Posing people can be one of the most challenging aspects of portrait photography. In my experience most subjects awkwardly await direction, when what I want is for them to interact naturally so I can capture their love and connection.
So they need some direction. But I’m not talking about awkward, stiff poses that you’d never see a person doing in their every day life.
There are a whole bunch of poses and prompts you can use that will naturally draw out real emotion and spontaneous moments. In turn, their connection and love will be revealed, giving you the opportunity for many varied shots of the same set up.
So we’ve put together 20 of our favourite unposed poses that will do all of the above, and they look great too!
This one is a no brainer, sure… but there are so many variations on the hug, and so many ways to frame it! Framed front on you can capture their facial expressions.
You can photograph it from behind to focus on arms encircled around the back, fingers entwined.
Or little fingers…
Moments like this will naturally follow when you encourage family to hug… quickly capture a few different frames, including getting in tight and close.
In this position ask the partner behind to nuzzle their partner’s neck, or whisper something naughty in their ear, or touch nose to cheek. It makes a big difference if the person in front responds by raising their hands to connect with their partner’s encircled arms.
Shoot side on and ask your subject positioned behind to rest his or her face forward on their partner’s back and look toward camera.
This one is especially great for conveying affection and love, especially as it puts a parent and child in a position where they can very easily interact.
Photo Tip: A long lens is great for shots like this, as it enables you to really step back so your subjects can forget about the camera, and moments will unfold more easily. As a bonus, a long lens will compress your background, giving your gorgeous background blur.
A great one for kids because it’s so playful to begin with they won’t help but giggle and you’ll get some fabulous expressions and moments.
Needs no explanation really. However there are so many different variations on this… the forehead kiss, the tip of the nose kiss, subject looking at camera while being kissed, the holding hands and leaning in for a kiss…
I could keep going but I’ll share my vision in images instead!
Photo Tip: There are so many different photos that can be achieved from one simple pose just by varying your framing. Zoom in to frame close; use a wide lens to include the environment whilst still being fairly close to your subjects (eg. 35mm); step back and include their whole body, clasped hands, fingers entwined.
Ask couples to touch noses.
What I love about this one is it never fails to make them laugh, and spontaneous moments you can’t plan will naturally follow, so make sure you’re ready to capture them!
I love this pose because it’s a more casual version of everyone lined up for the camera.
Related: How to Focus in Larger Groups
Stand up and shoot down on a seated family. As well as being a variation on the wide shot, it’s a perspective that lends itself perfectly to candid moments between family members.
If you’re height challenged, you might need a chair or a small step ladder… just be careful! (I’m afraid of heights and really clumsy so I get jelly legs just thinking about it!).
Ask a couple to do this, and you’re guaranteed natural laughter will ensue.
Tech Tip: Watch your angles – this shot is best taken side on.
If legs are pointing directly toward the lens and you’re shooting with a wide angle lens, it will distort the size of her legs in relation to the rest of her body.
This is another shot that is guaranteed to bring forth joyous squeals of laughter and delight, whether your subjects are kids or adults!
Tech Tip: Try this one from down low to capture their expressions and connection more easily.
Kids particularly love this pose so as a bonus, it’s useful if you have some small reluctant subjects!
Just like the piggy back, kids love this and it brings a lot of fun to the session for them, which is so important for getting real smiles and laughter. Get them to start quite far back from your camera, get your settings ready, then ask them to start moving toward you whilst swinging their little one.
Photo Tip: For this suggestion and the next few where subjects are moving faster or moving towards you, you’ll need a faster shutter speed to freeze their motion, and preferably a continuous auto focus drive mode.
Related: How to Take Fast Action Photos
Another one that (most) kids love and really helps to bring an element of fun to the session is to ask mum or dad to raise them high into the air. Ask them to pause when they get them up there to give you time to capture their expression and focus properly.
Photo Tip: Use a wide angle lens and include lots of negative space for a really impactful shot. Then try it again and get in close and capture those delighted expressions.
For families with small children, ask them to hold their little ones’ hands and walk towards you, and away from you, and to talk to one another.
Ask families with older and at least two children to form a line. Make sure you mix up the heights so it doesn’t look too orderly!
Photo Tip: This pose will be more meaningful in photos if the family are walking and talking to one another, rather than looking directly at you.
Kids love this one, and I find it a great way to start a session because it’s sets the tone for fun immediately, and breaks the ice. And I promise… they.willl.smile.
Try this one for kids and adults alike!
It’s a sure fire way to get people laughing and interacting naturally, and it’s a fantastic shot for a bride and groom.
There’s something so casual and comfortable about sitting or leaning against a wall that will always relax subjects.
There’s a certain age (or rather, size!) when this one becomes difficult! But until then… get mum and dad to pick the kids up, holding them between them.
Make sure mum and dad’s bodies are turned toward one another. You’d made amazed how far that one small thing goes to ensuring you convey connection.
Get down low and capture children with mum or dad’s hands or arms connecting with them.
Try this shot for adults too, to show their love and connection.
This is a fabulous prompt for getting real laughter, and helping families forget about the camera.
One mistake I often see is adults struggling to get kids to smile for photos simply by saying “smile” or “say cheese!”. If you ask for cheese, you’ll get cheese! Instead, engage them with talk, fun, jokes, songs, sillyness.
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