Over the past few months, children have slowly become my favorite subjects to photograph. I have never been a fan of posing people or making them look like something that they're not. Of course, many people want you to pose their children, but I have found it much more effective and rewarding to just let children be themselves in whatever way that means.
Creativity and courage are very important. A great picture can be taken ANYWHERE, whether that be a beautiful beach or a parking lot. It might seem weird to ask the client to meet you at a completely barren field, but children love to just run around! (Luckily, I also love to just run around, so I have just as much fun chasing them and playing tag for an hour.) The best option is to have the photoshoot at a playground that the family already frequents. That way the child will be comfortable and used to playing there. Don't be afraid to put the camera down and play with the kids! It might feel weird at first, being a fully grown adult and having just met these children, but remember that they are not judging you as hard as YOU are judging you. Basically, the children will feed off of your energy, so HAVE FUN and don't be afraid to make an absolute fool of yourself.
A lot of the time, parents want to just sit on the side and watch you do all of the work. Whether it's awkwardness or a fear of getting in the way, they often-times avoid the spotlight. Unbeknownst to them, they can make or break a photo shoot (even though they think they have nothing to do it). Make sure you have a talk with them beforehand and encourage them to get involved. If the first photos are of the child while they are holding their parent's hand, then that is OK! Eventually, they will run off and do their own thing, giving you an opportunity to make the magic.
The final tip is to take A LOT of pictures. Children are always making funny faces and you will miss them if you try to be a “photo sniper.” Throw That camera on burst and hold down the shutter. This method definitely adds time to the post production, but it will be worth it in the end. During this 45 minute shoot, I took 796 images. It took over two hours to sort through them all, but in the end I was able to give my client 76 fully edited images. In my experience, a client’s satisfaction is directly correlated to the amount of pictures you send them. ESPECIALLY of their children.
In summary, grab a few poses at the beginning and end of the shoot, but focus on getting the child to have fun and be themselves. Work on getting the parents involved in the creative process. And finally take as many pictures as you can!
Most importantly, have fun, try new things, and don’t be afraid to be weird!