13 Tips For Families Portrait With Awesome Posing Ideas

Photographing families portrait with awesome posing is just fulfilling. You will soon find out why. With my background as a classic studio portrait photographer and 25 years of experience in wedding photography, I have a few tricks in store for you. I think these are valuable to photographers with or without experience. This article is helpful if you have never taken a family portrait yourself. It will be definitely exciting!

Preparation for the family portrait

The tripod – more advantages than you think

You are probably thinking to yourself now: “Just don’t!” … A tripod for a family portrait only limits me “. It’s too heavy and awkward. You usually shoot a lot more freely and fluently. All of this may be true, and in some cases (such as baby photography or documentary photos) it is actually better to take handheld photos. However, when taking a family portrait, you have to keep the following in mind:

Most – if not all – people are nervous when they are photographed. That’s right, nervous! Some are downright afraid of the camera. Others go even further and say that they “hate it”. So it’s also your job to make sure that your models feel comfortable and relaxed. Especially with the family portrait. That can be hard. Especially if you are nervous yourself, and especially if you are new to a family portrait. Placing the camera on a tripod therefore has a great advantage. Actually even two:

Make sure to choose the correct camera settings

You can control your camera settings and the exposure for the family portrait and look at your subject again in peace which is something positive. With this you can make sure that everything is as it should be. All too often, if you raise the camera to your eye, you get carried away too quickly and don’t check everything again. Later you find out with horror that the white balance was wrong, ISO was set on 6400, or you accidentally shot JPGs that were too small. As an experienced photographer, you know of course that none of this is a problem when you shoot in RAW. Nevertheless, play it safe and avoid such an “uuuups” moment.

With a tripod, you can look up from the camera and make eye contact.

You are dealing with normal people. They’ll feel even more uncomfortable staring into your camera’s lens instead of your eyes. A tripod for a family portrait simply gives you the freedom of movement you need. For example, you can use gestures better to draw the children’s attention to you. The best family photos come when you interact with people directly. Just try it out!

2 The light is crucial

The light determines the quality of any photo, and a family portrait is no different. Originally, the word photography even means “drawing with light”. The most important thing to do with a family portrait is to bring light into the eyes of your models. There are many ways of doing this. So that’s actually a topic in itself. But with these basics you can prepare yourself well and know what is important.

  • Choose the right time of day for the family photo! The early evening, about an hour before dusk, is best. Why? Because the sun is low on the horizon and no longer shines as brightly and directly from above as at noon. The light is then more directed and, if haze is seen on the horizon, it scatters a little.
  • If twilight is not an option, find a shady spot. Get the family out of the sun BUT make sure that the background doesn’t shine too much. Individual, bright areas in the background divert attention from the models. The shade from large buildings or large trees works best.
  • Avoid cloudy days if possible. The light is then more even and less glaring than in direct sunlight, but unfortunately it is also non-directional. On cloudy days, the light comes directly from above and makes the eyes look dark. Especially with people whose eyes are deep in their sockets.
  • If necessary, use a reflector or flash as an additional light source. This is a completely different level of lighting. But learn how to deal with lightning as early as possible. With this you can quickly bring light into the faces and illuminate them properly. If you can’t see highlights (the source of light reflected in the eyes), the faces aren’t lit up enough.

That the light comes from the right direction is no less important than that it reaches the eyes. We have already established that direct skylight is not good – as is light coming directly from the direction of the camera. Therefore the built-in flash is not an optimal light source. A flash mounted on the camera will not work either. The light from this direction makes the subject appear flat, and you don’t want that. You want the light to come more from the side, 30-45 degrees to the side of the camera is a good start. Read everything about unleashed flash for exciting setups.

Family portrait camera settings

Use manual exposure mode

What influence does the exposure time have? When preparing the family portrait, you need to carefully choose the time of day and location. This will allow you to better implement your ideas and details later.

Why does the time of day matter? Image series are most beautiful when the style of the image or the image effect of the individual images are always similar. This is of course also influenced by the exposure.

If you plan your family portrait shoot for a time of day with constant ambient light (e.g. 1 pm-3pm), then you have already laid the basis for uniform pictures. Once the exposure is set, you usually don’t have to change it again. Also make sure that you don’t change the exposure mode (aperture priority or automatic aperture) during the family portrait shoot. Or at least only controlled for the respective series.

In automatic mode, the camera could choose a slightly different exposure for each picture, depending on the selected measurement type. You definitely don’t want that! Consistency is very important. Therefore, whenever possible, always take photos in manual mode M.

posing families for portraits

Constant exposure and histogram

A varying exposure during the family portrait session means more effort in post-processing, as it has to be compensated for on each individual picture. It can also cause a slight color shift or (if underexposed) increase the noise and cause other undesirable effects. Of course you can use varying exposures if you are not completely sure about the brightness – there is the well-known technique of bracketing for this.

If you do the settings yourself, the exposure remains the same throughout the entire shoot. Just remember to check your exposure if you change the lineup, location, etc. I then take a quick test image, check the histogram, adjust what is necessary, and move on.

Use your focus lock

Just like the exposure, the focus shouldn’t change from picture to picture. If you take family portrait tip # 1 to heart and use a tripod, you won’t move. Since you’ve likely positioned the family in a relatively fixed place, they won’t move either. At least not much. We ourselves just move closer to or away from the camera. So…

Set your camera for the family portrait as follows: Use the focus lock, focus back button or manual focus. With any of these camera settings, the focus will not change from shot to shot. If you use the shutter release and the subject moves, then the focus point is suddenly in the background … And you have your next “ouuups” moment. If you are not sure how to make the necessary settings, refer to your camera’s instruction manual.

