Family portraits with young children are challenging. In fact, even with older family members it can be difficult to photograph families, because most people feel uncomfortable in front of the camera. Whether your portrait session is outdoors or in a studio, you need to pose families quickly and with as little fuss as possible. So, you need these foolproof family of 4 photography poses cemented in your memory before your next family portrait session.
Family of 4 photography poses – in a nutshell
Here’s the short version of how to pose a family of four:
- Create triangles shapes through posing
- Capture family interaction
- Avoid large gaps between family members
- Different perspectives add variety to family photographs
- Get in close for impact
Now let’s build on these five family posing fundamentals with more detailed photo pose ideas for a family of 4.
Photo pose ideas for family of 4
While family of 4 photography poses are of course group poses, they’re not just any group of people. They’re a very connected group of people, so there’s more to posing families than with other types of group photography. A good pose for groups isn’t necessarily a good pose for family photography sessions.
With that said, no matter what the situation, great poses start with all the subjects looking comfortable. If you get that right and the pose isn’t perfect you’ll have a better shot than if the pose is perfect and someone looks stiff and uncomfortable.
Shapes & connections
Family poses are all about showing the love and connection between family members, but they also need to feel lively to convey family life. Triangles and diagonal lines in composition add energy to an image. And you can create these shapes by the way to you position people in the frame with their heads at different levels.
Indoors or outdoors
Aside from lighting preference of natural light or flash, the size of the family might determine whether it’s better to be indoors or outdoors. If your studio is small, you’re probably better off photographing large families outdoors.
5 easy family portrait poses for indoor & outdoor photoshoots
If you all you remember is these 5 family posing ideas, you’ll have a good shoot. To have a great shoot, remember to keep photographing in the moments between poses. Be ready for anything to happen during a family photo session.
When a family is being real you could catch a great candid moment that they’ll love. It’s why, when I’m photographing outdoors, I prefer to use my 70 – 200mm zoom lens. This way I can step away slightly and then use longer focal lengths to capture the family naturally.
Further reading: What’s the best focal length for portraits?
1. Belly pose for family of 4
Usually for best results it’s a good idea to have heads at different levels in portraits, but for this first family pose that’s not the case. A classic pose for a family of 4 is to have everyone lying in a line on their bellies and leaning on their elbows facing you.
If there are small children in the family this can easily turn into a fun pose by encouraging the children to climb onto their parents’ backs. Great for two reasons:
- It keeps the photo session fun, which is the best way to keep younger children engaged in a photo shoot
- You’ll get some great candid shots of the family interacting and playing as young families do
You don’t want to make your family work too hard, so plan your family poses so that you can flow from one pose to the next without major upheaval. So, while they’re still on the ground, move onto the next family of 4 photography pose.
2. Lying on the back pose for family of 4
Get everyone to lie on their backs in a circle with their heads at the center of the circle. Now, instead of photographing them head on, you’re photograph from above, which changes the perspective and creates variety in their collection of family pictures. Move around to get different angles and framing of the family group.
Pro tip: In professional portrait photography, the more variety in types of images you deliver from a photo shoot, the higher your portrait sales will be.
3. Sitting pose for family of 4
Before the family stands up and young kids scatter in different directions, get the family into a sitting pose on the ground. With this family pose you construct a triangle shape with how they fit together – it’s a classic pose for groups. The ages and heights of the family members will determine how you fit them together.
Further reading: 5 ways to use triangles in photography composition
4. The close up family shot
The next family pose involves some sitting and some standing, depending on the heights of the family members. It’s a great close up shot of just their faces and I tell my client it’s the squishy faces shot. I instruct the family to cuddle in close and squish their faces together so they instantly get that they need to be really close together. Then I tell them to get even closer, which usually makes them at least smile. It’s fun. Then I fill the frame with their faces and take several shots in quick succession to capture a range of different expressions.
It helps to have a joker in the family who can’t resist the urge to tickle whoever they have their arm around. If not, encourage the mischief. It helps older children, who might feel a bit self conscious during a photoshoot, to let go a little.
Because you’re filling the frame with their faces it’s important not to shoot too wide. I’d suggest a focal length of 70mm and above, but 50mm will also work if that’s all you have. Just include a little bit of space around the group and then crop the image tighter in post production.
