7 Tips for Posing Family Portraits

Posing families and groups is one of the more intimidating feats for photographers. Working with several people of different heights and ages is certainly a challenge, but following a few posing guidelines makes the job a bit simpler.

family photo with children

“September 2012 Family Photos” captured by Kate NG Sommers

1. Family portraits are largely about capturing relationships and interaction, and that’s pretty tough to capture when everyone is far away from each other, so the first thing I do is get everyone to squish together.

family photo pose

“Walker Family Photos” captured by Meghan Marell

2. I like to get everyone’s heads fairly close together which can be done by having everyone sit down. Even if the kids are dramatically different heights, sitting down brings everyone closer. It can be as simple as just sitting on the ground. Look for nice colors, textures, and clean backgrounds. Steps and benches work great, too. There are tons of options!

family photography

“Untitled” captured by Dave Malkoff

3. One of the easiest way to dramatically improve your composition is to stagger everyone’s head position (but keep them close). Arrange faces on different levels so that any pattern of height does not distract the viewer from seeing the group as being one cohesive unit.

family group photo

“Young Family” captured by Good Eye Video

4. Position each individual so they are visually connected to another individual. You can do this by having them stand very close to one another or, better yet, have them touch another person. No matter the poses you go for, always try to incorporate direct contact through touch. Hands on shoulders, arms around waists—any way that you can get everyone in physical contact with each other. This will convey emotional closeness.

outdoor family photo

“Banchitta Family Preview” captured by Pete Labrozzi

5. The other posing technique that I often use is to have the pose wider at the base and narrower at the top. Some photographers refer to this as the pyramid pose. This makes the group look like a single unit and the composition looks complete.

family group pose

“Kathy’s 50th” captured by Nom & Malc

6. Pay attention to your subjects’ hands. It is usually a mistake to have everyone in your pose doing the same exact thing with their hands. Occasionally I will direct one or more of my clients to change their hand position to improve the pose as well.

7. It’s ideal to have everyone in the family looking in the same direction, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be in your direction. You can direct everyone to look behind you or at the youngest family member.

parents and child family photo

“Untitled” captured by Kenji Wang

It really doesn’t have to be stressful the next time you want to capture your family’s portraits. Be patient, be flexible, and make it fun. You’ll end up with some awesome portraits, lots of real moments, happy parents, and happy kids! Try it out! It will surely improve your photos. Good luck.

About the Author:
Linnae Harris is a portrait photographer who specializes in photographing families, babies, children, and high school seniors. I primarily photograph families and children outdoors or in their home for natural light sessions.

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3 Comments

  1. Tre says:

    Great tips! Will definitely keep these in mind.

  2. Bob Dumon says:

    For large groups I like to use a stairway, grouping everyone as tightly together as possible. Stairs provide a place to sit, but in ascending higher levels to make it easier to see everyone. Use a tripod, always, and fire off five or ten continuous shots to try to avoid those inadvertent “blinks” on at least one or two of the group. Worst case, use the clone tool to transfer an open eye over a closed one. Works for me….

  3. Thanks for sharing your tips.

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