Confession: My first photo shoot was a flop. I had all my ducks in a row before my niece and nephews (ages 3-9 years old) came to my house for their family pictures. I set up my indoor studio (which included a new backdrop), opened all the blinds to let in natural light, and I had my camera fully charged and ready to go. My niece and nephews showed up in the cutest little matching outfits, and they were ready to smile. My sister-in-law then turned to me and asked “how are you going to pose them?” I looked at her blankly and said:
Huh? That’s my job?
I had no idea how to pose kids for photos. It was such a simple topic that I hadn’t even thought of it. I lumped the kids together and quickly started snapping away.
I looked at the final product: pictures of the three kids lumped in a line. At that moment, I learned the importance of directing the photo shoot and posing the kids.
Whether you are doing a professional photo shoot with a client, you are snapping cellphone pictures of your own kids, or something in-between it is your job as the photographer to be the director of the production. After seven years of trial and error, and I have some tried and trusted ‘go-to’ poses and tips. These easy to follow tips are sorted by age and number of kids in the photo.
Posing Ideas and Tips By Age
If there is one predictable statement about children- it is that they are unpredictable. This is especially true when there is a camera around. Having some great age-specific poses in your back pocket can help ease photo shoot stress!
Newborns (age 0-3 months)
Young babies may seem like they are the easiest to pose because they typically don’t have ‘stranger danger’ fears and can’t get up and walk away. In reality, for an inexperienced photographer it can be quite challenging unless you have the right tricks up your sleeve.
Since babies this age cannot hold up their own necks, support is key. You want the baby to look comfortable and warm. Without the appropriate props, no matter how cute the baby is, you will not be able to highlight those adorable features and they will look like The Blob. There are pillows specifically made for posing young babies. These pillows can be placed under blankets, and are very easy to use.
These types of baby support props also come in the form of baskets that can nicely cradle a baby.
OR, if you have a basket around your house, save money by packing it full of soft blankets like I did in the below photo.
Babies (age 3 months to 1 year)
That first year is packed with milestones. You can highlight these when you are posing an older baby. Whether they are just starting to hold up their head, learning how to sit, or even trying to stand you, your goal is to make sure they are comfortable. Nothing fancy here folks!
Toddlers (age 1-3)
We can all agree that toddlers and young kids are fun, exciting, and unpredictable. I have an entire post on tricks to have up your sleeve when you are photographing kids, if you recommendations for making kids feel more comfortable check it out!
I have found that sitting – whether on a chair, prop, or stool produces the most natural toddler photos. You want the toddler to be comfortable and be focused for best results!
Kids (age 3 and through 14)
This is where the real ‘posing’ comes into play. If you don’t direct and guide kids, then they will automatically stand slouched over, with hands hanging at their sides. For most kids, there is a delicate balance between awkwardly looking like a wallflower at prom and feeling uncomfortable in an unnatural pose.
I have two ‘go-to’ poses for all kids that avoid the wallflower-stance and produce great portraits. My first clutch pose is the ‘leaning on a wall’ stance. Kids of all ages feel natural in this position, and when they feel comfortable, their confidence will shine through on the photo.
To get this look, simply have them place their back against the wall or lean sideways against a solid surface, whether a building, tree, or wall, and have them turn their face to you.
My other ‘go-to’ pose is the ‘attitude’ stance. Put one hand on the hip or in a pocket, and allow the other hand to hang down naturally. Easy (check), natural (check), fun (check).
Teens (age 15 and up)
All of the above kid poses can work great when photographing teens. Additionally, you can start to throw in some more serious expressions and some natural sitting poses.
Posing Multiple Kids
We went over some easy tips for posing ONE child. Let’s complicate things a bit and discuss posing multiple children. Don’t be intimidated: adding in additional children can be just as simple if you have follow these three simple tips.
Tip One: Huddle Together
When photographing siblings or a group of children, it is best to get them all on the same level. If they are different ages or sizes, have the older kids crouch down. It compacts the photo (which is more visibly pleasing), but more importantly, it looks more natural and adds a component of fun to the photo.
For younger children, I love when they are all on their bellies, cuddling close together.
Tip Two: Symmetry
It is best to try to keep some symmetry in your portraits. I try to put the smallest (or tallest) kid in the middle if possible. It does not have to be perfect, but some symmetry is pleasing to the eye!
Tip Three: Capture the interactions
No doubt my favorite “posing” tip of all: capture the moments when they are NOT posing! Capture the laughter and the kisses. Encourage them to be silly, be themselves, and do what makes them feel comfortable. Those are often the best pictures of all!
Whether you are photographing a newborn, a teen, or 10 kids, these tips will help you take natural and beautiful photos. Roll with the punches, be patient, and have fun anytime you are taking pictures!
Next time someone asks you “how are you going to pose them?” You can jump right into action instead of looking like a deer in the headlights
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