For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Rebecca Rice. I am a family photographer and educator in Nashville, TN and today we’re going to be talking about family photography posing secrets! This is one of those things that people ask me about all the time and rightfully so! It’s one of those things that is really important and doesn't always come naturally. Especially with family photography! Posing couples is one thing, but posing families where it's a couple PLUS a bunch of little munchkins, that’s when things get really interesting. 

When it comes to posing for families, I’m not going to talk about the specifics of how to pose. I want to share with you some of the tips and tricks that I've learned along the way in my journey through family photography with young kids, older kids. I know we work with a mix of ages and so I really want to give you some practical things that you can do the next time that you’re shooting a family session to help you navigate posing in a way that is natural, not awkward or stiff and helps flatter your clients and makes you feel good. You don't want to feel rushed or freeze because you can’t think of a pose. I’m going to give you a few steps that you can do practically going into a family session to pose in a way that’s natural and fun and brings out real, genuine smiles! 


When I say posing workflow, what I mean is a list of groupings or various poses that you’re going to hit from start to finish in your session. I do this a lot with mini sessions. I love following a posing workflow with minis because it makes everything flow smoothly. I do posing workflows with full sessions too! I like to have a posing workflow because it helps things move along naturally in your session so there’s not awkward starts and stops. Have you ever been in a session and you freeze trying to think of how to pose your family next? Having a posing workflow helps that not happen. Another thing that it does is it helps you make sure you get those MUST HAVE shots and you don't miss anything important. In my posing workflow, I have a list of shots that I get for every single family session. They’re must haves. They’re the photos that when the family sees them, they can’t just buy 1. They want to buy all of them because of the way that I structure the gallery and posing families. My posing workflow has 7 poses that I do. When I say poses for families, I really mean core things. Let's say we do the whole family together standing up. There’s a lot of variation that you can get in that pose. You can get the family looking at each other, mom and dad looking at each other and the kids looking at me, the kids looking at each other, a group hug. You can get lots of variation with that one single pose. Another one that i always do is getting the kids individually and the kids together. Doing that, it flows really easily one after the other. We get all of the kids together and then I’ll say “Okay, we’re going to do everyone separate, who wants to go first?” Doing that flows so naturally and I don't have to think about what to do next. I know that I’m going to go from all the kids together to the kids individually and I don't have to wonder what I should do next. I know what’s coming next so It helps to have a posing workflow. If you want to structure your own posing workflow, I suggest getting a piece of paper and write down different poses that you want to get and find what flows best together for you. For example, I know in ever family session, I need photos of the whole family, mom and dad individually with the kids, all the kids together and individually. By figuring out your posing workflow and following that every single time, you’ll get to a place where you don't have to think about what poses you’re going to do next. You already know because you do the exact same thing every single time. I do have a posing workflow that’s available. It's “The complete family posing system.” It’s only $27. It’s a total steal because it has my posing workflow, prompts and a full gallery for you to see those poisoning prompts in action. If you don’t know how to make a posing workflow, I’ve got you covered. Super affordable. Go check that out. 

When I use prompts, they’re key phrases I’ll say or questions I’ll ask that bring out genuine smiles and memories. That’s my goal. I am able to capture those real giggles. There's nothing better than genuine smiles and moments between a family. I use prompts to do that. For example: one If there’s a lot of kids, I’ll say “Run and give mom and dad a big group hug.” I'll have the kids start behind me and they run and I stand still and snap photos while they’re running. It looks so cute with kids! That's a posing prompt that's really easy. It’s making memories. Another one I like to do, especially with older kids, I’ll say “on the count of 3, I want you to look at the funniest sibling.” I'll count down then start snapping. You'll get this candid moment of looking around, laughing and trying to figure out if they want to say who is the funniest.” Or you could say “look at your favorite sibling.” That's where things can get fun and really bring out the true genuine emotion that looks beautiful on camera. 

