I absolutely love when I can capture close-up portraits of children. Some children are nervous with a camera in their face while other children use this chance to goof off. I happen to have both kinds of children in my own family.
My oldest and youngest love attention and really love seeing their face on the back of the camera. My middle guy is the quieter one; he lets me capture photos of him absorbed in an activity but does not usually sit for a formal portrait.
When I do have the opportunity to take some "formal" portraits of children, I usually ask them a silly question or suggest a goofy scenario. This lights up their imagination and it just shines through their eyes and face. Sometimes I'll even ask them to show me all sorts of kinds of faces, from excited to sad, scared to happy. In the photo below, I asked my girl to show me a few "excited" faces.
In this photo, I simply asked my boy to show me several "faces" including his crying face. I really liked the balance with the rain cloud on the pillow behind him.
Sometimes when I create a portrait of a child, I don't even need to capture their entire face to really get their personality. I don't even know what my little guy is doing in this photo, but I love the mystery.
Portrait photography needs two vital components: an awesome personality and great light. The personality part is a natural for kids. They can't help but be their awesome selves. The great light is also found almost anywhere, including a hallway (lower left photo) or a bathroom (lower right photo). I drive my family crazy sometimes when we're out walking and I just stop. It's usually because I see an interesting light pattern on the ground and I must know what created it.
Portraits also don't always need to be made sitting down. Some of my favorite portraits of my own children are the quick action shots that I have to nail in a split-second such as when he's running towards me in a tiny tunnel or swinging in a hammock or even taking an evening walk through The Claremont Colleges.
Childhood portraits are such a natural component of my family lifestyle sessions. I love to tell the story of childhood from the point of view of these little humans. Candid and formal images are necessary to fully tell that story.