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Feb 2021

The Quick Guide to Family Photo Poses

10 min read

These easy, natural family photo poses will help you take great pictures of every family. Great for full shoots or mini sessions!

The simplest series of family portrait poses EVER

Search the Internet for “family portrait posing” and you’ll find sun-kissed photos of smiling families in immaculate outfits.

The reality of family portrait photography is often far less magical—and much more stressful! Parents are high-strung, children are nap-deprived, and the family dog keeps turning his tush toward the camera.

Does this sound familiar?

We’re here to help! Keep reading…

A little girl stands on a sidewalk with her shoes on the ground behind her. She is crying.

Arwan Sutanto

“Stroll. Stand. Sit.”

The best family posing often doesn’t look posed at all! In fact, these beautiful poses are recreations of real-life interactions. You only need to learn one simple phrase: stroll, stand, sit.

No matter where you’re shooting or who you’re photographing, this series works. It’s a simple approach to portraiture for both small and large groups of every age.

Within each of these Stroll, Stand, Sit categories, you’ll find bonus posing ideas as well as our must-have tips for family photo sessions.

The Rule of 6: photograph every pose six ways

  • full-length landscape (horizontal)
  • full-length portrait (vertical)
  • mid-length landscape
  • mid-length portrait
  • close-up landscape
  • close-up portrait

This will maximize your clients’ options when they’re choosing which pictures to print from their photo shoot!

Nyejah Bolds shoots family photo poses for 3 like this one, with a mom, dad, and toddler strolling through the desert.

Nyejah Bolds Photography

Stroll poses

Walking (or strolling) poses are the perfect way to start when photographing a family.

Why? Because it helps burn off nervous energy and keeps young ones from getting bored too quickly!

Unique images from this series: 24

#1: “One, two, three, jump!”

This pose is great for mobile kids! Instruct the family to take three steps then ::pause:: so the kiddo can jump into the air as the parents smile and watch. Don’t tell parents to lift or swing their young children by the hands; their developing shoulders can get harmed.

#2: Run ahead

An excellent pose for mobile kids! While the parents walk slowly, invite the kids to hold hands and skip ahead. You can get some great depth of field in this gently posed portrait.

Mariah Gale Creative photographs family photo poses like this, with a family of four picking apples in an orchard.

Mariah Gale Creative

#3: Walk and talk

We love this pose for families with babies, tweens, and teens! If the kids aren’t feeling the whole photo thing, guide the group to just stroll along slowly, side-by-side. Tell them, “Look anywhere but at me!” You may want to encourage the most extroverted person in the group to tell their silliest joke or funniest story.

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#4: Piggy-back rides

A fun pose with siblings! If one sibling is bigger than another, you can ask if the older child can carry the younger one in a piggy-back ride. If the kids aren’t quite old enough (or steady enough) for that move, they’ll definitely love getting piggy-back rides from their parents.

Nyejah Bolds photographs family photo poses like these, where a dad holds his toddler song aloft toward the sky

Nyejah Bolds Photography

Stand poses

Standing poses happen naturally after any strolling pose.

Why? Because it takes only seconds to say, “Now stop right there and smile/snuggle/high-five!”

Unique images from this series: 12

#1: The 360

This pose is yours as much as your clients’! Ask the family to snuggle close while standing. Everyone should be touching someone. Now you take a slow, 360-degree walk around your clients, and look for unexpected light and angles. 

#2: Sweet kisses

We love the connection this pose creates! Encourage young kids to kiss their parent’s cheek, and vice versa. Or catch some great reactions by telling a mom or dad to surprise their older kid with a big, embarrassing kiss on the head.

Mariah Gale Creative photographs family photo poses like these, where one little girls gives her mom a kiss, and another daughter feeds her dad an apple.

Mariah Gale Creative

Sit poses

Seated poses are the most inclusive family photo ideas.

Why? Because they’re great for all ages and abilities!