With younger kids, my prompts are usually me trying to make it a game. Younger kids (toddler aged, preschool and under) are not necessarily excited about standing and smiling. Of course you’ll get the occasional kid that is excited too. For the most part, kids don't want to do that. My kids (2 and 3) are crazy and they just want to go all over the place. I like to make it a game. Especially because if kids don't know you’re taking pictures of them, it goes better. I’’ use prompts like play hide and seek. I’ll peek out from behind the camera and “find them” then shoot a couple pictures, then peek out again. That’s usually good for kids that are shy. If you have toddlers that are mad, I like to play the “don't smile” game. “Don’t smile, I said don’t smile!” A lot of times kids will crack at that. If you have kids with a lot of energy, like mine, I like to play red light, green light. I’ll have them stand really far away, I’ll usually have them hold hands and sometimes we’ll do this with just kids and with parents as well. I’ll say “green light” and they’ll run and then i’ll say “red light” and they’ll freeze and that’s when I start shooting. They are smiling ear to ear, they’re so excited to play and they don't really realize that you’re doing a photo session. They think you're playing a game. Those posing prompts for younger kids really work. 

For older kids, my goal is to make it memorable. I don't want this stiff cheesy smile. Older kids (middle school, high school) typically nail that fake smile. I use posing prompts to bring out those real, genuine smiles, laughs, personality or whatever I can get from them. Some I like to do if there's a set of siblings. I like to ask about their sibling dynamic. Who is the funny one? Who do you get in fights the most with? What was the last thing that you fought about that was so dumb? I also like to look for inside jokes, nicknames and things of that nature. A lot of times teenagers will start dropping inside jokes or say something and laugh it off. I’ll pry into that. If i can interject myself into that inside joke then I can be a part of that and get more genuine laughs. A prompt I like to use go get some movement in my photos of older kids is to have them stand side by side and bump hips while they’re walking. Have them bump into each other and you can make it a competition. Who can bump into sister the most? Who can try to make her fall? You can be silly with it. They have fun with that and you ge ta lot of really great candid moments there! In my complete family posing system, I have about 60 different posing prompts. They’re in different groupings. Some are with just mom and dad, mom and kids, dad and kids, some with just kids. 


When I first bring on an associate photographer that's going to be shooting family sessions, I tell them that it’s okay to keep notes. Of course, I share with them my family posing workflow and prompts. I encourage them that if they need to write those out on a note in their phone, DO IT. They can refer back to that if they forget what’s coming next. I know people that will put together a collage of inspiration that they want to capture. They’ll set it as the background of their phone so if they’re stuck, all they have to do is pull out their phone and glance and see what pose they want to do next. I always tell my associates that no one is going to get mad at you for checking your notes! No one is going to be offended that you have to look at your phone to see what you want to do next. It’s way better to glance at your notes than to sit frozen not knowing what to do next. Families want the primal product. They want beautiful photos. How you get there is not that big of a deal. If you need to keep notes on your phone, it’s okay! You can create custom background faces for your apple watch, so you can have your posing workflow on your watch if you want it to be more subtle! I hope this helps if you’re really uncomfortable with family posing! It’s OKAY! It’s okay to take some notes and have inspiration on your phone and to refer to it. No one is going to be mad at you for doing that!

I asked my facebook group if they had any posing questions before we started, so I did get a handful of questions that I want to answer here about posing! I thought they were really great questions. 

How do you work with small children for posing? 

That's a really valid question, especially I assume you're talking about toddlers you’re talking about how they are really unpredictable. How do you pose a toddler? Well, one thing that to really keep in mind is with younger kids, you need to follow their lead. That is really important. If you don't follow them, they are probably not going to cooperate with you. So I follow their lead, especially if I'm trying to get photos of just the toddler. Then if they want to run around, they can run around and I'll follow them. If they want to sit on the ground, I will let them sit on the ground, like literally any way that you can get them to be still for as still as possible, then do it. If they want to run, we play red light, green light so I can get moments of stillness. When it comes to, like, involving the whole family with younger kids, I always place oldest to youngest. Mom and dad go first and I always put them in the middle or on the outside. Always place mom and dad first and then I'll place older siblings and the youngest go last. I have them stand by me. I'll place older siblings and then the youngest will go last, usually on somebody's lap or right in the middle someplace. Maybe I can have them stand on a rock someplace that's very visual. That is easy for them to see and to be able to follow directions easily because that doesn't come easily to small children. Follow their lead and place them last that way. Everybody else that's older that understands how to stay put can stay put and then you can place them last. 

