I get a lot of requests for articles on this topic. So in this article, I will give you five posing tips that you can use when you’re photographing groups and family portraits.
Previously, I’ve written about clothing and posing tips for one or two people. You can read more about that here: How to Make Better Portraits – Quick Tips for Posing and Clothing
Posing tips for group photos
Here is a quick summary of the tips for posing groups and families. Keep reading and I’ll cover each in more detail below, as well as give you some example images.
- Vary the head heights
- Create triangles and separation (if it bends, bend it) with the body posing
- Try both vertical and horizontal compositions
- Show a connection between family members
- Watch the details (hands, feet, hair, etc.)
#1 – Vary the head heights
The first thing you want to look at when posing a group of people is how all of the people’s heads line up. Picture an imaginary line connecting their heads (like a child’s “connect the dots” game).
What you want to avoid, whenever possible, is creating a row of people with all the same head height (a straight line if you connect the dots). As well, make sure you don’t end up with a stack of heads either, with one person’s head directly above another’s (vertical straight line).
Instead, you want to arrange people so the head heights are staggered and no person is directly behind another (creating a head stack if one is taller). Aim for diagonal lines instead of straight ones.
That may mean seating some of the people in the group (as shown above), or simply rearranging the people so all the tall ones aren’t in a row.
#2 – Triangles and separation
We already talked about diagonal lines, so let’s take that a step farther into the individual posing as well. What you want to do here is follow the general rule of posing people which is…
Most people are naturally stiff in front of the camera and tend to stand rigid like board. It’s your job to get them to bend their limbs to create a more natural looking pose and angles.
For example, look at the image above. There are bent knees and elbows which create triangles between the body and limbs. It also looks more relaxed than the “stiff as a board” pose.
Get each person to shift their weight to one foot (the back foot so their hip is away from the camera), and bend their arm or arms. Putting a hand on a hip or in a pocket works well. This also helps avoid the “fig leaf” pose when men put their hands over their privates.
Note: I always tell them to leave their thumb out (or just hook their thumb into the pocket or belt loop, as seen above). This is so they don’t shove their hand all the way down to the bottom and their arm becomes straight again.
#3 – Try vertical and horizontal compositions
Just because you’re doing a group photo it doesn’t mean you’re limited to shooting only horizontal (landscape) orientation. Try vertical if the scene warrants it like the one below.
Think outside the box and try different things, maybe even a more square cropping.
#4 – Connect family members
Members of a family are connected, so show that in your photos. I like to do that by connecting them literally and physically. Just with a hand on a shoulder (see above) or leaning in to touch shoulders.
By not connecting people in this way, you can end up with one person looking like they are separate or isolated. So be aware of making sure the group looks connected.
#5 – Watch the details
This one is a bit of a pet peeve for me. Since the introduction of digital photography, I find there is a tendency of many photographers to get lazy. To “fix it in Photoshop” instead of fixing it in camera.
While you can fix some stuff in Photoshop, it usually take a lot longer to do so. Why would you want to spend an hour fixing fly-away hair or a crooked tie in Photoshop when it takes less than 30 seconds to do it before you take the photo.
This is about paying attention and looking for the little things such as:
- Messy or fly-away hair
- Jewelry issues (crooked, or a necklace clasp showing)
- Trash on the ground in the shot
- Big blobs of lint or pet hair on clothing
- Wrinkled or rumpled clothing or other similar issues (crooked tie, button not done up, etc.)
- Watches that may catch the light and cause a big reflection (I usually get people to remove their watches)
- Big bulky things in pockets, usually the men’s (keys, wallet, etc.)
- Hand placement
Some things do require retouching in Photoshop such as the white lettering on the girl’s shirt on the right (see below). But this was a quick cloning job, not nearly as difficult as out of place hair or a necklace.
If you follow these five tips you’ll be on your way to making better group portraits and family photos.
Remember to photograph your own as well. Use a tripod and get in the photo yourself using the self-timer, or ask a friend to come pus the button for you as I did. My friend happens to also be a photographer, but that isn’t even necessary, just someone the family knows.Cheers,