Maternity + Family

5 Tips to Posing Families Together for Natural-Looking Portrait Sessions

January 9, 2019

By Elena S Blair

Photos © Elena S Blair Photography

When I am working with a family, my main goals are to capture love, connection and a little piece of humanity. There is so much going on within any family dynamic and there is so much interaction to be captured. Without a sense of connection, you are simply capturing the pose and the outfits. Perceivable connection gives family photos a human feel and it makes everything within the photos look more genuine.

I do not want my clients to have images that show stiff and uncomfortable (albeit well-dressed) versions of themselves. I want them to end up with images that convey a feeling that brings them back to a fleeting moment in time.

Once you give yourself the creative freedom to go beyond traditional, stiffly posed family portraits, you can create artistic and emotive images.

When you are photographing families, you are working with real people, not models. You need to be able to guide them and direct them so that they look their best and they feel comfortable in front of you.

I like to say that I guide my clients, but really, I pose them. Then I direct them to interact, and that is where the moments come from.

Here are five of my go-to family poses that you can implement yourself. These tried-and-true techniques are ready to be used on any family right away.


Start by asking the family to stand in a line and hold hands. Then tell them to dance and direct them to look at each other while dancing. Some will really move and some will simply interact. Either way, it yields a connected photo.


I ask the family to embrace each other. Standing or sitting, I make sure that they are close and facing their bodies toward each other. Then I ask them to look at each other, and I say, “Okay, breathe each other in.”

As cheesy as that sounds, many parents can relate to this exercise. I make sure to continue to direct the parents not to look at me. It’s fine if the child is looking at the camera or facing the embrace of his or her parents. This yields an intimate and connected photograph.


This is probably my favorite family pose and it always leads to fun, natural interactions. Ask the family to sit down as close together as they can. Place smaller children on their parents’ laps. Then ask the parents to gently tickle the kids and to look at the kids as they do so. Make sure that a child’s head isn’t covering their faces.


Nearly every session with young children has a moment when the kids have had enough. At this point, I direct the family into an open space with good light and I give the children permission to move their wiggly bodies. But I always give the kids boundaries. I will say, “You can run and play between this bush and this rock.”

I ask the parents to get close together and embrace, and I direct the kids to move—chase each other, play Ring Around the Rosie, or hold hands and run toward me. I usually shoot this fairly wide in order to include some of the environment at the location of the session.


I like to ask Dad to put one of the kiddos up on his shoulders, and I direct Mom to walk up and hug him. If there is more than one small child, I will ask Mom to hold the little one. Any older kids can either hold hands with Mom or stand right in front of their parents. Then, I direct Mom and Dad to kiss, and sometimes, I ask the kiddo on Dad’s shoulders to lean down and kiss Mom.

Family photography can be fun, emotive and artistic. With good posing, you can offer your clients meaningful photographs that will bring them joy for a lifetime.

See Elena at WPPI 2019

“Lifestyle Newborn Photography Made Easy”
Thursday, February 28 | 5 – 6 p.m.
Las Vegas, NV

Elena S Blair is an award-winning family and newborn photographer based in Seattle. She is also an educator who co-owns both Blair & Thurston Retreats and Lady Boss Workshops.

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