The first step to having a great photo session with babies or children is to have a consultation ahead of time with the parents. Plan the session at a time the children are well rested and well fed. Be sure they are wearing clothes that fit properly and will cover their diapers even when they are sitting.
Here is my word of warning; be prepared to make a fool of yourself!
1. Start with parents. Have only ONE helper standing immediately behind you, close to the camera lens so even if the baby is looking at the parent, it looks like she's looking at the camera.
Try to get everyone else to be quiet. It's even better if you can get them out of sight. Babies will get overwhelmed if everyone is hollering. Plus the baby will look at them instead of where you want her to look.
2. Give the child something to hold on to and play with that will look good in the picture. Here are some ideas; a gold light up ball, a large shell, a large marble, an old fashioned airplane or sailboat or any other classic looking toy. Stay away from the newer, plastic toys. They don't look as good in a portrait!
3. Have the child build something; a sandcastle, pretty blocks.
4. Play peek-a-boo from behind your camera.
5. Bring plenty of noisemakers. Three squeaks and they tune each sound out. Come prepared with lots of different attention-getters! Learn to make animal noises and funny sounds yourself!
6. Sing ABC or happy birthday. Or ask the parent to sing; remember the ONE parent that is behind you.
7. Props that a child can sit or climb on: For the beach or park, a child sized Adirondack chair will will fit right in. Have little girls sit at a small bistro set and have pretend tea. Child size furniture is getting easier to find.
8. Have your assistant (aka the parent) clap their hands behind you. Babies love to clap!
9. Run toward the baby like you are going to run into them and then back saying WOOOAAAAOOO! This is exhausting but can get great smiles and laughs!
10. Cough like a lunatic. Babies think coughing is funny.
11. Have the parent jostle the child up and down.
12. If you have siblings, have them do something together. Walk, holding hands. Hug. Play patty cake.
These are just a few ideas to coach beautiful smiles out of little children. Do you have any tips? Please share them on our photography forum!