Yep, we’re talking family photo posing ideas! And amazing pictures your clients will cherish for years to come!
This guide will give you the best family portrait poses, tips and compositional guidelines. So join us today to find out everything you need to capture beautiful family portraits, with engaging compositions.
Do you feel like you have mastered the basics of photography? Are you ready to take the next step and become a great lifestyle family photographer?
If you wish to take your photos to the next level, we recommend that you pay close attention to posing details and capturing the best moments. Now, let’s take your family photos to a more professional level!
When we pose family members standing, they tend to all turn toward the lens with arms at their side.
Why not better connect them in interesting ways. It could be leaning on one another with arms around their waists, heads on shoulders or heads in laps. Small children can wrap their arms around mum or dad’s legs.
For naturally looking family portrait poses, not everyone needs to be facing the camera – mix it up by asking the little ones to turn and hug mum or dad’s belly, or leg.
Having them leaning against something is a really easy way to get them all to relax. It’s also great for mixing up the poses.
It can be tricky working out how to seat a large family without positioning them side by side (boring!).
So how to pose them then?
By using shape and lines! In this shot below, mum and her two girls form a triangle. Those diagonal lines create a visually strong image.
Similarly, check out all the diagonal lines formed by the varied positions in this shot below. It’s sooo much more interesting than if they were seated side by side on the grass. And, it’s also going a long way to convey connection and love.
You can get a load of family portrait poses variety from this one position:
Sometimes you can’t avoid positioning subjects side by side, eg. in this shot below where they were seated on a fence. But you can easily elevate your portrait session by getting them in close together and prompting them to put their arms around one another.
Dig deep and find your inner child. Be silly and engage them to draw out natural smiles and laughter.
Related: 10 Ways to Get Real Smiles From Kids
For the best portrait poses, throw the family in a pile (not literally, please!). Ask them to play, tickle, and do whatever they would normally when they’re trying to get their children to laugh. Then stand above them and shoot down.
Whilst you’ve got them there, move all around them to capture close ups of details, wide shots, head shots, hands holding… everything! Then step back and get a wide shot for a beautifully candid and unposed family photo.
This way, you can get tonnes of variety in your compositions without needing to move them, and it’s another interesting way to pose.
When shooting family portrait poses, you’ll convey connection far better when subjects are encouraged to turn their bodies toward one another rather than your lens.
Unless you’re trying this beautiful pose! It’s important to note dad’s head resting on his wife’s head may seem a small thing. But this makes all the difference between a more formal pose and one with lots of love and connection.
Avoid awkward, lifeless family photos and capture natural connections instead by prompting interactions. Ask your subjects to turn toward one another and suggest kisses, tickles and games. Singing and playing can draw out playfulness.
Bring children up to the height of their parents by asking them to pick them up and snuggle them close.
A great way to add some variety to your family portrait poses gallery is to take a break from posing and photograph kids and parents playing. Make sure you have a fast shutter speed to capture all of the best moments.
The bonus of doing this is breaking up the session with some fun stuff which makes it much easier to keep the kids invested and happy!
Related: How to Take Action Shots
Avoid poses where adults are standing and small children appear much lower in the frame. That difference in heights makes it much harder for families to connect. As a result, there will be no emotion for you to capture. It also forces you to shoot much wider to get everyone in.
Instead, ask adults to get down to their children’s level. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes to their interactions.
…or bring them up to their parent’s height!
That being said, don’t completely rule out everyone standing at the same height… because you can take shots like this. Note how dad’s arms and hands acting to beautifully framing her face.
Or this gorgeous family portrait pose shot, which cleverly conveys the love and protection for this little girl. And all the expressivity, without even showing her family’s faces.
Or this one which captures the cheeky playfulness of these boys, and the unique dynamic of their family.
Avoid big gaps between your subjects, whilst at the same time ensuring they don’t look too squashed together… unless you’re shooting a group hug, in which case all bets are off! Squish them up!
When shooting family portraits, avoid creating straight lines with head heights (eg. shortest to tallest or vice versa), at all costs. You’ll create a much stronger image by mixing up head heights, and thereby adding levels.
For something really stunning, the kind of wall-worthy family photography that makes everyone say “wow!!”, try a sunset silhouette.
You’ll need to use the natural light that comes around sunset or sunrise. Also, there are some key technical and compositional aspects you’ll need to consider to nail it. Luckily, we have a silhouette tutorial we prepared earlier, which includes settings you need and what to focus on.
Related Post: How to Shoot a Sunset Silhouette
I touched on shape and lines earlier in relation to seated subjects. But it goes deeper than that.
For me, posing has three important functions – composition, connection and meaning.
Using shapes in our family photo poses is an easy way to create strong compositions that convey connections.
