When a family first enquires about a photoshoot I arrange a phone conversation so that we may discuss what they are looking for and so I may get to know the family a little.
I also explain to the parents that they are part of my photoshoot team. On the day of the photoshoot I will lead the team (I once worked as a project manager), I decide the best spots for photos in their chosen location, I suggest games and activities but I also look for help from the parents at specific times.
When I am taking photos of one parent with the children, I ask the other parent to stand behind me and help me to make the children laugh. The sillier the parent acts the better the laughs and the better the photos. For older children (who have started to feel that maybe their parents don't know everything or indeed anything) sometimes a sibling is better off in this role than a parent!
On occasion though I meet a child who needs me to relinquish my role as leader of the photoshoot team. Some children’s nature is such that playing games with and having photos taken by a complete stranger is not something they will find enjoyable. For these children I change my approach and one of the parents directs the activities on the day.
With this girl, her mum and I had decided in advance of this photoshoot that the best approach would be for me to work from a distance, at least initially. The mum took on the leader role and I took the photos with a long lens so that I wouldn’t intrude on the family's space.
These types of photoshoots often end up being among my favourites, partly because the photoshoots are a little more technically challenging but mostly because of the reaction of the parents when they get to see the photos. In this case the mum did such an amazing job during the photoshoot that we ended up with photos even I wasn't sure we were going to get.