Everybody loves a baby...unless they are screaming in the seat next to you on a cross-country flight. And almost everyone has a baby around the house at one time or another. But beware...babies and children can be like little flowers: way too many images of them to compete with unless the image is exceptional. There is much more to getting great shots of kids than cute smiles. For starters: if you are taking photos of your own children, try to review the resulting images with a non-biased eye. You know that your children are the very best looking and most photogenic in the world but ehhhh, maybe, but not always?
WC Fields most famous saying is, "never work with children or animals". I think I much prefer animals. They come with owners or trainers called wranglers that make them behave. I worked with a wild child in a studio in NYC a couple of years ago. He was so talented that his body couldn't contain his energy. His first remark to me as he entered the studio was to demand to go into makeup at once. A natural born, FIVE-year-old actor and a hyperactive ball of reckless energy. He didn't even exhaust himself running up and down the cyc* for 20 minutes. I'd liked to say we figured out how to contain him but we didn't. All we could do was complete the shots that involved him and let him go early. On the plane back to Seattle after the shoot, I opened a magazine to see a photo of him sitting on the lap of a famous comedian in a spread on American humor. We weren't the only ones to recognize his talent and to put up with his behavior just to get great shots.
Don't plan on shooting children, even your own, for more than 20 minutes at a time without a break. Children have endless curiosity but they get bored easily. Have lots of stuff on hand for them to play with during unavoidable delays. Put them in a studio and they'll run up and down walls to see how far up the cyc they can get. Take them to the beach or a park and they will surely become engaged in something that allows you to capture their facial expressions/emotions. So what to do if they cry? Keep shooting until Mom takes them away.
The unexpected is the norm with kids. I had a call from a desperate photographer who was shooting a RF production involving families with children. His major family had a crisis. Their son had just come down with chicken pox. I told him go for it! And so he has one of the few good shots of a child sick in bed with a very visible condition.
Back to your own children. These are your best models because you see them at their best/worse and they are comfortable around you. But don't be surprised if, after a certain age, your children demand to be paid. It's inevitable.
* A cyc wall (or cyclorama) is a term that describes a curved, seamless wall and floor used as a backdrop. It can be as small as a table or a hundred feet long. Some people call it an "infinity" wall. "Cyc" is pronounced as "sike." (photographytips.com/page.cfm/1594)
Tips: When using children in your images, go for the most natural expressions and emotions that you can capture. Overly posed children look even more unauthentic than adults.
•Doing school work at home
•Helping make cookies or decorating a cake in the kitchen
•Sneaking cookies off a plate
•Eating healthy food
•Portraits of happy or sad faces
•Groups of siblings
•Several children playing outside
•In their room with too many or too little toys/objects
•Science projects or in nature, investigating
•Playing in the rain
•At the beach
•With their pet
•Playing dress up in adult clothes
•Sick in bed
To read about fine art/commercial photographer Jill Greenburg's somewhat controversial project involving crying children go to: http://www.popphoto.com/inamericanphotomagazine/2552/cry-babies.html More tips: http://staticphotography.com/node/100