Every year, students participate in school picture day at least once, where they have their photos taken for the yearbook, student IDs, graduation (read more about graduation and low vision here), and more. Here are some of my tips for having your picture taken when you have a vision impairment. These tips also work great for teachers, photographers, staff, and teachers of the visually impaired.
Do not remove your glasses
Yes, they cause a bit of glare when the photo is taken. However, do not remove your glasses for the photo, as it will likely be very uncomfortable with all of the bright lights, and the resulting photo will look nothing like you. While this wasn’t for school picture day, I was forced to remove my glasses for an ID photo. The resulting photo looked so different that no one believed the photo was actually me. Plus, my eyes were bright red from the light. Not a good look. Read more about being in videos with low vision on my school news post here.
Ask for no flash
I have photosensitivity and migraines that are triggered by flashing lights. All through high school, I requested that the photographer not use the flash when taking my school pictures. While not a lot of photographers understood that I had an undiagnosed brain condition (then again, no one did- more on that here), they did understand epilepsy, so I would tell them that I had a condition like epilepsy and needed to avoid a camera flash and they understood. Some schools may require a student have a file with the school nurse saying they can’t have flash photography. Read more about photosensitivity in the classroom here.
Wait in a different location
Stand in a different location away from flashing lights while waiting for your turn to take a photo. No need to commemorate a migraine attack, seizure, or other adverse response to the lights. The photographer may also need to set up a different camera or lighting area if you don’t want to use flash. Read more about chronic migraines here.
Should I wear my tinted glasses?
I started wearing tinted glasses in eighth grade and haven’t had any non-tinted glasses since. While it is more difficult to see my eyes in photos, I am very sensitive to light and wouldn’t want to wear different glasses. Read more about choosing glasses here.
Check that clothes are on correctly
One of the funniest stories my family enjoys telling is that I once wore my pants on backwards for school picture day, the day we had our class photo together. And yes, I was in the front row…center. It’s really obvious. Learn from my fail and make sure clothes and jewelry are on correctly before the photo. Read more about getting dressed with low vision here.
Figure out where the camera is pointing
I have double vision and while I normally can figure out which image is the original, sometimes I’m wrong. Alternatively, the camera might be outside my peripheral vision. For some reason, the camera was at an angle one year for school picture day, and not straight ahead. In the resulting photo, I’m not looking anywhere near the camera and look like I’m about to fall asleep. Have the photographer tell you which direction the camera is in, so you know where to look. “Over here” is not a valid answer. Read more about double vision here.
If they tell you to stop crossing your eyes
My junior year of high school, I was told to stop crossing my eyes for the school photo. I have accommodative esotropia, so my eye turns inward, something that is very obvious in photos. Explain to the photographer that you have an eye condition and are not doing this voluntarily. Also report the incident to your teacher or other trusted staff member.
Don’t close your eyes, if possible
If you can avoid it, don’t close your eyes when the photo is taken, as it can result in a strange facial expression. If you are taking a group photo though, such as for a club, it’s okay to close your eyes, so long as you have tinted glasses. Because I am photosensitive, I would close my eyes for club pictures because I didn’t want to force the photographer to not use a flash.
Including the blindness cane
I never used a blindness cane in school, but one of my friends told me that they were told to include their blindness cane in class photos, even holding it in the yearbook photo. This is totally up to you, but I personally do not like to have my cane in most photos because it detracts from my face, and I might be tempted to lean on it. Read more about my blindness cane for White Cane Day 2016 here.
At the end of the day, this is just a class photo, and nothing completely life-altering. Don’t forget to be yourself, and smile for the camera!