Photographing infants and children can either be really painful and frustrating, or incredibly fun and rewarding. It depends entirely on the child. I kid, sort of. It's what you make of it and how you treat the moment. Children are fast, sometimes moody, sometimes hyper and nearly always think they know what you want them to do when you turn the camera on them. Either run, or crack that huge fake camera smile that they've been taught to do for their school photographs.
Don't force a smile. If the child doesn't want to smile, don't make them. You'll end up with the fake smile. However having said that, you can try and be funny, but again don't push it. They're smarter than many give them credit for. If you're not getting a smile but you're getting a rude funny face, then accept it. Those sorts of shots can be awesome as well.
Learn to accept imperfections. Whether the children are strangers to you or not, you can't have it perfect all of the time. Messy hair, dirty clothes, scrunched up faces are all the epitome of childhood and should be captured wholly in their natural state.
Don't ask for Cheese. Only yesterday I had a group of people stood posing for their photograph and I simply said, "Smile"
- and at least half of them said, "Cheeeeese"
. It's an automatic annoying thing these days, find a way around it. Cut out the cheese!
Honestly your biggest issue when photographing infants and/or children is the parents. You need to keep them under control. They shouldn't be barking orders for their kid to pose, smile or stand up straight. That's your job, and you need to take it on your chin and deal with it. Parents can ruin a shot, you don't want that.
Allow your subjects to explore their area and if you need to get posed shots, treat it as a warmup. Find out what colours work best behind them whilst they look around and get the mystery side of it out of their systems. That way when it comes to time to calm down and stand still, they are a little (tiny bit, miniscule bit) more ready than they were at the start.
Most importantly remember that there is no right or wrong way. These are and always will be just tips. You need to get out there, do it yourself and find out what works best. Come back to this article and let me know so I can expand on it for evermore!