It seems like the new trend for portraits is the non-smiling or, "serious look". I really am liking this style, especially when a child is standing in a field with their hair slightly blowing across their face. I think it gives the portrait an artist feel to it. My youngest daughter is really good at this, so it's very easy to get her to do it.
The norm is to catch children being happy and having fun, but adding some poses that are more of a deep expression might surprise parents-in a good way. But, how do you get them to look natural and not looking like they are frowning?
Get them to loosen up
Play a game with them to let them feel comfortable with you. When I first started, I was always nervous, so I would automatically throw out the poses and start snapping photos right away. BIG MISTAKE. I might get some serious looks, but not the ones that I want. Now, I let them feel safe with me first, then we start.
Do the smiling poses first
Once they feel comfortable with me, I do any fun and easy photos first. Yes, it's easier for me to get them to smile then the non-smiling photos. I can also find out at this time whether they can change their expressions easily or not.
Catch them off guard
Sometimes, the best expressions are in between shots. Usually, a child will wait til asked to give you a smile, so catching them waiting can give you the best shot.
Get rid of the parents
Not really. You can ask parents to let you have some alone time with their child (within in reasonable distance from them) if they are being overwhelming. Parents can have the tendency to get anxious and worried that they won't get the perfect end result of their investment.
Start all over
Wouldn't it be a perfect photography world if every client did what you planned in your head? If you aren't getting the results you want, start from step one and eventually, you will be able read your client enough to catch that pose that the parent will simply melt over and shout, "THAT is so my child!"