Copy these 10 ideas for basic family portrait poses and your group portraits will look professional. These are good photography techniques to use whether you are doing casual snapshots of friends or you are doing formal family portraits.
Photographs are more interesting when your subjects are not exactly the same height in your photo. In this photo, each person's eye level is different. The grandfather is tallest.
The grandmother is next tallest, and so forth.
Draw an imaginary horizontal line across the photo through each person's eyes. Notice that none of the six people's' eyes are at the same height.
I had the grandparents stand, the father knelt on one knee, the mother down low on both knees, and then made sure the two grandsons were placed at slightly different levels.
Try a few different arrangements without using any stools or chairs as posing supports.
Form triangles when you pose groups of three or more in a group photograph.
This is a basic rule of composition in photography and other with other works of art as well. It creates balance in your composition.
Large family portrait poses are often made by starting with a basic triangle and building additional triangles outward as you add people to a group portrait.
Use supporting structures like stair steps, boulders, tree stumps, or even posing stools when available, to experiment with getting your subjects at just the right height. I had the boy in the gray shirt go up one step to create the triangle of these three brothers.
The tallest and oldest boy is standing at the lowest point in the sand. I composed at an angle to get the cool-looking clouds behind them in the background.
Here's another example of a simple pose for a family portrait of three people.
You can use this pose when two of your subjects are taller than the third. I posed the grandfather with his shoulder behind the young girl.
This blocks part of his body from the camera and makes him "smaller" in the pose. The other technique to use is to turn your subjects to about a 30-45 degree angle away from the camera.
The two subjects on the ends are turned toward the center of the composition. They frame in the main subject, the young lady who is receiving her First Holy Communion.
Diagonals add a dynamic to your photography posing.
Diagonal compositions give your eye a vertical and a horizontal direction to travel as your eye views an image.
Two of the men sat on rocks at different levels. The third knelt on one knee to create this diagonal portrait pose. Always make sure the horizon is perfectly level too with a pose like this one.
As you can tell, I do quite a bit of beach photography portraits. You can use these family portrait posing ideas and the other tips on taking digital photography with other kinds of photography as well.
Often the rules of composition in one kind of photography apply to other kinds of photography.
When you have 5 people to pose in a family photo, the "M" pose is often a great option. If you draw an imaginary line, starting on the left, from each subject's head to the next, and ending on the farthest to the right, you will have drawn the letter M.
Overlap their bodies so that they are visually connected to each other. A good pose, combined with good lighting, and a real good looking family make for a winning portrait!
It's not show in the posing article, but imagine for a second if you switched the pose to a "w" pose. There would be three people posed behind the two people in front. Either one of these family poses can be effective. Shoot your group pose both ways if you have time and then pick the favorite pose after the photo shoot.
It's one of the biggest advantages of digital photography, the ability to shoot extra poses. The only cost for you to have to "pay for it" is spending a few extra seconds of your time to shoot a few extra frames.
Create a path that the eye will follow. This is a great family pose of a young family that includes a newborn.
You could call this classic pose for a family a trapezoid shaped pose.
This is a great pose for family groupings of 4. I like to use is most for poses of 4 people, although it can be used for larger groups too. The situation has to be just right.
You'll often need to adjust the height of a few of the individuals slightly for it to work best. Just like the first basic family portrait pose example that this post started with, try to avoid any of the individuals being at exactly the same height in your composition.
In the pose above, the two siblings in the middle were sitting on adjustable posing stools and the woman all the way to the right was sitting on a pillow to lift her up a few inches.
You can shoot this pose as a vertical or a horizontal composition, depending on the situation you're shooting in. It can be done with the top and bottom points in direct vertical alignment or the way I usually shoot it with the diamond at a slight angle.
This is a good pose for a family of 5 or more. It works well for horizontal and square formats. Picture in your mind a sideways teardrop. It's really also just a sideways oval with one side having a bit of a point
This is a fun pose to do in situations where you want to draw attention to one of the individuals in the group. I use it for Holy Communion photography, like the photo below, as well as when I photograph a bride surrounded by her bridesmaids.
This family portrait pose works for groups photos of 5 people or more.
PORTRAIT POSE HELPER: This may surprise you, but I have to tell you that one of the best way to improve your family portraits is to use a tripod. If you have plenty of light to get a nice fast shutter speed, you may not need it in terms getting a sharp portrait, but it's very helpful in watching your pose.
Using a tripod to maintain your camera in the exact right spot ensures your family pose is composed correctly. It's important to use the right kind of tripod, too. For more details on this, read my post on the best tripod for portraits.
Portrait Photography Books. I have learned quite a bit about basic family portrait poses by reading photography books specifically about portraits. Here I give reviews on three of the books in my photography library that I have found very useful.
Better Digital Pictures. You may also enjoy this article on basic photo composition, photo lighting and photo exposure in order to improve your overall photography, not just your family portrait poses.
Photography Composition. These are 10 tactics of composition and sometimes do not apply to traditional family portrait posing but are useful for you to improve your composition technique in general.
Choose The Right Lens. A general purpose zoom lens works well, but there's a bit more to know about the best lens for family poses.
Helpful Portrait Ebook
My one final tip is always to enjoy the process of learning better photography. Make it a fun experience for yourself and for the people your posing. I hope you found this post helpful. To find more specific posts on this website covering portrait posing you can use the search box below or scroll down below my signature for more related articles.
ABOUT BRUCE LOVELACE
Bruce is the publisher of this website. He is the author of the book "Improve Your Photography Instantly." Read more on Bruce on his Bio Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since 1994. Or read more about this website.
View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram. Visit the Facebook Page. Watch him on YouTube. Bruce runs photo workshops for kids and adults, and provides one-on-one photography coaching.