There was a time when family members would cringe at the idea of getting the gang together for a professional photo. Thankfully, family portraits don’t have to be boring, stiff, or cringe-worthy at all. Family photos can be beautiful, lighthearted, and full of personality; an event that the entire family will look forward to being a part of.
Family photo poses will generally fall into three categories: standing, seated, and action. Of course, you can mix elements of each into a single composition, too. In this article, you’ll discover ideas for posing families in a variety of fresh and fun new ways.
Combine them with composition techniques that create balance and visual appeal. Be mindful of leading lines and patterns that can draw the eye away from the family. Make careful use of framing, horizon lines, and negative space to allow the family to remain the focus of your images.
Table of contents
- Standing Family Poses
- Seated Poses
- Action Poses
- More Ideas & Inspiration
- Final Thoughts
Standing Family Poses
When posing families, it’s often easiest to start with standing shots as it will feel relatively natural for your clients. As with any portrait, you’ll need to balance having your subjects look comfortable while arranging them in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing.
A classic standing group shot is commonly used in family photography. But, classic doesn’t have to mean boring! Rather than having family members stand in a row, facing forward, encourage them to angle their bodies. Arrange family members in a way that creates visual balance. This pose works well with family members of varying heights and ages, giving you lots of opportunities to experiment with creating interesting shapes.
If you’re photographing a family that are generally similar in height, a side-by-side line-up can make for a compelling image. You’ll want to avoid the stiff, square-shouldered, straight-legged line-up, however. Have family members angle their bodies slightly, bend a knee, put a hand on a hip, or cross their ankles to make themselves look more natural and comfortable.
Make it more interesting by walking around the family and photographing from different, unexpected angles.
Show Some Love
Capturing a family embrace, a kiss on the cheek or a loving touch can add impact and interest to a family photo. In a more natural portrait, it’s not necessary for everyone to face the camera. When shooting smaller families, have Mom and Dad face each other with their children in-between them then have them lean in for a group hug.
Family photos can be fun! Goofy faces, outstretched arms, silly body language, and genuine laughter are great ways for family members’ individual personalities to shine though. When you’ve posed the family in a visually appealing way, ask them to do something silly. Sometimes the candid shots end up being the family favorite. But, even when it’s not the look they’re going for, the act alone will help your subjects loosen up and feel more comfortable in front of the camera.
This pose also provides a perfect opportunity to capture a jumping shot.
Although it may seem tricky to pose a family for a seated photo, in many ways it’s actually easier to create more interesting shapes and composition. Whether shooting a large family or a small group, you’ll use the same composition techniques like building shapes, using leading lines, and creating visual balance.
With a seated family, this can be done using chairs of varying heights, having smaller family members sit on laps, or having them lean into one another for the shot.
Like the classic standing photo, family members are all looking toward the lens. But, rather than just sitting and facing forward, ask them to lean in or put their arms around each other.
Avoid creating lines that lead the eye away from the family by making sure everyone’s legs in the forefront of the image aren’t perfectly aligned with each other.
You can create a heartfelt photo by asking family members to cuddle up for their pose. Cropped-in closely, your subject’s affection for one another will be the focus of this sweet family photograph.
An adorable idea for families with small children, posing on the grass evokes a sense of adventure and togetherness. With Mom and Dad seated with their legs crossed, small kids can lean-in, hug, and even climb on their laps.
To get this shot, you’ll need to get down to ground level, too.
The Train Pose
For this intimate seated pose, you’ll ask family members to sit in front of one another rather than side-by-side. If you shoot a family train from the front, use a narrow aperture. This will ensure everyone on different focal planes is in focus.
Or, with the family in position, move around and shoot from different vantage points to capture attractive shapes and interesting lighting.
Although action photography is a genre entirely of its own, aspects of capturing people in motion can be combined with thoughtful posing to create captivating family photos. Many times, a family that’s moving will create their own poses.
However, as the photographer, you’ll need to give some guidance to capture an image they’ll treasure.
Go For A Walk
Position the family in a line up that creates a visually attractive composition then ask the family to start walking. You can create beautiful images with this pose shot from a variety of angles—with the family walking toward you, away from you, or across your line of sight.
If the family includes young kids, encourage them to swing to add an element of fun.
It can also be fun to capture a family activity for their portrait. Family game night, baking cookies together in the kitchen, or a child’s first bike ride without the training wheels, can all be captured in a family photo.
As these are portraiture and not simply candid shots, remember to position your subjects for composition and use elements of the environment to frame and lead the eye to your subject.
More Ideas & Inspiration
The importance of the right pose for a family photo can’t be underestimated. However, the most meaningful family photos often don’t look posed at all.
Effective family photographers are skilled at quickly creating visually appealing compositions by appropriately posing their subjects. Then, they use these tricks of the trade to create heirloom-worthy shots.
Ask the family to interact
Put a fresh twist on the traditional family portrait by asking the family to interact with one another instead of simply facing forward and smiling for the camera. A family photo should not just capture a group of individuals, but should convey closeness and familiarity.
Interactions don’t have to be complex. They can be as simple as asking the family to lean in close enough that they’re touching.
Give prompts to capture authenticity
While you’ll want to position your subjects in the most impactful way, rather than telling them exactly how to pose their bodies or what facial expression to emote, give them prompts and capture what happens naturally.
If you want to capture everyone looking at Dad, for example, say, “look at the person that snores the loudest.” Or, capture genuine laughter with, “look at the family member who tells the worst jokes.”
Let your photo tell a story
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a family photo speaks volumes. Find out what your clients want to say about themselves and tell that story through your image.
Change your perspective
Try taking shots from interesting angles and points of view, too. Shoot from above, below, or through a window or doorway to add interest to your images. Sometimes repositioning yourself, rather than your subjects, can turn an otherwise boring shot into a captivating image.
Include the family pets
When shooting a family photo, consider including pets. They are part of the family, after all. As an added bonus, family members will generally feel much more comfortable and at ease in front of the camera when Fifi or Fido are in the shot.
No two families are the same. As such, no single pose will work for every family photo session. Remember to incorporate composition techniques for visual appeal, then use the pose ideas and tips above to capture meaningful photos of the unique family you’re photographing.