We can easily create connections between our subjects (both environmental and emotional) by bringing them together physically. But try to also incorporate shapes in how you pose your groups together.
Use strong shapes to enhance composition of family portraits.
Ok so now that you have some fabulous family portrait poses ideas to try, let’s look at other considerations that will make the difference between snapshots and professional portraits.
We always talk about the huge difference light makes to an image. When looking for how to shoot family portraits outdoors, it’s best to look for soft light. This type of light creates the most flattering photos.
You can recognize soft light by the absence of strong harsh shadows. Have a look outside at different times throughout the day. Watch how the shadows change from early morning to middle of the day, when the bright sun is at its highest.
Soft light is the most flattering for family portrait photography, and it’s easy to find! Head outside very early or late in the day, when the sun is low in the sky. Or simply find some shade!
It can be open shaded areas such as doorways, porches, or garage doors. It can also be the shade of a tree (but make sure you don’t get any dappled light on your subjects faces). All these locations are perfect for taking portraits and will make a huge difference to your shots!
I love shooting in my shaded patio entrance to my front door.
When considering your location, firstly choose it with light in mind. Remember all of the above, right?
Secondly consider comfort. I don’t just mean physical comfort although that’s very important too. But if your subjects are physically uncomfortable, they’ll also look uncomfortable in their photos. It will be harder to engage them, and you’ll probably lose the kids pretty quickly!
I’m talking about a relaxed location which will make for a relaxed family. That always shows in photos too! So think of places where they would normally chill out or have fun.
Some places I love to shoot families include:
Remember that any clutter in the background of your shot will detract from the main subject, and turn your portrait into a snapshot.
Clutter means anything that doesn’t need to be in the frame. When shooting family portrait poses outdoors, look for parked cars, poles, rubbish bins or people in the distance, behind your subject. Also, watch out for the dappled light that can be caused by trees. If you can’t move the item, move your subject. You can also reposition yourself so that you can frame it out or blur it into insignificance.
When your location is indoors, clutter might come in the form of stray toys, a basket of laundry, or a pile of newspapers.
Related: Clear the Clutter
Once you’ve chosen your location for family photography, take a moment to look around for any items that need to be moved in the area, and move them. Or adjust your subjects accordingly.
A plain wall can be great and totally free of clutter. But finding a place with a little more interest will provide a more natural and interesting image!
I love local parks and gardens for natural and beautiful portraits that are vastly clutter-free!
My motto is to keep it simple. I try to keep colours neutral and my styling simple by removing clutter and any elements that don’t need to be in the shot.
For example when shooting on beds, a busy, brightly coloured bed covered with multiple cushions can be busy and distracting. It may work wonderfully if you’re looking for a busy crazy, fun and exuberant image, or if it suits the family’s personality.
But otherwise, a white or neutral coloured bedding helps ensure the subject is the main focus.
When shooting outdoors in nature locations such as parks, gardens and beaches, look for spots where the background is simple.
Or fill the frame with foliage and get terrific bokeh!
Related: How to Take Bokeh Photos
When shooting family portrait poses on a beach, open shade is rare. So, you’ll either be wanting an overcast day when the sun is filtered through clouds, or you’ll need to shoot during the golden hours of the day. That’s the 1-2 hours before sunset or after sunrise.
Related: Shooting in the Golden Hour
Too many patterns and colors on the subjects’ clothing can distract and is a form of clutter in photos.
Aim to keep outfits simple with classic patterns such as stripes, spots and checks. You can also do that by ensuring a good mix of solids and patterns (more solids than patterns). Look for outfits that compliment one another in varying tones within a color family, without being matchy-matchy in a cheesy way.
Framing our subjects using the environment or the architecture is a great way to draw your viewers eye directly to the subject. It will also create an impactful composition.
Consider your lenses if you have more than one to choose from. Wide angle lenses will elongate limbs and flatten faces, leading to a cartoonish look when photographed up close.
Whereas longer focal lengths compress the background, enhance the bokeh effect and will help your subjects pop beautifully from the background.
Related: How Lenses Affect Portraits
If shooting photography outside, make the most of this effect by selecting your longest focal length and ensuring a good distance between your subject and the background. For best effect, open up your aperture.
As an ex, this image was taken with my favourite lens, a Canon 135mm f/2.
And a final word now. Being a professional photographer is more than a business. It’s an insight into your clients’ life and stories, and an opportunity to experience their special moments.
Treat every one of these opportunities with care, and create moments for them they will never forget!
Are you using your DSLR in manual mode but you’ve reached a plateau in your skills? Our Advanced Photography Course will lead you out of your comfort zone and go deeper on your technical mastery, advance your understanding of light, the intricacies of exposure, expand your creativity and more! Join our wait list to hear about it first!