Getting in close is a great way to fill the frame which strengthens the connection between viewer and subject.
5. Standing poses for family of 4
The last thing you want with a standing family pose is for everyone simply to face the camera. That’s for school photos. We want to show the family love and connection, so the family members definitely don’t need to look at the camera.
Get them to look at each other, engage, crack jokes and laugh. Of course if their bodies are all facing forwards and just their heads are turned to each other it’ll look weird, so for a standing pose have the family members angle in towards the center of the group.
Family photo poses for 4 outdoors
Outdoor family sessions are the most suited to candid poses, because just being outdoors makes it more relaxing and you can get the entire family moving around so that they forget to look photo perfect. This is as true for a large family as it is for a family of 4.
A great way to start an outdoor family photo session is to get them to hold hands and start walking towards you. Ask one of the parents to tell a funny story. This should ideally start as quite a wide shot so that you can get several photos before they get too close to fit into frame.
Top tip: The best time for an outdoor family photoshoot is in the golden hour before sunset, because the natural light will have a lovely golden warmth to it and will be soft and therefore flattering on skin.
Family photo poses for 4 indoors
Family sessions indoors are of course more contained than outdoor photoshoots, but that doesn’t mean they have to be stiff, formal portraits. Indoor family photography is actually quite varied, because it can be in a photography studio or in the family home. The potential for great candid moments with a photo shoot at home are greater as the family is in their own environment, so will naturally interact more and small children will feel less intimidated than in the studio.
Unless you drag a chair along with you or find a bench, tree stumps or boulders outdoors, sitting poses with chairs are mainly for indoor family photoshoots.
Family photo poses for 4 with baby
Anytime you include a baby in a family photo you need to get closer and photograph with tighter crops so that the baby doesn’t get lost in the photo. So how you pose the family is really important.
When the family is just two parents and the baby it’s easy, but when another young child is involved you need to bear in mind that the child will lose interest very quickly if you take too long to pose the family.
Standing family photo poses with baby
When posing families with a baby and a small child, you need to slot the small child in at the last second so that they don’t run off while you’re posing other family members. So start building the pose with one parent holding the baby. When they’re comfortable and ready add other family members.
This is a great pose for creating a triangle shape of the family with the children raised in the center of the photo by the parents. The baby lift pose really highlights them as the focal points of the family photo, which all parents love. Plus it’s fun, the kids love it and everyone looks happy.
From a composition point of view it really works, because the parents’ arms and gaze upwards act as leading lines to the children. As an added bonus, it’s easy to create a triangle shape of the pose.
This is a beautiful pose for family of four with a baby and a young child. As before, start with one parent holding the baby and then add in the other parent with the young child in one arm and the other around the first parent.
Pose variation if the second child is older: the older child could hold the baby and the parents, on either side, could envelope the children with their arms wrapped around each other and the children.
Sitting photo poses with baby
Just because a family is sitting, doesn’t mean it has to be a formal portrait pose. Casual sitting poses are great when photographing at the family home.
Sitting photo poses work very well whenever you have family members of very different heights, not just when including a baby in family photos.
Creative family pose idea
Some of the best creative poses for families don’t include all their faces. Not everyone is going to like this pose idea, but that’s okay. We don’t all think alike and a great family portrait for one family might look very different for another.
That said, before you get creative during a family photo session, make sure you get more typical family photos first. Unless of course the family booked you for your creative style, in which case, go for it.
Consider different family portrait poses, like this one…
How do you photograph family portraits? – the secret
Whatever you do, don’t tell a family to say cheese and don’t ask them to smile! Children learn early on to pull a “photo face” and it’s the least natural, or genuinely happy, looking face ever.
One of the strongest skills a family portrait photographer can have is the ability to engage with subjects, to make them feel comfortable and to get them to relax and be as natural as possible. It has to be an enjoyable experience so that they want to come back to you.
To do this, you need to be genuinely interested in them as people. You need to have fun and you need to risk looking a little silly, especially with small children.
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The best family portrait poses are the ones that feel right for you as a family photographer, so don’t be afraid to develop your own style. If my family picture poses have helped you, let me know in the comments.