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MARYLAND (CBS) – A photographer in Maryland is giving away free photo shoots – but don’t get ready for your close up just yet… the recipients can only be families with children who face challenges.

Stephanie Smith says the biggest challenge is changing the public perception of what’s “normal.”

Smith, the founder of and photographer for Lenses for Love, said when she looks through her camera lens at 6-year-old Asante Allen she doesn’t see a child with special needs, she see a special child.

(credit: CBS News)

(credit: CBS News)

“The strength and resilience from these kids has been far more inspiring and touching and moving than any other ‘normal child’ that I’ve ever been able to shoot.”

It was eight months ago when Smith read a blog post about another photographer who had turned down a job because the client’s daughter has Down’s syndrome.

The 28-year-old said, “For me that was just my wakeup call.”

The incident inspired Smith to offer photo shoots to families with children with diseases and other conditions — for free.

Little Asante has dwarfism, but his twin brother does not. The Allen’s say people treat their kids differently. It was something they didn’t have to worry about with Smith.

Donne Allen said, “It’s someone seeing us the way that we actually are, rather than a spectacle or some people to gawk at.” The proud mother was excited to sit for the family photos. “Just to show Asante his humanity, to show his funny side, and that’s the most important thing, to show us as a family, not a special needs family.”

(credit: CBS News)

(credit: CBS News)

Smith is a mother herself, and watched her sister battle cancer twice, which also inspired the project. “I always knew, like when that happened, I wanted to find a way to give back,” she said.

Smith named her charity “Lenses for Love” because, she says, love is unconditional. Eventually Smith is hoping to expand Lenses for Love and have photographers in every state.

Click here to find out more about supporting Lenses for Love or volunteering to help the project.

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