When this topic of interaction during portrait sittings came up, a flood of memories and events came through my imagination. I am sure some embarrassment flashed across my face as well as a smile or two. I bring this up to say that I am not the best in the world, but I can share with you how important it is to make your customers comfortable and relaxed so that you can capture the pure expression of joy or surprise.
Your customers look forward to comfortable, pleasant and uplifting interaction during the session. The more relaxed, easy to work with and decisive you are, the more trust and loyalty will be built. Trust and loyalty are very important in a portrait session (yes, they place a certain amount of trust in you to have you shoot their portraits, but the lesson is learning how to build further still without betraying the trust already given).
Portraits can be staged “stiffly” and then the customer hears “Say cheese!”; they move their lips up slightly showing some of their pearly whites, but if you and they were relaxed and comfortable just a bit of humor will soften what is left of the nervous tension which every portrait sitting creates (the more you know about your customer the easier it will be to know their style of humor, but it is always advisable to avoid crass jokes). Now breaks across their face of the most gorgeous and wide smiles with a twinkle in their eyes showing the pure enjoyment they unexpectedly received.
One last thought: with children it takes a special joy in the simple things to encourage the response for preservation by photograph. Interaction must not always include speech to produce the desired expression. For instance, in the photo illustration on the right I used a distraction which caught the youngster’s attention. My assistant was standing in the direction I wanted his face to look and when my assistant began juggling the objects it brought a look of wonder and intense concentration. This was just the look I wanted! I hope that you can take my experiences and use them as they can best serve you. Have fun and take care!