Family Photography

Easy Ways to Get Natural Family Poses

February 24, 2021

Photographing families is one of my favorite things in the world. I know, I know… The thought of orchestrating toddlers and babies and potentially grumpy teens and getting them all to cooperate (and not to mention, look at the camera… at the same time) might sound like a nightmare to some people, but for me, […]

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Photographing families is one of my favorite things in the world. I know, I know… The thought of orchestrating toddlers and babies and potentially grumpy teens and getting them all to cooperate (and not to mention, look at the camera… at the same time) might sound like a nightmare to some people, but for me, it’s a challenge that totally fills me up!

There’s something magical and so special about capturing families’ important life highlights and helping them commemorate a moment in time. Maybe you’re right there with me and adore capturing family photos. Or maybe you want to pursue family photography, but aren’t sure how to wrangle groups of different ages and stages to actually get (more than a few) beautiful shots.

I’ve got you, babe!

Luckily, I have five littles of my own, which has let me get ample experience and practice, plus 10 years of photographing other families under my belt. But even if you don’t have kiddos or a ton of experience around families, I know you can do this.

Mastering family photography and natural family poses is doable for anyone. Just follow these tips and you’ll be snapping gorgeous shots (where everyone is looking) that your clients obsess over in no time!

Tip 1: Show up with confidence.

Did you know that energy is contagious? Think about it. If your partner or friend is aggravated or on edge, doesn’t it make you feel anxious, too? The same thing goes for someone who brings good energy and a happy mood. It can automatically lift your spirits, too, right?!

Consider that when going into your photography sessions. You might not *feel* absolutely confident (yet), but faking it ’til you make it goes a long way in terms of energy. 

Show up to your shoot consciously choosing your best energy possible: smile, be warm and encouraging, genuinely listen, and ask questions! Your mood is palpable and will set the tone for the shoot, and even children as little as newborn babies can pick up on whether you’re calm and collected or a total bundle of nerves. And they’ll feed off of whichever mood you bring.

If you do deal with anxiety, try a few calming practices before your shoots to relax your nervous system. Take some deep breaths, listen to music that inspires or relaxes you, say a quick mantra in the mirror, or go on a short walk to get some fresh air and sunshine.

Going in clear-headed and calm can make all the difference in family photography.

Tip 2: Make sure everyone feels comfortable.

Beyond YOU feeling calm, you want your clients to feel calm, too! Yes, that means coming in with your best energy, but it also means going above and beyond to pay attention to each member of the family.

Make them feel special and understood. Ask little ones what their name is, their favorite color, or their favorite food. Chat with teens about something they relate to (viral TikTok videos, anyone?!). Ask husbands what they thought of the game last weekend or let them know on the sly that you’ll make this as quick and painless as possible.

Connecting with family members for a few minutes before getting started helps put everyone at ease, you included! You’ll get to know them better, and they’ll feel like you genuinely care. Win, win.

Tip 3: Start with something simple.

Don’t dive in trying to get the most complicated shots first. Give your clients something easy to work with and that relaxes them!

Encourage the kids to play with one another, pick flowers, or hold hands and walk down a path. Tell mom or dad to give a little one a kiss on the cheek or carry one on their shoulders.

Simple, straightforward prompts that are low-pressure help get everyone warmed up and comfortable being in front of the camera. And these sorts of playful and simple cues often produce some of the most special images in my experience. 

Tip 4: Get creative with your cues!

Once everyone’s feeling comfortable, make sure to have fun with cues and get a good variety of different ones. Here are a few of my favorites:

– “Tickle someone!”

– “Give so-and-so a kiss!”

– “Everyone look at [family member] and smile/laugh!”

– “Put your foreheads together.”

– “Group hug and everyone look this way!”

For babies and young toddlers, making funny noises can help get their attention and look your way. Parents will totally get it, and they’ll appreciate your effort in getting the shot!

Tip 5: Don’t be afraid to take breaks.

Little ones tend to have big feelings. It’s okay if you need to take five and let them play, get their wiggles out, or decompress. (But keep your camera handy because sometimes these “breaks” make for good candid shots!)

The less stress or pressure you put on the timeline and situation lets everyone else feel at ease. Encourage families to bring a little snack or water if the kids need it, too. Never underestimate the power of a snack break.

Tip 6: Mix up placement and postures.

It can be overwhelming when working with families and easy to forget things, especially if there are several members you’re trying to coordinate. Like with your cues, make sure you’re also getting a variety of backgrounds and poses. You never want to get to the end of a shoot and realize 425 of your 450 photos are in the exact same spot.

Move your clients around to different lighting, rooms (if it’s at their house), and backgrounds. Get some shots of the family sitting, standing, lounging, playing, and walking. Changing up the scenery and postures will help you to get a wide range of stunning family photos!

I hope you’re feeling more assured that you can do this because I believe you TOTALLY can! Family photography is one of the most rewarding creative outlets and careers I can think of. With these easy tips, you’ll be snapping beautiful images of families with care and confidence, I just know it!

Make sure to check out my other photography tips like how to get the best lighting for your family sessions HERE!

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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