Never work with children or animals is the famous quote but if you make the shoot fun and don't leave them sitting around for too long, shoots with kids can go smoothly and produce great results.
Photo by Daniel Bell.
You may find a prime more useful than a zoom lens when photographing children as you need to be quick and by the time you've zoomed in and focused they'll have ran out of the frame. With a prime all you need to worry about is the focusing.
It's important to meet the family first so you can have a chat with the children so they get used to you and feel comfortable with you being there. Children are usually shy with strangers, but after fifteen minutes they soon loosen up.
Children are unpredictable so if you can plan at least one part of the shoot it helps! Also, it's important to discuss with the parents what type of style they want before you start taking photographs. Just remember clothes with graphics and writing don't work well. Have a selection of dressing up costumes to hand too as they're always fun and create adorable images.
Children are all about fun and playfulness, if you try to be too serious and take the whole shoot too seriously the child will pick up on it, there's nothing worse than a stressed photographer trying to get excitable children to comply. Children are more likely to be happy to carry on being photographed if they are having fun and enjoying it. Nobody likes doing something they find boring, especially children. Having an affinity with children really helps, you need to be fun and jolly and make them laugh, they'll be happy to pose for you then.
It's nice to get a child to pose and smile for the camera but it's also lovely to capture those moments when they are just being themselves and unaware of the camera. Each style has it's own charms.
Using props can also keep them entertained and if left to their own devices children often come up with far more imaginative uses for them than you'll ever think of! Keep an eye out at car boots and in charity shops for cheap, interesting props. Everything from suitcases to tin toys work well. Lollies, sticks of rock and balloons are great props which will be greatly appreciated.
Get down to the child's eye level as shooting from your point of view will foreshorten the whole of the child's body. For extra impact shoot from ground level looking up to add a whole new dimension and feeling to the photograph. This works really well with bright, fun, action shots.