Be patient with them.
Some kids will warm up to you immediately. Some won’t. Work on the child’s schedule, not yours. Instead of picking up the camera right away, sit down at their level and play with them or read them a book. Become their friend first, and they’ll trust you the rest of the day.
Capture who they are, not a standard photograph.
One of my favorite photographs of my daughter was when she was two. She was staring out of our living room window, thumb in her mouth, twirling her hair with her fingers. That was so her at that particular moment of her life, and I can’t imagine not being able to remember her like that. Just looking at that image brings back a ton of memories. That’s who she was at that moment, and that’s what we strived to capture.
You’re the photographer, mom is the mom.
Have you ever had the mom put a child down and start saying, “Look at the camera Suzie”. Explain to the mom up front that you will be capturing the image. She’s welcome to sit in a chair in the corner, but please leave the posing up to you. (If she sees your work ahead of time and knows what to expect, this won’t even be an issue.)
Go to the child’s world.
What does the child like to do? Brining them in and letting them play with your teddy bears may make a cute photograph, but bringing his or her own teddy bear to a tea party will make it even more special. They’ll talk and tell stories, and open up in a way they just can’t do with a “stranger”.
Create your setting first.
What is your goal with the portrait? What is the mom expecting? You have to have samples in place to get your ideas across before you bring in clients. Start by building sets and using your own children (or a friend’s or neighbors) as the models. Then sell it to your clients through your website and portfolio.
Focus on things that will change.
A three-year-old child has that perfect, angelic face. She has expressions and that certain look that just screams out “I’m three”. That’s what changes very quickly as she grows, and will soon be forgotten as she moves into other stages. That’s what you need to capture as a photographer. Look for that perfect picture, that perfect expression that will make the Mom think of you as a hero for life, because she simply can never take that image off of her wall.
Let’s see the face.
Children have the most amazing eyes. So while I’m a huge proponent of capturing a child in his or her natural environment, I also love beautiful face shots. And so do your clients. Focus in on the eyes. Give your clients something they can never refuse.
Shoot your portraits with specifics.
Never hand over your files on a CD to your clients. Instead sell them on packages with certain inclusions. Find unique frames with multiple images. Build grandparent brag books. Or give them a way to come in and build special scrapbooking pages for their latest album. Always be thinking of today’s requirements and desires, and find ways to implement into what you do. Most people don’t truly want the CD IF you give them products they really want – they’re just programmed to ask for it.