“A picture says a thousand words”. Moments of memories, milestones, and great times with friends and family members are all captured in photographic snapshots. Some are candid and some take a bit more planning. In today’s age, we see all types of photos from an engagement announcement to the first day of school and graduation photos. For the latter, these memories are captured by a parent, but in some cases they are also scheduled to be taken by a professional photographer at a photo studio.
Not all family’s needs are the same and I found that out this week when I chatted with Desiree Avila, Realtor® in Oakland Park. You see, Desiree is a Realtor® and loves serving her community. She enjoys helping families find the home of their dreams while going above and beyond their expectations. However, her will to help doesn’t end there. As a child, Desiree was first introduced to photography by her father, and ever since then, she’s had a passion for this art form. She recently discovered the need for a niche photographer for families with special needs. Her daughter’s half-brother, Thomas, has autism and his mother, Wendy, shared the difficulty of hiring a “standard photographer” for Thomas.
So, what happens when you have a special needs child and you want to take their photo? Wendy explained, “Thomas has autism. While he was growing up I found it very difficult to be able to have pictures taken in the typical “cookie-cutter” photo studio where they expect you to take great photos in 15 minutes and smile on demand. With the special needs community, you have to have patience and understanding. You have to allow additional time to create that true moment for the photo to be natural. I struggled for so many years to get great pictures of Thomas that I ended up teaching myself. That’s how I would do it.”
For Thomas’s senior pictures, both Desiree and Wendy got to work to get the best photo to capture this milestone. While this process does take time and patience, it was worth the end result.
Wendy was so proud of Thomas’s photos that she shared them with her friends. One of these friends, Tara, mentioned how she too struggles with getting that “perfect” photo of her special needs child. So without a second thought, Wendy and Desiree teamed up again to capture photos for Tara’s son Braedon. Tara was thrilled and raved about how they made Braedon feel like a rock star. She was even happier when she saw the final results!
After seeing how thrilled the families were and seeing the need for photographers within these communities, I asked Desiree what advice she has for photographers wanting to also serve this underserved community. Simply put, learn as much as you can, then study and continue to practice your craft. Don’t be afraid to ask questions especially to seasoned photographers and do not limit your growth. There is always the potential to do more and learn more. “Each photo session is a chance to become a better photographer”, and patience is key. “You have to take your time to compose the shot and then take the picture”, explains Desiree.
Desiree is elated to use her talents and help contribute to lifelong memories for special needs families. She enjoys sharing these special moments with these families and serving their photography needs. While she can set up an indoor studio, Desiree mentions that her preference is to conduct outdoor photoshoots because of the natural light and the beautiful parks Florida has to offer. One of her favorite spots is Royal Palm Park right here in Oakland Park.
While being a Realtor® and photographer are vastly different pursuits, Desiree sees the joy in them as very much the same. According to Desiree being able to help people find their home or to take pictures that they will cherish forever are both very rewarding:
“The greatest joy is the joy you bring to others and to know you have made a positive impact in their lives; I find that joy in both real estate and photography”.
Maria Scudella-Beltran was born and raised in Bergen County, New Jersey, right outside of New York City. She moved to South Florida in 2004 and graduated from Florida International University with a bachelors’ degree in Marketing and Communications.
In 2010, she purchased her first home in the North Andrews Gardens area in Oakland Park. After several years of working in the retail industry, Maria took on a part-time internship at a marketing agency and continued her education through Walden University where she earned her Master’s degree in Marketing and Communications.
Currently, she works in Marketing and during her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and traveling.