Photographing families can be stressful. These simple portrait posing tips will help you take great pictures of even the most chaotic clients! (Photos by CLINT BARGEN)
Search the Internet for “family portrait posing,” and you’ll find sun-kissed photos of smiling families reclining on beaches, strolling through parks, or enjoying unmeltable ice cream cones while their neatly-groomed dog sits sweetly at their feet.
The reality of family photography is often far less magical – and much more stressful! Parents are high-strung and exhausted, children and whiny and nap-deprived, and the family pet is determined to turn only his tush to the camera.
Even with excellent preparation, chaos is an unavoidable fact of photographing families. But these simple portrait posing tips can help you create beautiful family portraits with less stress – and results your clients are sure to love!
Portrait Posing Tip #1: Choose ONE Killer Location
When you’re trying to get five faces focused in your direction, the last thing you should be worrying about is your location. Choose a spot that provides two key features:
Keep It Easy With 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.
Anywhere the light is even and soft, you can shoot your heart out without worrying about light-spots dappling your clients cheeks, harsh sun glaring in their faces, or deep shadows darkening their eyes!
Keep It Simple With A Gorgeous Backdrop
Cars driving by, joggers running past, unwanted street signs: these can all clutter your scene and ruin your photograph.
Sometimes the simplest spots make for the most beautiful shoots. Beautiful portrait posing doesn’t require fields of flowers or massive architectural wonders. Those elements can be fun, but when push comes to shove, choose the location that guarantees the best outcome.
Portrait Posing Tip #2: Groupings > Poses
Kids lose interest in picture-time very quickly. To capture their brightest smiles, you’ll want to work quickly and ask the kiddos to do as little as possible.
One solution is to diminish portrait posing time, and prioritize the specific groupings your clients have requested. For example, let’s assume these clients requested photographs of:
- The entire family together
- Dad with the kids
- Mom with the kids
- The kids alone
- The parents alone
That’s five unique photographs that will require setup. If you add complicated portrait posing to the mix, you’ll quickly burn through whatever energy your kid-clients may have left!
Rather than attempting multiple versions of the family grouping, settle on one comfortable pose of the family, then move on to the next grouping.
PRO TIP: Portrait Posing, Round Two!
If everyone is still in good spirits after you’ve completed the necessary groupings, you can begin the list again with fresh set of poses!
Portrait Posing Tip #3: Keep It Simple
Now that you’re focusing on a single pose for each grouping, you can relax and make your portrait posing truly lovely. Take the time to make sure your subjects look relaxed and natural, and ensure that their faces will all be in focus when you take the shot.
You’ll Love This Easy Portrait Series!
The best family portrait posing often doesn’t look posed at all! These beautiful poses are recreations of real-life interactions. Try this approach:
A: Stroll & Smile
Invite the family to stand in a line, hold hands, and slowly stroll toward you. For a less-posed look, tell them to look at one another instead of at you. (“It’s okay to laugh!”)
B: Stand & Snuggle
At the end of their stroll, ask them to snuggle close. Maybe one or two of the children are little and should be held by the parents. Make slight adjustments as necessary, but you’ll likely find that the family naturally finds a “pose” that looks beautiful in a well-composed, well-exposed photograph.
C: Sit & Snuggle
Now invite the family to sit – right where they are. You may need to tweak their positions so they’re close together. Place kids in laps, or have a younger child stand with her arms around a parent’s shoulders. Encourage everyone to connect and interact in a natural way.
In fewer than five minutes, you’ve created three distinct family photographs from one initial pose!
PRO TIP: Go Natural!
Choose portrait posing that integrates the family’s natural interactions. One kid only wants to be held by Mom? Build all your poses with Mom and mama’s-boy snuggled close! Is Dad significantly taller than everyone else in the family? Arrange your poses with Dad seated so you can easily keep the family’s faces on the same plane!
Portrait Posing Tip #4: One Pose, Multiple Photos!
Maybe the above scenarios don’t work for your clients. Maybe walking or sitting are impossible for one family member, or the kids are extra-challenging and you need to focus in on only a single setup.
We have great news! You can create a multitude of “looks” from a single pose!
See the Big Picture
By changing lenses, zooming wide, or simply moving further away from your subjects, you can capture the space they’re in. These landscape-inspired photographs often wind up as canvases on clients’ walls, so don’t miss this opportunity to showcase the scenery!
Don’t Miss the Details
Telephoto lenses can do the trick, but physically moving closer to your subject changes your interaction with them and allows for some beautifully personal portraits and detail shots. These sweet close-ups are especially appreciated on your clients’ social media pages, and tend to get lots of likes!
Shift Your Perspective
Take a slow, 360-degree walk around your clients, looking for fresh angles. You might be surprised to find an entirely new portrait simply by taking a few steps in a new direction! And little ones who fuss when looking forward might show a happy face when they’re peering over Mom or Dad’s shoulder.
Tilt Your Camera
Most photographers show a preference for either vertical or horizontal frames. If you’re in a rut, though, you might try switching up your routine with a new composition: vertical instead of horizontal, or vice versa. Remember the rule of thirds, and play around with your own angle – move from shooting in a standing position to shooting while kneeling low on the ground.
Portrait Posing Tip #5: Consider An Assistant
If you’re still struggling to wrangle kiddos, conjure smiles, and get great images, consider bringing an assistant along for family photographs. She needn’t be a skilled photographer – or any sort of photographer! What you really need is a helper with great energy, a love of children, and a steady hand to hold a reflector (if you like an added boost of light).
Your assistant can sing silly songs to make babies laugh, straighten clothes once your portrait posing is set, chase after wandering little ones, and hold family pets who need a break from picture-time.
What are your tricks for family portrait posing that flows smoothly? Comment below!