11 large family portrait ideas
(That includes The 6 biggest mistakes with group posing)


UPDATED: July 3, 2024

Do you need some large family portrait ideas? This article will help you with posing large groups of people. Read on to learn the do's and don'ts of photographing large families and groups.

Posing a big group of people, whether it's at a family party or another big gathering of people, can be one of the most challenging things to learn with portrait photography.

I've been photographing large group photos for over 40 years. These tips will help you.

Whether it's a professionally posed large group picture shown below or a quick snapshot of a group at a celebration like the one farther below, you will improve your large group poses dramatically by using a few of these ideas.

Very large Family Group PoseLarge Family Group Photo of 41 People

One of the best large family portrait ideas I can give you is to coordinate clothing. If you limit the number of colors to 2 or 3 it makes a big difference in your final portrait.

Once a group of people gets bigger than five or six, it isn't as simple to pose everyone correctly anymore. You need someone, namely you as the photographer, to take charge in a pleasant but assertive manner. Otherwise the quality of your group posing will suffer and look unorganized.

how to do Big Group Posing

Big group posing has a unique set of challenges, in addition to the regular aspects of lighting and location choice. Large family posing is improved when you do have the option of coordinated clothing.

I had only a few seconds to quickly take the photo below of all the grandkids, during a 50th wedding anniversary. I posed the 3 small children in the middle and had 4 teen-aged boys kneel down in front so that everyone could be seen from the camera's view. I used only 1 chair in the pose.

Large Group Photo of Grandchildren - AdjustedThe baby in the very center of the photo was on oxygen.
We hid the tank behind one of the other kids.

With outdoor large group photography, I often look for a shaded, evenly-lit location with a simple background. If possible, shoot underneath the shade of a large tree, in the shadow of a large structure, or perhaps in front of several trees.

Shooting late or early in the day, when the sun is closer to the horizon, often gives you larger shadow areas to work in. Shooting portraits on location is often better for large family groups then an indoor portrait studio where space and size of a painted background may be limited.

There are situations like the one below where the rules are broken. I shot with the sun blasting this group in the faces. Since the large majority of them were wearing sunglasses, squinting eyes were not the usual challenge.

large group pose of volunteersThis group of 26 volunteers was like a family

We wanted most of the large banner to show, so only the two kids were placed in front of it. The front row of adults leaned lower and the tallest people were placed in the back row so that everyone's face was visible from the camera's angle. Notice it isn't perfect. There is one woman's face that is partially blocked.

Here 5 basic large family portrait posing tips for you to use.

5 Quick Tips That Will Make Your Large Family Portraits Better

1. TRIPOD. Always use a tripod if the situation allows it. This not only will hold your camera steady to limit blur from camera shake, but it also allows you to watch the many faces and body positions of your subjects at the exact moment you click the shutter. If you want to know what to look out for when choosing the right tripod for shooting portraits, read I wrote this post called Tripods for Portraits. It will help you avoid making the mistake of using the wrong tripod.

2. FACES. Make sure you can see everybody's entire face from the camera's vantage point. You may have to move somebody slightly higher or lower or you may have to move somebody to the left or to the right.

3. ATTENTION. Getting Everyone's attention. My best advice is to have only one person; I repeat, 1 person stand directly behind the camera to talk, make noises, crazy faces or draw the attention of everyone. It is a much better group photo if everyone is looking directly toward the camera.

You should give directions any other people standing behind you.  Have them move off to the side, out of view they need to stay quiet. If it a large group of the same sized people then you must layer them in different heights.

4. THE TALL ONES. Pose the taller and larger people in the back.  Taller people will block shorter people if they're put in front. Larger people will appear smaller if they are located a little farther back away from the camera. If it is a few adults and many children, such as grandparents and all of their grandchildren, then the kids should surround the grandparents to make it a balanced pose.

5. LIGHTING. Look or use good even lighting. Add a strong enough flash or find a better location where there is good natural light. Have you ever seen a large family portrait where the lighting was very uneven?

There are a lot of great ideas for large family portraits, but if the lighting is bad, the whole portrait is bad. It's still a good group shot if 1 or 2 people don't look perfect. When most or several of your subjects looks bad from crappy lighting the whole photo is bad.

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6 most common group photography mistakes and how to avoid them

1. Uneven lighting, either because of a wimpy on-camera flash or because the outdoor lighting is very uneven. Avoid outdoor areas where patches of sunlight will strike your family group and give you contrasty unflattering shadows. If you're shooting indorrs, find a place that is not lit by spotlights 

2. People with expressions that don't match. Almost everyone smiling except one smarti-pants, 8 year old making a goofy face or everyone happy except the disgruntled teenager who would rather be hanging out with his friends than posing with his family.

3. Someone missing from the photo. In the family photo below, three of the people could not make it to the 50th wedding reunion. I actually had to photograph them separately on a different day at a location with similar lighting. Then I added them through some specific techniques in Adobe Photoshop.

Very Large Family Group Pose on Golf CourseThree of the people above were not in the original.

4. Not everyone looking at the camera. People can easily be distracted by something else, not directly behind the camera, especially with outdoor photography. It's your job as the photographer to get eye contact with everyone in the photo.

Hint: you may have to get a bit assertive and vocal, perhaps even a bit loud, to gain the attention of everyone. I've photographed many class reunions and other social events, where the alcohol has been flowing, and it's challenging to get everyone in the group to focus on you.

5. Everyone being too small in the pose because the photographer posed too "wide" with everybody standing next to each other. Try to stack people vertically. Use benches, posing stools, steps, or a hill to pose individuals behind each other without blocking anyone from the camera position's view. 

6. This is the biggest mistake of all. It happens when someone's head is partially blocked by the person in front of them. You have to set your composition with your camera's position set on your tripod and from the camera position, check to make sure you can see everybody's face without any obstructions.

These basic large family portrait ideas should help you improve your group photography quite a bit. For more large family portrait ideas, look at online galleries with large family posing. Analyze the positioning of each individual person within the frame of the portrait.

Keep shooting. Keep learning. Keep improving.

My Group posing Helpers

When you are posing a large group of people you need to stack your subjects vertically. Create levels by using stools or benches. I use small collapsible folding step stools for a row of people to sit on in front, as well as to stand on in the back row. Taller benches can be sat on and taller stools can be sat on.

When I first looked at these posing aids I was surprised at how cheap they were on Amazon. See any of the links below.

I use the folding steps stools in two ways. I have people sit on them in the very front row of a large group pose and I also use them for people to stand on to raise them higher behind a row of people who are standing on the ground. The benches are great for team photos. The taller folding stools are also lightweight and easy to use in any location.

All of these posing aids are easy to transport and as The Traveling Photographer they come in quite handy.

Keep shooting. Keep learning. Keep improving!

Article published by 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. 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.

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