There are some questions that come up frequently in my exclusive education facebook group for workshop attendees and coaching students. One of the most questioned topics is posing, especially when working with clients near the beginning of your photography business! I remember those days so clearly- where I was trying to decide exactly what I wanted my posing to look like (and in my opinion, feel like), while at the same time trying to make sure my settings were correct and looking for the best light. There are many pieces to the puzzle, and it is so tricky until shooting in manual became very automatic and natural for me. Now that it is, I can really focus more on the posing pieces that matter to me, and that is a spot I am so glad to be in! But it is so tricky at first! So I am going to do a little Ask Anything Posing Mini-Series, starting today with families (though the tips apply to almost any type of photography)!
When I began my business, I knew I wanted to run Jill Gum Photography how I would want it presented to me as a client, and that I wanted to shoot how I would want to be photographed with my loved ones. That just makes sense to me- and makes me more likely to attract my ideal client! So from the beginning, I knew that my style was going to be much more interactive and natural and playful, and less poised and perfect. I knew as a person, wife, and mother, I am drawn to interactive images of people being together and enjoying each other a little more so than the more stuff and smiling ones, so that was what I wanted to take. Now, over time I have been able to find a pretty decent mix of those 2 style choices, resulting in more polished images that show the family interaction even better. But in the beginning, I feel like the attempt to get good interactions out of family sometimes resulted in a little chaos or disorganized posing, which wasn’t really my goal. And then sometimes when I would get frustrated in the moment, I would resort back to the stiff, formal smiling at the camera shots that didn’t really speak to my heart. My real goal was to pose to make sure that I could see everyone how I wanted, and that the photo looked great- but I wanted it to feel unposed. My goal with family posing is connection and interaction– so today I am sharing some tips I have learned along the way to meet that goal!
5 tips to help with Family Posing
1). Make sure everyone is connected to someone else in the group in some way (and by connected, I mean touching!). This is also true for family formals at weddings, or extended family shots. I noticed an immediate change in my work when I started doing this- the images looked so much more genuine and engaging. And I believe that the MORE ways they can be connected to each other, the better!
Here are some images of families I adore from a couple of years ago where I didn’t really put this tip to use in the family formals or at an extended family session. There is SOME touching, but it is very different to me than what you will see below:
Here are a few examples where there is a lot more connection points that I LOVE! When they are all smiling at the camera like in these shots, it IS admittedly a little cheesier to have them all touching. And also very posed. But artistically, to show their love for each other- I far prefer it! And when they aren’t all camera aware- that is where the magic happens with this tip!
Get those family members close to each other, snuggled in, and touching! The more “connection” points, the better!
2). Break the “rules”! In a regular family session, depending on you goal for an image, each person doesn’t have to be camera aware (or any of them for that matter!). I don’t even think each person has to be fully in the shot, or have their face visible! These two tips really help with catching good interaction with my families- you have to crop in, and really get the story.
3). Start with the FULL story (meaning, the full group together). But for the emotional moments, you have to break down the groups. When there are 4, 5, 6, 10 people in an image, you just can’t easily really get in for the sweet moments as easily- and it is harder to get everyone looking how and where you want. But when breaking down to smaller groups and arrangements, you can really focus on those specific relationships and capture something special! Here is the full group (definitely breaking the “rules” here too)- and then the breakdown.
And a few more sweet individual connections.
4). How you order the “timeline” for your session matters! Go in with a plan of what you want to take when (and where)- but know that with kids, you have to be flexible! I get the smiley shot first because I know everyone wants it. But I really only aim for 1-2 in the session that I know I nailed- because that isn’t the story. Next, I go for the interactive family. Walk, play, tickle. Sitting, standing, laying down. Then I split up the groups so that each kid (and parent!) can have a break. If there are 4+ kids, then you may have to do girls with one parent and then the other, and same with boys. If there are less, get some time with each kid and each parent. This is all about the interaction mentioned in tip 3. I bring that parent and kid a little away from the rest- so there isn’t as much distraction. This is a good time to relate to the kid and get good individual shots of them too- because parents know they want those.
5). Make sure you show what you shoot- or clarify ahead of time. Some people JUST want pictures of them all together, standing and smiling at the camera. And that is totally fine. But I am not the right photographer for those people, and I want them to know going in. Have mom talk to dad (or whichever parent is more comfortable talk to the other!) about that style going in so they expect it.
I hope this is a helpful first part of the Post Mini-Series for all you family photographers out there!
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I'm Jill, a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Chicago and Central Illinois, and available world wide! I'm also a photography educator, wife to my favorite person on the planet, mama to 3 amazing kids and an energetic Aussie, and obsessed with statement jewelry and all desserts (especially fruit pies!).
As a past high school teacher, I have a major heart for education. After going full time in my business, I have built a business I love that gives me an almost 6 figure salary and allows me to be home part time with my kids. I dream for you to run a business that enhances your life and lights you up, and I believe I can help you learn how to do it with a little hustle and a lot of heart!
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You're in the right place! As a past high school teacher, educating others is my life's work and a HUGE part of my business! I have been teaching moms and hobbyists how to use their camera from first purchasing it all the way to coaching them into businesses of their own, and I'd love to help you as well, wherever you are (and whatever camera you have!).
I'm so glad you are here! Teaching Photographers and other small business owners how to run more joyful, successful, and profitable businesses is one of my favorite parts of my business! I specialize in working with photographers to make their goals a reality (or figure out what their goals should be in the first place!).