W.C. Fields once said "Never work with animals or children." I disagree. I enjoy working with both and my best results have always been achieved by adhering to one rule. Expect the unexpected. Every child's portrait session is going to be different and that is part of the challenge.
After working with hundreds of children over the years I have developed a workflow that gives me consistent results. One change I made along the way was to stop doing children's portraits in the studio. I shoot on location. Either at the families home or preferably an outdoor location. Children respond better when they are in environments they are comfortable with. Another key to remember is that time is your friend. Many of my favorite portraits are shot in the last 5 minutes of the session.
I do not shoot fast. I would rather give the child the ability to relax and adapt to the environment. It is a large part of getting a natural look. Forcing a child into a portrait position usually ends up with a frustrate child and parent. Many parents become anxious during a session if their child is not cooperating. It is normal for children to bounce around and not sit in one spot. Letting them have fun is part of bringing out their individual personality. Assuring the parent that this is normal makes them more comfortable.
Good results are achieved by working in locations with three or four prime spots and shooting brief sessions at each one. By giving the child time to explore each spot I can read the child's body language and make changes of the type of shots I take. Sometimes working in close with wide wider lens will bring out a child's personality. Other times I will need to hold back and shoot with a longer lens if the child is a bit shy. Portrait photography is about fun! Children are looking for constant feedback from mom and dad. Encouraging parents to have fun with the child during the session leads to much more natural expressions and a relaxed experience for all.