One of the biggest questions I get from photographers or people who have an interest in photography is, "How do you get those photos that capture the life and fun in a family?" I remember when I first started taking family photos: I HATED it. I hated it because I couldn't handle kids, I felt like their personalities frustrated me and made my "picture perfect" ideas never come fruition. It wasn't until my husband and I had started a family of our own that I realized I needed to change my perception of what I thought was "picture perfect". Being a mom, I wanted photos of our family that represented our family dynamic, not just some generic family photo.
So the big question is, how does one achieve that? Outlined below are six of my favorite tips for getting that natural family pose in your photos.
1. Remember that your "posing agenda" might not work with little kids
You really can't go into a family session expecting to copy all the Pinterest photos out there, or your set list of poses that you think are cute. I'm sorry, but children just don't function that way. They need the opportunity to be free and the room to be themselves.
Now with that said, it is important to get a few photos of the family where they are all looking at the camera (and I have a trick for that, see next tip).
2. Take the "perfect" family picture at the beginning of the shoot
Every family needs at least one portrait where they are all looking at the camera, or at least mostly looking at the camera. This is THE most difficult task of every family photoshoot, especially as you work with larger family sizes. Typically, children are a little more easy to please and willing to listen right at the beginning of the shoot. My goal is to always get one shot, and then have fun for the rest of shoot. If you do that first, you'll thank me later and so will your clients.
3. Tickle fights
This is by far the best trick up my sleeve. There's SO much you can do with this. The simple example would be to yell, "Tickle fight!", or say, "Find someone to tickle!" That one is always fun because you never know who will tickle who. It's always sure to end in lots of laughs and great photos.
Another thing I like to do is tell the kids, "I have a secret for you..." Let's be honest, who doesn't love a little secret? Kids LOVE it, especially if they have to keep it from their parents. I then whisper in their ear, "When I say "banana," tickle your mom or dad." I then get into position and even before I take the photo, kids get so excited and giddy. It's seriously hilarious. Then, when I yell "banana" even more magic happens!
Tickle fights really are sure to win over any session.
4. Run around Mom and Dad
Playing a little game of chase is always fun and it gets the energy out. Most of the time kids need something to do that is fun while you're capturing the family. I usually have the walking-sized kids chase each other around mom and dad. I sometimes will even have them do ring around the rosie near the parents.
If you have little kids that can't walk, I usually have the parents play with the little ones. If you don't have kids that are in the non-walking category, then I usually have the parents snuggle together. Some of my favorite images come from doing that with families.
5. Have the family walk around
Walking in a straight line, walking towards the camera, holding hands, not holding hands, walk walk walk and move move move. Heck, you can even add some running to the mix. I usually tell the family to not look at the camera but at each other. When they are in a single-file line I have them look back and forth at each other. It always seems to work out beautifully, and I especially love this posing idea when there is a beautiful landscape involved. This usually can show off the landscape because I like to pull back on these shots (I'm usually on my 24-70mm for these portraits).
As you can see, these are mostly wide shots. Who doesn't love a pretty scene with a pretty family? Plus, this will add variety to your online gallery.
It's always nice to get those up close and personal shots, but also to get those wide shots that show an even larger story. Plus, your client picked that location for a reason: They want to see it in their photos!
6. Capture everything in between, (EVERYTHING!) And let kids be kids
This is two bits of advice in one. I try to communicate behind the camera what I want next for the family to do. This way, as they are getting things together, I can capture what's happening in the moment. This truly shows off the real (unscripted) character of the family. You get to see big kids helping little kids, and parents helping their children. I love that.
Another reason I like to communicate mostly behind the camera is that I want them to interpret what I have to say in the way that they think. This adds some individuality and personality to the photos that you can't get otherwise. Those photos are usually the ones parents like the most, and they often say, "I can't believe you captured our families' personality perfectly!"
You will find that kids just like to be free and, often times, they will come up with some really cute ideas on their own.
So there you have it. Six tips that I use for each family photoshoot I go on. It is through these six simple steps that I really grew to love family photography. In fact, I have grown to love family photography so much that I now specialize in families. There's something about being crazy and fun that makes working with children so enjoyable and fulfilling. It's when I figured out how to pose families naturally that I found a passion and love for doing family portraits. I've truly found joy and beauty within this field.
Feel free to stick around my blog to see more of how I capture families, another great source is my Instagram page.
If you have any more questions, I'd LOVE to answer them. Feel free to drop a question in the comments below. I am happy to answer anything. I love what I do and I love to share what I do.