How to Survive a Family Portraits Session: 3 Family Photo Poses


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

Ok it’s confession time from this professional children and family portraits photographer.

I’m not proud of it.

Heck, you’d think after 18 years with this as my career, I’d be past it by now.

But nope.

When we look at our calendar and see THIS kind of session here’s what goes down.

Andria, my fellow photographer and studio manager, and I BOTH start to sweat buckets.

“Can you turn down the air conditioner?  Yes, I know it’s snowing outside, but it’s hot in here, Andria.”

Suddenly we’re playing hot potato with the camera. “No really, you shoot the session. I insist!”

Is my eye twitching?!

What on earth kind of session gives us both this reaction?


How to Survive a Family Portraits Session: 3 Family Photo Poses

Do you find yourself tearing your hair out trying to come up with new family portrait poses like this one? If so, continue reading for some posing tips.

*pause for your internal scream*

So what’s our issue with a family portraits session?

And how have we worked to get past it?

Well, it starts with the hundreds of things to consider with large family portraits sessions that aren’t a factor when photographing children one-on-one.

  • What will their dynamic be?
  • Who’s going to be our troublemaker? (You know your family has one, too.)
  • What are we going to do with all those heads and hands?!

In the past when we booked one of these family portraits sessions, we’d scramble for new, creative family portrait poses.

Sure, it gets easier over time and we developed a few tricks to pull out during these sessions that would make things go smoothly.

Yet by no means did we feel 100% confident about large family portraits.

Until we discovered THESE portrait photography tips.

How to Survive a Family Portraits Session: 3 Family Photo Poses

We used to struggle to come up with new, creative family portrait poses until we discovered the gems contained in these guides by Laura Siebert.

Talk about a time saver that has also made our jobs more fun.

Laura Siebert literally wrote the book on photography games that get make family portraits look effortless.

So I asked Laura if I could share three of her games that result in family portrait poses that aren’t so ‘posed.’

Here are 3 Fresh Family Portrait Photography Tips& Games


How to Survive a Family Portraits Session: 3 Family Photo Poses

Use the ‘Family Spread and Jam’ to capture family portrait poses like this one.

1) Family Spread and Jam

Family portraits with preschoolers or toddlers has this challenge: They are so much smaller than their adult-sized family members.

Stools aren’t an option.

They can’t stand.

So our only family portrait poses option was having a parent hold them.

Until Spread and Jam. It gets movement, laughter and cuddling going.

Here’s how it works:

Have the parents stand in front of the camera holding the littlest kids on their hip(s). Bigger kids can just stand next to the parents. First we have the family spread out. Then, on the count of three we have them all JAM together!

And here’s more portrait photography tips:  Ask them to “tickle each other!” Voila! You’ve got golden portraits right before your eyes.

How to Survive a Family Portraits Session: 3 Family Photo Poses

Check these books out for more great family portrait posing tips.

Laura has dozens upon dozens of games in her Get Real & Get Real 2 book series. You can grab them here. 

How to Survive a Family Portraits Session: 3 Family Photo Poses

Use the ‘Piggy Spin’ for those restless groups with a bunch of rowdy boys who don’t want to snuggle.

2) Piggy Spin

Sometimes you are in a family portraits session, and they are just NOT gonna be down with family portrait poses on a stool.

You know the clients I’m talking about!

They are the super fun group that is ALWAYS laughing and smiling.

Or the restless group with a bunch of rowdy boys who don’t want to hug or snuggle with their brothers and sisters.

Your job is to capture the spirit of that family and make the session fun.

And that’s where Piggy Spin comes in!

Here’s how it works:

Have some of the smaller kids get on the backs of bigger siblings or the parents. The standing person can wiggle around, spin, or bend forward.

All you have to do is start clicking as they burst into laughter.

Bonus portrait photography tips:Make sure you remind the rider to turn their face towards you during the ride.

How to Survive a Family Portraits Session: 3 Family Photo Poses

Playing a game of ‘Guess Who’ is guaranteed to bring out a beautiful family portrait pose full of natural smiles.

3) Guess Who

This game could come with a guarantee, it’s that good of a family portrait poses game.

Once you have the family arranged how you want them, Laura suggests telling them they are going to play a game of “Guess Who?”

Here’s how it works:

Ask a question or describe something about a family member and ask everyone to tickle the person you’re talking about. For example:  “Who has the stinkiest feet?”

We’ll even ask our clients, “Who is the favorite in the family?” The kids all point at themselves or each other, and this one is guaranteed to get dad laughing for the family portraits.

Sometimes we mix it up and instead have them all look at the person I’ve described rather than having a tickle fest.

Bonus portrait photography tips: make sure you remember to say something that will get everyone to look at each person once!


How to Survive a Family Portraits Session: 3 Family Photo Poses

If you want more games and family portrait posing tips like these, check out Laura Siebert’s Get Real & Get Real 2 series here.

Having these guides have saved me a lot of deodorant (no joke) and more importantly, made my large family portraits look less posed.

Our first thought is no longer “Oh gosh what am I going to do with these people?!”

Instead of awkwardly mumbling while we kill time trying to figure out family portrait poses on the fly, we’re armed with dozens of fun games we play and loads of portrait photography tips.

And by the end of the session, the kids don’t even notice their uncomfortable clothes,the hot lights or that they just did EXACTLY what their mom asked them to do without being bribed 🙂

If you want to grab dozens MORE games and portrait photography tips like these, check out the downloadable Get Real & Get Real 2 book series from Laura Siebert here.

I’d love to hear your favorite family portrait poses games, too. What works for you?

“With every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and SNAP! The jobs a game.”

~Mary Poppins by PL Travers

How to Survive a Family Portraits Session: 3 Family Photo Poses

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