A few days ago I was at a public parade and a young family was there and the dad was working the camera phone to photograph their time there. Within a 15 minute time frame I heard him tell his wife and young daughter three times to turn around and smile, which they did but by the time the third time rolled around you could tell they were annoyed. The daughter started acting out, it was late and she was tired, maybe even hungry and she wanted to be left alone yet she wanted to be held, nothing could console her...you know, the toddler as well as the menstruating adult female thing. They left shortly after the parade began. Kids do this from time to time, it's normal but I wanted to give a thought on this moment and reflect on what could have been done differently to prolong or avoid this trigger which caused her meltdown.
I've said this before and I'll say it again now, I'm a firm believer in adjusting your approach based on the child's individual personality. Not everyone will agree with that but honestly if you want decent pictures to remember the time spent at the parade and not fake smiles that are worthy of forgetting...you'll adjust and adapt. Kids may reluctantly smile if you push them to, especially the older ones but they'll be fake and that's not the kids fault at all, it's yours. Think psychologically how children respond to what's around them and anticipate. Will every photo be a winner? no. Will you take too many pictures? probably. Will you be bored of waiting for the moment? most likely until you get in more practice and get better at anticipating...but good photos don't magically happen nor do they happen by demand. They're set up or anticipated.
So how do you set it up without making demands? Well, you know your kid best, what do they like? what will make them laugh? What if you pointed the camera at them and sang their favorite cartoon's theme song joyfully? They'd probably smile and join in. What if you played peek a boo with them? They'd laugh with glee once your face is revealed. Why is this? Because they're having FUN. If you have older kids then alter it by telling a ridiculous joke that'll make them say "really? are you kidding me right now?" and catch that facial expression. It's truly a hilarious expression to capture, well at least for the adults. Or if you have a teenager, maybe get them talking about their friends or boyfriend. In other words, interact with them.
How do you anticipate? Again, you know your kid best but for an example... let's say a loved one is holding your toddler and you know they're terrified of clowns and you spot those clowns walking down the street (this was a Halloween parade). In this case, you know your toddler will probably snuggle up into the loved one and hide, you can also bet that loved one is going to comfort the toddler. Point your camera in their direction and be ready for the moment. Your child's fear will make for a cute photo op, as mean as that sounds. You could also anticipate by getting behind them and capture them enjoying the parade (or whatever they're watching). Ask yourself, "what do I want to remember?"
These are only a few examples on things to watch for and set up but just remember that one "everybody smile and say cheese" picture is okay but we want our kids to be happy and enjoy the experience. We also want our pictures to reflect that ;)
Are the photos below perfect? No. But I can tie them to an exact memory so I'd be ecstatic to have them come up in my memories on Facebook.