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I got into photography as a entertainment industry photographer. I was shooting celebrity headshots, promoting my daughter’s acting career, and attending events to add to my portfolio. Then, everything changed. My son was diagnosed with Autism.


I became a member of the thick, muddy waters of ABA therapies and IEPs and wondered if I would ever once again be a part of the land of the living. Not that my life wasn’t full of joy and meaning, it was just… different. I felt lonely, without a career, hair in a big fat bun and sweatpants. I know some moms out there know what I’m talking about! I was trying to divide my attention between my pre-teen daughter and my son who desperately needed Autism intervention all while trying not to feel guilty for my decisions. So my business got personal!


I wanted to afford myself a small creative space for me. I wanted something I could be proud of. I wanted to do something that simply meant something to me and that accomplished something helpful to our special needs community. I sought out to become a family photographer focusing on families living with Autism or other special needs. My special needs photography business, FirstThen, was born out of love and compassion. Of course, parents familiar with the technique of suggesting to their kids, “first this, then that” will know how I arrived at the name of my photography business! 


This line of work might mean fewer clients, and more care going into each project, but it produces pictures that make families become my family! No stuffy studios creating a sensory nightmare for so many families, more relaxed fun and games, less anxious parents.


I still take on many different photography projects, but none as rewarding. I am so proud that I get to show the integrity of these awesome families!! I know many parents raising children with disabilities who later became speech therapists or occupational therapists, advocates, etc. I, too, wanted to take my experience with my own son to help other families create beautiful, lasting memories.


Katie Baca of FirstThen projects is an Autism & Special Needs Photographer in the greater Los Angeles area. You can check out her work at


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