Family portrait bonus tip: If your camera can shoot videos, there is a particularly pleasant way to set up manual focus:

  1. Switch to live view mode so that you can see the image on your screen.
    Press your zoom button a time or two.
  2. There is probably a magnifying glass or a “+” sign on it
  3. The display on your screen is enlarged (nothing changes on the lens) so that you can see exactly what is in focus. This allows you to set the manual focus much more precisely.
  4. Press the zoom button again to return to normal view and turn live view off again.

Family portrait ideas and poses

Arrange the family staggered by size

Different poses are extremely important and loosen up the shoot. Maybe you already know the following family portrait tip, maybe not. Or maybe you didn’t understand it 100%. You want to avoid a sized, boring row of heads at all costs. Diagonals are more dynamic and make the picture more interesting. Try to arrange the people for the family portrait like this:

posing families for portraits

Imagine there is a line going from one face to the next. Try to position people so that no head is immediately above or level with another. You want diagonals, not totem poles. Use typical family portrait accessionires or bring your own folding stool. Let some people sit or raise them with such a stool. Use the possibilities of the environment to reach different heights. If nothing is available, they should simply be staggered according to size.

Bend what bends

This next basic rule applies whenever you photograph people. So also with a family portrait. It’s extremely helpful. Most people stand stiff and cramped when they are asked to stand up. You need to help them adopt a more natural pose by flexing some parts of their body. For starters, the following works:

  • Have him/her shift him/her weight onto one leg and instruct her to twist her hips halfway away from the camera
  • Keep his/her hand in his/her pocket. I usually recommend leaving your thumb outside, otherwise you will be happy to slide your hand all the way down into your pocket. That looks just as unnatural again.
  • Hook a finger into your belt or belt loop
  • When seated, lean forward slightly and shift your weight to one side
  • When you lean on something, it always looks better when one foot is crossed in front of the other. The toes should touch the ground.
  • Have him/her shift him/her weight onto one leg and instruct his/her to twist his/her hips halfway away from the camera

Do you understand what I mean? The best way to teach these poses is to do them yourself. Look at the person, pose as you would like, and let them do the same.

This is how you hide problem areas

In the end, if the mother thinks she is too fat, then she will not like the family photos. No matter how good the light and facial expressions are (see # 2 and # 8), be aware of the “flaws” others see in themselves. Your task, even with a family portrait, is to hide it as best you can.

Here are a few great tips for concealing problem areas:

  • If someone is sturdier, don’t shoot them with a wide-angle lens.
  • Photograph a double chin from an angle just above eye level. The look up stretches the chin and neck area and minimizes them.
  • You can (usually) only see a stool on your nose from one side. Look closely at the face to see which direction to take the picture from.
  • If you are photographing a couple with a large difference in height, have the man (who is usually taller) stand with his legs apart. That makes it a bit smaller and at least closes the gap a little.
  • Let obese people (or anyone unhappy with their weight) they can lie on the grass while their children lie on them. It always works well. It hides the belly, straightening the chins and reducing the difference in size by only capturing the faces.

Expression is EVERYTHING in a family portrait!

Even if the light is decisive, the expression of the people in the family portrait ultimately makes everything! You can screw up the lights and the poses – but if you make him/her laugh, you win! So how do you do that?

posing families for portraits

Sometimes being a photographer also means being a comedian or a clown. Finding the right words or making people laugh is mostly a matter of practice. It’s easy with the kids – but the adults can be a real challenge.

During the family portrait session, try to think about how you can tease them or make jokes at their expense. A delicate subject. Real sensitivity is required here. If you are not sure, then you better leave it and focus on the children (next chapter). Not infrequently, the joy of the little ones spills over to the big ones. I wish you success!

The children are the key

Let the kids be kids

I have often noticed that before a family portrait session, parents tell their children, “You have to be good and smile”. Exactly wrong. This creates pressure on the children and is completely unnecessary. So I ask parents to tell their children instead:

“We go to the park and take a few photos. That’s going to be fun.”
That’s all! No other expectations except fun. Then prepare yourself. Bring your own props or ask the mum to bring their favorite toy or book.

posing families for portraits

Family portrait accessories and tools

Accessories are often and often used in family portraits. Most of the time I have a hand puppet and soap bubbles in my camera bag next to my equipment. If the children don’t want to sit and smile, don’t make them do it. Let them romp and just be kids for a while. Important: take pictures of it. 🙂 Play with them, let them have fun. After that they are more likely to join in and sit down a few minutes later for a while. Speaking of soap bubbles, have you already read our guide on how to photograph frozen soap bubbles in winter?

Make a monkey of yourself

If you want young children or babies to be in the family portrait, you need to get their attention. A helper can do a lot for you. Feel free to tell the family to bring a friend to help out.

Funnily enough, I have already seen many times that it is not the children who need a lot of instructions – but the parents. The children often look and smile at the camera, and what do the parents do? You look at the children. 🙂 Another “uuuups” moment! I always tell parents, “No matter what, look at me, not to your children”.

This statement becomes even more relevant when I start making a fool of myself. Try this yourself. For me, these faxes always work to get the children’s full attention:

  • Make strange sounds
  • Sing (I’m really bad, but they don’t care)
  • Grimaces and fish faces are a guarantee of laughter
  • Play peek behind the camera
  • Run wildly back and forth with a doll

Children are the ones who get it right – we adults ruin it. Let them be kids, let them have fun. Then you just have to be ready to capture the right moment.

Have fun!

My last family portrait tip: don’t take it too seriously. Do some crazy or funny family portraits at the end of the family shoot (or in the middle, when the energy runs out in between). Invite them to do a group hug and get them to squeeze as hard as they can. Most of the time they start laughing. And while they separate again take another perfect family photo.

Stacks of people in the grass are always funny too. Or ask them to jump in the air or make faces (you make one too, of course). That relaxes the situation and creates a good mood.

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