Before I was a full-time mom and part-time photographer, I worked for an amazing organization called Chicago Education Project, a private, special education facility for children on the autism spectrum. While working with children in the classroom at CEP, I learned the principles of ABA (applied behavior analysis)–something unbeknownst to me at the time that would help me further my future career in photography. Understanding the behavior of children, not just those with special needs, helps me to communicate with them and get them to cooperate in front of my camera. People with kids know that merely asking a child to sit still and smile is more often than not a futile mission, and can be a frustrating endeavor that makes you want to throw your hands in the air and settle for that shot you don’t really like. As a professional photographer, it is my job to get a great shot, regardless of the level of cooperation going on between me and my subjects. I don’t like to bribe kids into smiling, and I don’t encourage parents to do it either. Instead, I like to get on their level and earn their trust the old fashioned way so that they are having fun with me and don’t need to be bribed to smile and enjoy our time together while being photographed. I am so grateful for my time at CEP and the talented behavior analysts there that taught me the skills to do this because it not only makes me a better photographer, but a better mom as well. I absolutely loved working there and was so happy they asked me to come back and photograph their kids for their annual picture day. Just like I had remembered, the kids were full of surprises and I had fun capturing their personalities on camera. By the time I let, I also had the added bonus of learning how to give a foot-five (think high-five, but with your feet), dancing to Carly Rae Jepsen, and getting to belt out “We Are The Champions” on the top our lungs with a student and their instructor. However, the most heartwarming thing about this gig was all the positive feedback I got from the parents who went out of their way to thank me for getting a shot of their child smiling, something that many of them have never had. These kids are full of laughter and giggles, but often don’t understand the relationship between posing/smiling and a camera. As a result, their parents have a difficult time getting mementos of their kids with happy faces. What a joy it was to be able to do that for them, and to be able to tell them that in all honesty, it wasn’t difficult at all because we were having fun and they were being themselves. Pure and honest fun, no bribes required.