20 Posing Prompts for Natural Looking Family Photos

Calgary Lifestyle Family Photographer

There are so many different ways to achieve natural looking family portraits, but these 20 posing prompts for natural looking family photos are my top go-tos. I am a lifestyle photographer, so whether the photo session is set in a home or outdoors, I want the portraits to truly represent the family who is being photographed. I want the children’s personalities to shine and the toddlers to jump on the bed the way they normally would. I want families to explore an area the way they would if I weren’t there, the moments I capture to be real. I always take a few shots where everyone is looking at the camera; we all love to have a few of those. But these are some of my little tricks to get the real smiles and natural interactions out during photo shoots.

Mom or dad, daughter or son, are of course interchangeable in these different poses. But to keep it simple, I will stick with the quickest, easiest way to say it and go with who is on the sample image used bellow each prompt. These are prompts after all so they are meant to be quick and easy, to get a quick and easy natural response, in order to create natural looking family portraits.

1) Go stand behind dad and give him a big hug

This is great when there is a child who is slightly older. They usually have a lot of fun and start smiling really big, but I also like that it places the faces at different levels and adds interest to the pose.

2) Look at mom and tell her you love her sooooo much

(Or tell her a really important secret)

I love using this one after I have placed a parent sitting down with their child on them in a straddled position. Then I ask the child to tell their mom or dad that they love them soooooo much. And maybe add a little squishing of mommy’s or daddy’s cheeks. The child usually gets a little shy and all of the cuteness comes out. In this first picture, I actually asked him to kiss his mom and tell her he loves her. I was able to capture the most genuine portraits as he was categorically refusing to comply!

3) Forehead to forehead, nose to nose

This is all about getting close and intimate. Super simple and super adorable every time.

4) Put your son on your shoulders

This is obviously super fun for the kiddos. It is also another type of pose that adds different levels to the photo. And I even like asking dad to get close enough to mom so that their child can reach down and give her a kiss. Or it also looks really adorable if mom puts her hand on her child’s back (like a protective mama bear). It is also a really handy trick if you have a little one who is getting a little cranky and doesn’t feel like cooperating anymore. It switches things up and takes their mind off the photo session and onto way more fun things, like getting a ride on dad’s shoulders! Not that it was the case in these photos, the kids were such good sports.

5) Walk hand in hand

Pretty straight forward, I know. But I love a good family picture where everyone is lovingly walking hand in hand. One additional pointer I like giving for walking hand in hand is closing the gaps. It looks really nice when everyone is a little closer together. Unless there is a lot of running and movement and swinging a child up an down, then just walk free! But with a slower walk, like with a one year old, it is so nice when everyone is close.

6) Everyone warm and cozy under the blanket

Whether the blanket is needed because everyone is getting too cold or because you have a nice blanket on hand and want to use it for your photo shoot, the “everyone warm and cozy under the blanket” shots always turn out great. The family members have to get really close to one another and they naturally snuggle intimately. And the photos are always filled with so much love and emotions.

7) Play peekaboo (with or without a blanket)

I like playing peekaboo with a blanket, having the child hide behind it or moving it up and down over their head. They sometimes like to hide with their hands. Sometimes, they like playing peekaboo around a corner, under a comforter during in-home sessions, under a tuque during a winter session. Yes, children like pulling down their tuque until you cannot see their face anymore! So when they start doing it, I like using it to my advantage!

8) Run to or around mom and dad and go hug them

This is a great alternative to a static family shot. The goal is to get everyone together smiling. So instead of asking them to smile, you get them to do something that will naturally get them to smile! It’s all about the natural smile, not the fake “say cheese” one.

9) Twirl

When a little girl shows up for her family photo session wearing a really cute dress, I make sure that she gets to show if off! But twirling is actually not just for little girls. I love getting brides and mothers in gorgeous flowy dresses to twirl because it adds so much motion to the picture. It also looks really funky with a teenager with long hair if you can freeze that motion while the hair is fully going.

10) Feel the sand, water, leaves or anything else that is fun to play with

These are great for detail shots of little fingers and toes. And again, it keeps things fun and lighthearted. The kids don’t feel like they are being pressured into doing something that they do not want to be doing, which is key for a successful family photo session.

11) Show me the biggest hug ever

I say this a lot. Standing, sitting, walking. How much the kid’s head gets buried in mommy’s chest varies, but the captures are always sweet, tender and precious!

12) Lift your child way up and back down for cuddles

I don’t know about you, but I Iove lifting my kids up and throwing them in the air so this is pretty much an everyday natural thing! And so much fun.

13) Throw snow (or leaves) in the air

A total hit with the kids. But most important of all, when you have a backlit scene, use a shallow depth of field and throw snow in the air, it looks like magical stardust! You can also get the family to pick up snow and blow on it!

14) Kiss!

This is again a really natural thing, but it will help you create flattering portraits in three ways. One, you will end up with a three quarter profile or a profile and it will give you a nice flattering angle. Two, it moves the faces closer together and will allow people to close the gaps in between them without even thinking about it (it always looks better and more intimate when you have everyone really close together). Three, it’s just so dang sweet.

15) Parents, each hold and child and have fun!

I love having fun like this with families of four. Each parent can hold a child, seated or standing and I just ask them to have fun and be silly. They can move the kids back and forth so they get closer together and further apart, then back to close together. They can throw them both up in the air, get them to hug or tickle the other one, get them to interact!

16) Dad, go behind mom and interact with your child over mom’s shoulder

This is one of my favourite poses for a family with a young child. I love how dad is lovingly holding his whole family in his arms. It is intimate. It is also super fun when mom starts lifting their little one up and down and getting some big giggles out.

17) Tickles!

By now, you have probably realized that I am a big fan a big natural giggles. So here’s a decent way of getting some!

18) Hold your daughter facing you and dip or spin

I will capture the dip or the spin, but my favourite thing about this is the giant smile on the child’s face after the fun move. They love it!

19) What I like to call the 2-hand handhold

I loooooove this. It’s so romantic. I get mom to hold dad’s hand with both of her hands. Dad can be holding their little one, or this is also perfect for a photo of the parents alone! Because family photo sessions should most certainly include photos of the couple who fell in love before the kids came along!

20) Just have fun and explore

And this is lifestyle photography at its best. Just tagging along and documenting life.

If I weren’t there with a family when they went to the park, the beach or the mountains, what would they do? I imagine that they would explore, throw rocks in the river, hold their little ones out so they could put their hand in the water and feel how cold it is. The children would want to pick up the leaves and look at them, pick up a stick and trace lines in the sand. They would run through the trees and play peekaboo behind the leaves (you have no idea how often that actually happens, little kids love hiding behind leaves)! Lifestyle. This is what it’s all about. Who is the family in the photo? Are their children shy and want to hold their parents’ hands while they are walking around or are they little adventurers who always run ahead? Do they like to get dirty or do they prefer to sit on a nice blanket and relax?

This is why the best way to have a successful family photo session is by getting to know the family. And using these 20 posing prompts for natural looking family photos also helps!

If you love photography and want to learn more, you can visit my page The Art of Photography For All. I cover a variety of photography related topics for all levels!

Valerie Richer

Calgary Wedding and Lifestyle Family Photographer

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