Family Portrait Poses

Do you want to avoid awkward family portrait poses? We have some great ideas here to help you create photographs that convey warmth and emotion, without looking stiff and formal. Take a look at a few family portrait samples, along with our tips, and you'll be well on your way to great photos and a happy family!

Okay, Everyone, Get Close. Closer... Closer...!

If you could do just one thing to improve your family portraits, it would be to get everyone to move a little closer together. In most family portraits, people are too far apart, and the space between them makes them appear disconnected.

family portrait poses
Family Portrait Poses:
Cheek to Cheek.

A sense of personal space is a cultural factor that influences how comfortable people are in getting close enough to each other to touch. To capture portraits that convey a sense of togetherness and family bond, you need to push people out of their comfort zone a little, and get them close together. Portraits with couples, or parents and children, touching cheek to cheek are compelling, and exude love and warmth.



People often struggle awkwardly with where to put their hands when they are being photographed. In the portrait on the left, hands are neatly tucked away out of sight.



Now It's Your Turn to Get Close

As the photographer, don't be afraid to step inside the personal space of your subjects to get the shot. Just warn them before you move in, so they can expect it!

family portrait poses
Family Portrait Samples:
Getting Close.

In a portrait, the vast majority of emotion is conveyed through facial expressions, so cropping in tight to the faces concentrates attention in exactly the right place. A close-up like the photo above emphasizes the connection between the subjects, and carries a lot of impact.

The Classic Pyramid Pose

One of the classic family portrait poses is the pyramid. The shape of a pyramid is wider at the base than at the top. This means that for a group, you might place three or four people in a row, with two or three behind, and possibly one or two in a third row behind that. You want to keep the triangle a loose shape, rather than following a strict four-three-two-one arrangement, with the peak in the centre. That would look very contrived! Instead, place the peak off-centre or have the rows decrease unevenly (e.g., five-three-two). This will keep the pose more casual.

family portrait poses
Family Portrait Poses:
The Classic Pyramid

In the photo on the left, a pyramid has been achieved with only three people. Because of the way Mom is leaning over, her form takes up more room, and so our overall shape is wider at the bottom.

Note the soft, out of focus background created using a wide aperture.


Feet and legs:

One way to avoid seeing feet and legs in the image is to have your subjects lie down on the ground with their legs stretched out behind them.


Large Groups

Family portrait poses with large groups can be challenging. The bigger the group, the bigger your challenge!

As with any big task, the best way to tackle it is to break it down into smaller sub-tasks. Pose your subjects in mini groupings of two to four at a time, and build your overall pose out of these sub-groups. It helps to pose the adults first, because children have shorter attentions spans, and might not be able to hold their places until you've finished the rest of the groups!

family portrait poses
Family Portrait Poses:
Large Groups


Using Flash:

If you are using flash, stand where your flash unit is, and look in the direction it's pointing. Can you see all the faces? If not, your flash can't "see" them either, and they won't be lit.

Make sure that you have people in a variety of positions, and that not everyone is holding the same pose.

Before you take the photo, make sure that all faces are visible. You don't want anyone being blocked by anyone else. Do a quick scan, and make sure that you can see everyone's full face, and also that there are no disembodied heads. You need to be able to see at least part of the shoulders for the pose to look natural.

You must always watch out for blinking, but the problem is even more likely to occur in a large group. Take several photos to make sure you get at least one with everyone's eyes open.

A More Candid Look

The days of having everyone look at the camera and say cheese are, thankfully, disappearing. Today's family portrait poses are more casual, and a candid style is preferred. To this end, get your family members looking at each other, rather than at the camera. This shows them interacting with each other, and once again, emphasizes the family connection.

family portrait poses
Family Portrait Poses:
Family interaction.

As an aside, check out the coordinated clothing in the portrait above. It helps to unify the image. White, especially against a blue sky, gives the image a clean, fresh look.

More Tips for Family Portrait Poses

Do... vary the levels within the portrait. That means not having everyone's head in a row. Look at the family portrait samples on this page to see what I mean.

Don't... line everyone up in a vertical row so all you see are their heads. It just looks creepy :-). Similarly, don't have a parent hold a child directly under their chin.

Do... try to get even lighting across all your subjects.

Don't... let people tilt their heads over. It's okay for a couple who are leaning in to each other, but not in a group portrait. It's especially common to see people on the end of a row tilt their heads in and down. It seems to be an instinct. Watch out for it!

Do... avoid the disembodied hand! This happens when one person puts their arm around another, and all you see on one side is a hand that's reaching around the other person's waist or shoulders. It looks out of place in the final image.

family portrait poses
Family Portrait Poses










With this collection of family portrait poses, you should be ready to get out and take some pictures that will make the whole family happy!

Next, make sure you've read the other part to this article to give you some more family portrait ideas.

You may also want to read a fun article on portrait photography technique by guest author Larry Monzcka.


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