Spring sessions will soon be upon us. Some friendly advice from a family photographer who is also raising one of those small children about whom nice people say things like "she's going to be a great leader someday, though" and "she has such a strong personality!"
Don't let them know you're afraid on the day of your session. Play your cards close. Tell them you're going to the park, and you might meet up with a friend who has a big camera she wants to show you. Then play with them like I'm not there. If you beg, bribe, or threaten them to behave well, they'll smell your desperation immediately. They'll see you reeeeeallly want them to smile for the camera but, since you can't hold the ends of their mouth up and still take nice photos, they have ALL the power.... For a solid hour. As your tension builds, so does theirs; and so does their understanding of the hostage situation they're enjoying.
I have played this game, my friends. No one wins. No one.
If, in a session, you find yourself at the mercy of a small child who is often described as "strong-willed," the only thing I can tell you to do is laugh. Even if you are fuming inside, even if you've already made a mental note to never give them ice cream again, and ESPECIALLY if your toddler looks you right in the eye and does the very thing you just told them not to- just laugh. Trust me, they can't tell if it's becoming psychotic. (Just look down at them for those moments, and not straight into the camera- it'll look like a fond gaze and not the woman/man-on- the-edge you really are in that moment.)
And maaaaybe, just maybe, you'll make it from photo #1 (which is still a hilarious Christmas card, imo) to photo #2, the one you can post on Facebook to remind everyone you know that YOUR kids are perfect, precious little angels and your family photo session was, of course, effortless, so this advice was completely unnecessary.