Family photography is so rewarding. Life moves by quickly and kids change so fast, that parents love to capture these fleeting moments while they can. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not without its’ own set of challenges! We get asked frequently about how to pose families and still get the natural connection that parents are looking for. And let’s be honest, especially when young children are involved, it’s not always an easy task. Unlike posing couples and adults who take direction fairly easily, families with young children do require a different kind of skill and approach. So, if you’ve tried and haven’t gotten the results you wanted, don’t lose heart! Here are six tips for posing families that will help you get the photos both you and mom are after.
What You Say Matters
One of the most important factors when it comes to posing isn’t the actual pose, like you might think. It’s what we say. When I am posing my families, I concentrate on making my communication specific and positive.
It is so important to be specific with your instructions when you’re helping pose your clients. If your client isn’t sure what to do, they will feel uncomfortable. And uncomfortable clients show on camera! Make your instruction specific and easy to follow.
For example: Telling your client to “turn to the side” leaves a lot on the table. Turn to which side? How far to the side? Did I do it right? However, by saying, “John, step back with your left foot, and let Anna lean in against your left arm, yes, perfect!” John knows exactly which way you want him to turn, and you’ve communicated that he’s done exactly what you want. Now John feels like a stud.
Another communication tip is to always use positive language. This has two parts: 1) make sure you are telling your client what you want them to do, instead of what you don’t want, and 2) make sure to always affirm them and compliment them during the session. This will build their confidence and help them relax!
One of the keys to a great family photo is getting everyone nice and close together. Nothing says “awkward family photo” like a family barely touching each other like they all have the plague. No way! Have them get close to one another and really snuggle in. I always like to pay special attention to the height difference between the parents and really young, small children. Sometimes it’s nice to get everyone all on the same level, where their faces are all closer together than if they’re all standing. There are several ways you can do this! Have the parents hold younger children, or have them squat down to the kid’s level. Look around and utilize your surroundings to get everyone close together by using a bench, a concrete wall etc. for the kids to stand on.
Having everyone connected in some way is a must with family photos. Having siblings hold hands and parents having their arms around one another are just a couple of ways to show closeness and the connectedness of a family. You’ll also want to make sure everyone has something to do with their hands: in a pocket, on someone’s shoulder, you can even have kids hug the leg or waist of mom or dad.
Get as Much Out of One Pose as You Can
There is so much you can do with just one pose! Don’t be afraid to shuffle your feet and shoot from different angles and perspectives. Get a regular shot from straight on, then move to the side and shoot from there. Get in close and capture individual faces within the group, and shoot from up above. Shooting from different perspectives is a great way to give your families variety in their gallery. I also love to mix in posed and candid shots. Getting your families to relax and enjoy themselves makes for great candid photos where you can capture their true personalities!
Instead of spending your time trying to memorize a Pinterest list of poses, focus instead on your communication and simple things like closeness and connectedness.
Make it Fun!
My goal at every session is for my families to leave saying, “That was fun!” Photos should never feel like work, especially when children are involved. Don’t be afraid to play games, to make them laugh, and to encourage them to play. Work hard to make your time with families fun and exciting. They should enjoy being with you and want to do it again!
Sometimes Posing is Overrated
You’ll find when posing and photographing families, that you quickly learn to be OK with the unexpected! Kids will not always do exactly what you (or mom) had in mind. Sometimes, they will do the very opposite. You have to learn to roll with it. This is exactly why my family sessions are focused on capturing natural, candid moments and why I work hard to foster authentic connection between them instead of having a heavy focus on “posing.” Kids may not respond well to a mile-long list of posing instructions, but they will love cracking jokes and playing with their siblings. Embrace the natural moments!
Posing families doesn’t have to be stressful. Instead of spending your time trying to memorize a Pinterest list of poses, focus instead on your communication and simple things like closeness and connectedness. You will see a dramatic difference in your photos. The more you begin to implement these tips, the more natural they will become!