Involved and Enthused Is The Best.

Cute Baby! As I've stressed before, the success of a photo shoot depends a lot on parental participation. Parents know how to get their baby to smile way better than I. When both parents, like this couple, are totally immersed and having fun at the shoot, it makes a huge difference. Way more baby smiles.
Oh! Is that that a Justin Bieber baby below?

I think participation is more often difficult for some fathers; men are less likely to feel at ease in front of a camera than women. Except - interestingly, men of Asian heritage - they all seem relatively comfortable with having their pic taken. Is it because people of Asian ethnicity are more likely to have had a lot of cameras around while growing up? Is it because I'm Asian American? What are my population sample sizes and how do I quantify discomfort? I don't know. This is just an observation.

Anyways, sometimes during the shoot, some fathers decide it's time to check their blackberry/iphone/mobile device. For extended periods. I'm not sure what they're doing - most likely this is a distraction behavior to make them forget that they are uncomfortable. Other common dad distraction behaviors: watching TV (at home shoots), complaining that the light is too bright, the spot they're sitting on is uncomfortable, the grass is damp; volunteering to watch the kid and following the kid 400 yards away from shoot site before making (weak) attempts to herd the kid back to home base; constantly asking their wife "How should we pose? What should we do next?" instead of asking me directly, or speaking as if I'm not actually there: "What does she want us to do?" Gosh, I'm just a human being - it's weird to feel that wielding a big camera makes me a scary person.

I do what I can to make people feel comfortable. Camera shy is one thing - I can encourage activities: put kid on shoulders! toss kid in air! chase kid around tree! and get good candid photos. Lack of enthusiasm - there's not much I can do. For some fathers, no matter what,  it seems that a family photoshoot is like enduring the opera (speaking stereotypically of course). I'd say about 10% of fathers are like this, which is a minority (whew).
Well, all this makes me really appreciate those couples were both parents are involved and enthused.