How To Pose Your Family For Natural Looking Photos

Trying to catch a perfect family moment in a photo can be quite hard. Someone is always looking away, or someone is making a funny face, or not matter how seriously everyone takes the situation, sometimes the photo just doesn’t look right.

How to Pose Your Family for Natural Looking Photos

On the other hand, when your family is perfectly posed, everyone smiling, and the familial energy is clear to everyone who views the photo, it can really be a photo that will last forever and one that your family can look back on and remember their happiness in that moment.

Posing can really change the feeling a photo can have. This said, the actual act of helping a family pose for a photo can result in a photo that just seems unnatural, which we don’t want.

Finding pose suggestions that are appropriate but also look natural can be hard.

While making sure everyone is perfectly posed, we also want to make sure that the photo looks natural. We want to capture a moment, the natural emotions of that moment, and people’s likeness, in a way feels authentic.

The cameraman should be a fly on the wall, simply capturing the moment, rather than the director everyone is looking at.

In this article we are going to suggest a few poses that can help frame a natural photo while also being appropriate and practical.

Keep reading to learn more about framing a photo, capturing a natural moment, and how to pose for a natural-looking family photo.

1. Consider Not Posing At All

The curse of the pose is that it does make someone look quite unnatural. It can be hard to get people to pose without it looking this way.

In other words posing itself is troublesome, and if you are behind the camera it could be a good idea to not suggest a pose at all.

In an appropriate situation, with the consent of those involved, it could be a better idea to announce to people you are going to be taking photos, just so they are okay with that, and then try to catch some candid snaps instead.

By nature, these pictures that are candidly caught when people don’t necessarily realize, with their consent previously given, can be really good for catching those natural photos of people, perhaps while eating around a table or sharing in some task like playing a game.

2. Get Everyone To Do An Activity

A classic trick for a natural photo is getting people to say ‘cheese’. While the way this word is pronounced does actually make people smile, part of its function is that your brain in that moment is thinking about something else than the photo.

If you just ask someone to smile or pose they are very cognisant of the fact someone is taking a photo of them.

A fun way to catch people’s natural facial expressions and natural pose is to get them to do something that takes their mind off the fact they are being photographed.

You might do this with a child easily by having a hand puppet behind the camera, suddenly their attention is away from the lens and their natural reaction to the objects are displayed on their face.

You could do this with a family by asking everyone to sing a song, or even something silly like dancing, or more relaxed like walking round the space.

These simple activities present many more opportunities for you to catch more natural and relaxed expressions and poses.

3. Encourage Movement

Movement can be the bane of a photographer, with distorted images, blurry faces or hands, but it can also be key to catching a moment.

When people are in motion they will naturally be moving in a way that is relaxed and natural, not thinking about a picture being taken. This is why getting people to take a walk can be conducive to catching natural moments.

They will stop and observe certain things, turn different ways, and you will have more opportunity to catch a candid shot of a group of people who are intermingling and moving together.

The trick is to focus on snapping them when they are static or still, rather than literally in motion, but when you move you naturally stop too. Direct movement and capture it, rather than trying to get people to stay still.

4. Do Less

This sounds counterintuitive but is actually a pretty good tip. One way you can practice this, for example, is not to touch anyone. As in, don’t manually move peoples arms or hands or position people in certain spots.

Tell the family to stand in an area, but don’t necessarily organize their positioning. A family knows each other well and may organize themselves in a way that is more natural than posed.

The way a group of people organize themselves, sitting or standing, without the input of the photographer, is probably more natural than anything else and allows everyone’s natural personality to come out.

A photographer should be an observer of a scene, rather than a director of a scene.

5. Focus On Hands

One thing you have control over as a photographer is which moments you catch, and more specifically when you choose to take the photos.

Perhaps the biggest sign of an unnatural pose is someone’s hand. If someone has a ‘dead hand; that is just limp by their side because they think that;s how they should pose, then it will look pretty posed.

The key here is to try and catch people’s hands in movement. Whether that’s touching their hair, someone raising their hand for attention, someone placing their hand on someone else’s shoulder.

These are all natural hand poses, rather than someone looking like an action figure. A good rule of thumb for photographers is often ‘no idle hands’.

6. Try Sitting

Despite what we have already said, if you can’t seem to get a group of people to pose naturally, it could be worth trying a sitting pose instead of standing.

Some people just feel more comfortable and relaxed when they are sitting, for one reason or another, so it can be good to try this in certain situations.

Sitting allows people to organize themselves, group themselves, and get close to each other.

Also, when seated people seem to know what to do with their hands more often than not and will seat them on their lap or on the seat itself, looking more natural than standing.

7. Get The Subject Alone

When taking photos of others, especially families, there can often be other people behind the camera than you.

While this can be really helpful sometimes and in certain situations can be more conducive to natural looking photos, sometimes a subject is more likely to be relaxed and act natural when they are on their own.

There’s no better way to get a group to interact with each other naturally than to simply be alone.

Without direction these people will look at each other, react to each other’s movements, hold their own space in a group. Whereas if there are distractions in the area this can often lead a group not to be focused together.

8. Get The Dog Involved

If a family has a dog, then undoubtedly it can be worth getting the dog involved (see also “How To Photograph Dogs“). The dog will likely take everyone’s attention, which is good for you as the photographer.

Dogs are totally dynamic and will interact with everyone no matter the person’s temperament. This can be a great way to bring even shy subjects out of their shells.

Your subjects will naturally react to the dog, whether that’s laughing, or just smiling, and as everyone’s attention is directed at one thing this will happen in tandem.

Try to catch the moment when people aren’t looking at the dog, when they are telling you something about the dog, or just reacting to something the dog did. Dogs are your perfect distraction.

9. Don’t Be Predictable

This might be a strange thing to suggest but makes a lot of sense. For example, most obviously, if you count the photo before you take it, people will naturally pose and probably look unnatural.

If you want natural photographs you have to capture the moments of feeling natural and relaxed, which requires an element of surprise.

Of course, let someone know you are taking a picture of them, but don’t necessarily do it immediately, allow them to be natural again and then catch a candid pose.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, posing itself can be an issue for photographers and their subjects. The best tip is to think like a director rather than a photographer. Direct moments, and capture them, encourage movement, let people be natural.

The act of posing itself can be an issue, so let someone know they are being photographed, but let them move around and act as they normally would, and catch the moments that show their personality.

Laura McNeill
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