Here are some things that kids and weather in the Midwest have in common:
subject to change on a dime
we need them to cooperate for good photos
they're out of our control
So here's the deal - if we can't control them, then let's work with them. I might not be able to reason with a sudden thunderstorm or a sudden temperature swing of 30 degrees, but I can work with your kiddo and whatever mood they might be in. I've got my tricks and my background in teaching to help me out.
But even if you're going to a session with a photographer who isn't a magician like me (*wink*), here are some things to keep in mind in order to help your photos still go smoothly and turn out beautifully.
DO NOT STRESS. I know that's easier said than done, but stressed out parents stress kids out more, and then things tend to go downhill quickly. Relax. Remember you are working with a professional. Remember that professional knows they're working with a newborn/baby/toddler/kid/teenager and they will [should] be patient.
Know your kid. I know this seems obvious, but here's what I mean: some little ones respond to bribery (a piece of candy, playground time after the photos, a new toy, etc.), but some kids don't. Some kids respond to their parents' stern voices by taking them seriously and doing what they're asked, and some respond by getting emotional (that's my kid!). Some children need time to adjust before opening up, and some will shut down more and more as they're prodded to 'look at the camera and smile!!' You know your kid. Communicate what will work best to your photographer.
Make sure everyone is fed. Your newborn? Always feed them about 20 minutes before a newborn session. Your toddler? Have a full belly but also snacks at the session (but one that won't leave teeth stains). Your teenager and/or husband? Full belly with the promise of more food at the conclusion of the session. This tip never fails.
Model what to do. This one is two-fold, and it's the most important. First, modeling what to do is a great way for your kiddo to know what to do. Show them that you're relaxed, you're having fun, and you trust the photographer, so then they know they can relax, have fun, and trust the photographer. But additionally, if you are posing with your kid/kids and constantly looking down at them, pointing to the camera, saying, "Look at the camera! Smile!", then when they do, you're the one not looking at the camera and smiling. Part of trusting the photographer is trusting that they will be able to get everyone's attention, and you don't need to be the one stressing about that.
This is one of my favorite examples because the parents did EVERYTHING right. They were patient. They trusted me. They let their child be the child they know her to be. And their gallery ended up being a beautiful mix of these hilarious moments that maybe aren't mantle-worthy, but they're real and memorable, and then also these perfectly posed, smiling photos.
First, the moments before/between/after those 'perfect' photos, when (let's be honest) the real memories are made:
And here, the moments when the stars aligned for the 'polished' photos:
Both sets of photos are real. Both are beautiful. And both happened because the parents relaxed, let their little one be who she is, and we all stayed patient until she wanted to participate in photos. Did I mention this was only a 10-minute session and we still made all this happen?! I'm telling you...these tips work.