Portrait photography of any kind requires a bit of patience and creativity. Not everyone is a model or a celebrity used to doing glamor shots and many of us (myself included) really don’t like having our photos taken. However, with teenagers and adults, the practice of portrait photography is a bit simpler since they can (and will) follow instructions fairly well (on average). However, for young children and babies, the photographer needs a little help in learning just who is really going to run the session.
The most obvious bits of advice from that article at Photography Talk are also the ones I’d like to expand on a bit. It can be a little difficult for adults to get down and act silly with kids that aren’t their own — especially in a more public setting — but it’s very important in helping a young child respond more positively to you. If you have a few toys they can play with — things like building blocks, LEGOs, dolls, puzzles, or other age-appropriate things — then let them play for a bit. That will let the child get used to being in this new place and will give him or her something to concentrate on instead of how nervous or anxious they are. Once the child has started to get comfortable, sit down near them and join in their play. Ask if you can help them build a tower or ask them what they’re building. Listen to them and respond appropriately. Once they’ve gotten used to you and are willing to talk to you without going through their parents (and resist the temptation to direct your comments to the parents or to let the parents answer in place of the child), then you can pull out the camera. Show it to the child and let them “play” with it a bit (don’t let them go hog wild but do let them push a few buttons and turn the knobs. If you can’t remember the settings you were going to use, then photographing kids may not be the biggest problem you have) and take a few of their own pictures.
Once they trust you and they understand what the camera is and why they need to look at it, the session will run much more smoothly. However, do understand that children do not have the stamina that adults possess so if they begin to get tired or bored, a meltdown may happen. Try to get the photos you need as quickly as you can so the child can go back to doing things that are important to him or her.
If you are photographing children too young to talk, then the more time spent playing with them and the more you let them poke and prod at your camera, the better things will go. Take a few “sample” photos with the baby watching you so that they can get used to hearing the shutter and any other noises the camera makes (such as the flash queuing up). The more accustomed to the camera they are, the less likely they are to become nervous.
— da Bird