to achieve successful photographic results with persons who have disorders or other unique circumstance. Hearts & Lens training provides targeted skills, knowledge and tools that are adaptive and beneficial during every photo session. 

Hearts & Lens is a

501 (c)(3) Nonprofit Organization

Hearts and Lens is governed by a volunteer board of directors (made up of photographers, parents and professionals). In accordance with nonprofit corporation rules, Hearts & Lens is managed by an executive director, treasurer and secretary who are subject to the direction of the board. Hearts & Lens by-laws may be reviewed upon request. Hearts & Lens is funded through voluntary public/private donations, sale of course enrollments, and grants. Although an all-volunteer staff guides the organization, funding is needed to keep the programs in operation and also fund family photo grants. Gifts to Hearts & Lens 501(3)(c) organization are generally recognized by the IRS as tax deductible.

Mission Statement

The primary mission of Hearts and Lens is to represent persons who are disabled, medically fragile or elderly to professional photographers in an effort to expand exceptional photographic opportunities to these unique persons on a national and international level.

The unique focus of Hearts & Lens is accomplished through training, advocacy, awareness,
as well as promotion of adaptive photographic techniques and tools.



Become at ease photographing kids and adults with disabilities or who are medically fragile or aging. This is accomplished through Hearts & Lens training. 

Hearts & Lens nonprofit organization provides training and accreditation for professional photographers. This social and technical education not only helps build clientele, it provides valuable services to families of persons with disabilities who may have had difficulty accessing portraits that provide the quality they seek and also "touch their hearts." Beneficial tips are provided for sessions with aging individuals who have enjoyed a life long-lived. 

3609 Gma-Kinsey_edited

Photos by Laura Popiel, Mark Brown, Karen Dorame, and Crystal Delahoz

Why is specialized photographic training Important?

The percentage of persons with disabilities is higher than ever before. Spectrum disorders (autism) has grown dramatically in the last 50 years and continues to increase. This statistic should be reflected in a photographer's clientele. Learn how to reach out to this population and be comfortable with informed social interaction, communication, and unconventional behaviors.

As example, who would not want to stop and give admiring comments to the beautiful child shown here? Wait. Would it make a difference when people see she is missing an arm? (Which is the case.) Would that cause them to turn away instead of stopping to greet her with a pleasant greeting? Upon seeing a person with an amputation, people have a tendency to stare or uncomfortably turn away. We urge photographers to have the goal to create a beautiful image that will be stared at for all the right reasons. 

Please enjoy and celebrate the beautiful images found on the Hearts & Lens website. They celebrate the person. Many parents comment that their Hearts & Lens-trained photographer caught the "inner" beauty of their child. 

Hearts & Lens invites you to become involved as a volunteer, advocate, passionate photographer or supporter. Hearts & Lens is recognized by the IRS as a charitable nonprofit organization. Donations are always greatly appreciated. Choose an amount on our store page.

No need to try to hide an amputation or wheelchair. These are part of the person! Don't be timid about showing the whole person.





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