Unique images from this series: 24

#1: Cozy couches and beautiful blankets

If you can drag a cool-looking sofa outside, you’ll have made that family’s favorite photo! But you don’t need a massive piece of furniture to create iconic family portraits. These are some great alternatives:

  • big, fluffy blankets that complement the family’s wardrobe
  • lightweight chairs
  • colorful ottomans
  • footstools or barstools

#2: Animal friends

Dogs, cats, lizards, llamas: they’re part of the family, too! And it’s easiest to get a photo of Doggo’s face if she’s sitting close to her forever family, getting pets and scratches.

Mariah Gale Creative shoots creative family photo poses like this one, with a vintage sofa holding a smiling family as two large horses stand behind them.

Mariah Gale Creative

#3: Lying down

Guide everyone to lie down on their backs and form a circle with their heads together and their legs outstretched. You’ll shoot these family photographs from above, with the brilliant grass or textured ground as a backdrop. (A step-ladder might be necessary!)

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#4: The little things

Move in close for some sweet detail shots and more intimate portraits. Focus on faces, hands, and even that sweet curl on the baby’s forehead. Tight crops like these tend to get lots of likes on social media—you know, if you’re into that sort of thing. 

Nyejah Bolds shoots family poses with baby like this one, with a family of three smiling in their orange-gold outfits that stand out against the white desert sand.

Nyejah Bolds Photography

#ShootProofPRO Tips for family portrait sessions

You have your family picture poses down; let’s not ruin them with bad backgrounds or icky lighting!

Here’s what you should remember when photographing families:

Clint Barget shoots mom and son family photo poses like this simple shot, with a mom holding her young son in her arms.

Clint Bargen

Stick to open shade

Open shade is that lovely, gentle light you find in the shade of a massive tree or on the sun-free side of a building. Shoot during the golden hours and your job will be even easier!

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Scout a beautiful background

Cars, joggers, street signs, trash bins: when you shoot outside, you have to watch for elements that will distract from your subjects. Scout ahead to find accessible locations with beautiful spots for pictures.

Mariah Gale Creative shoots family photo poses like this shot of two sisters standing on apple barrels in an orchard while a pony grazes behind them.

Mariah Gale Creative

Get a list of portrait requests

Communicate with your clients ahead of time and find out if they want you to photograph any specific groupings or moments. For example, many families will want:

  • entire family together
  • each parent with the kids
  • kids alone
  • parents alone
  • individual portraits
  • candid moments

You’ll lose your mind if you try to photograph every grouping in every pose. Instead, fit individual groupings in throughout your posing series.

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Know how your clients want to use their photos

Do they want an album? Are they planning to order a large family portrait to display in their home? When you know how your clients will showcase their pictures, you can shoot with that purpose in mind.

Nyejah Bolds shoots family photo poses like these, with a family of three snuggling close in a sandy plain

Nyejah Bolds Photography

Tailor every pose to fit the family

Choose poses that enhance the family’s natural interactions. For example:

  • One kid wants to be held by Mom? Customize your poses with the kiddo in Mom’s arms.
  • Is Dad a lot taller than everyone else? Have him sit on a stool or chair during the standing poses.
  • Does one family member struggles to walk or sit? Eliminate those poses, and build on the poses that will work for everyone.
  • Are there any sensory sensitivities among the family? Find out ahead of time so you don’t pressure anyone to hug or touch if that will make them uncomfortable.
  • When photographing large families, mix sitting and standing poses so everyone’s face can be seen.
Clint Bargen makes family photo poses like this one, where the two young sons are photographed close-up standing against their parents' legs.

Clint Bargen

Happy clients are your ideal clients

Ask yourself this:

How can I help my clients see themselves the way their loved ones see them?

When you deliver a joy-filled client experience plus beautiful family photography, your clients will come back to you again and again. So keep making images and telling stories like only you can!

Mariah Gale Creative shoots family of 4 photo poses like this one, where the family sits close together on a vintage sofa and smile at the camera.

Mariah Gale Creative



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