Do you ever try to get photos of just the parents? If so, what do the children do during that time? 

Yes, I always, ALWAYS get photos of just the parents. That is very important to me, I usually ask when the last time they had photos together was and you would be surprised how many people say the last time they got photos done was at their wedding. You guys parents need to get photos done of just the two of them. I think it's so important. It's so healthy for their marriage and their relationship. And so I always try to incorporate that as part of my posing workflow. During that time, I'll have the kids stand by me. If they're a little bit older and they can follow like instructions, I'll tell them to help me get Mom and Dad to smile so they're dancing or they're running and making faces. It gets really fun if they're younger. I will have a blanket usually that I'll sit next to me and we tell them to sit on the blanket. If it's a baby that's not a sitter or, maybe the baby is like going to crawl away, I'll offer to hold them. I have a two year old and three year old, so I am used to shooting while holding kids. I'm just a multitasker. It's not a big deal for me. If the parent is comfortable, especially with those littles, I'll go ahead and hold them on my hip and shoot with my other hand. That's happened several times where we have like a six month old or whatever, and parents are totally fine with me holding them. Usually the kid looks at me and is really confused and doesn't have enough time to realize that I'm not their parent so they don't cry or anything because most of the time I snap really, really fast and hand them right back. I hope that helps when it comes to what I do with the kids.

Do you have any poses specifically for teenagers? 

Yes. one thing that I do with teenagers is I get a lot of different groupings because you have a lot more time with teenagers. They are a lot more cooperative. For my full sessions, for example, I time my full sessions 30 to 60 Minutes. If we get done in thirty minutes, we're able to finish. I don't feel pressured to fill the whole hour, especially with older kids, because it goes by so fast. One thing with teenagers is we do have a lot more time for different variations of poses or different groupings. I'll try to get every kid individually with mom and dad each. That way when it‘s time for Mother's Day or birthdays or whatever, they have that photo with just them and mom or just mom and each of the kids to be able to share on social media so that's one thing that I always do with older kids. Another thing is I like to get a lot of candids, especially because once they get into those teenage years, they know how to stand and smile. You have plenty of pictures of them standing and smiling, so of course we get those. But as a mom, I love the pictures of my kids just candid and laughing and smiling and those come along a lot less often when they're teenagers. I was a youth pastor for five years, so teenagers is what I do. I get it that parents love seeing a lot of them haven't seen a real laugh or a real smile from their teenagers in a long time. So I try to bring those out through posing problems and things like that and capture as many candids as I can because those moments are just so special. Another thing I try to capture is interaction between family members. So whether that's interaction between siblings, between kids to parents, whatever, if I can catch glimpses, if I can catch faces, I try to get those because those are really, really special to you. If you want examples like actual poses for teenagers, one thing that you can do is search Pinterest teenager poses. You'll find tons of examples. The things I'm sharing today are just really practical things that you can do to start to not get the stiff fake smiles and change up the groupings and things like that. Get a great variety in your gallery for the family.

How do you start off the session to make it more comfortable? Do you chat with them? Do you have a go to pose? 

It's a really great question. Any time I meet a family for the first time, I always spend a little bit of time talking with them. Usually as we're walking from their car to our spot. I want to get to know them a little bit. I ask them if they've been around this area before, where they're originally from, if they moved here from somewhere. I ask about the kids, what they’re interested in. Things like that. I also have a family questionnaire that I send to all of my family's full sessions and mini sessions. I can link that for you guys if you want to check out that questionnaire. In there, I ask a lot of strategic questions. That way I can sort of get to know them in their dynamic before, going into our session. If they tell me that the kid's favorite TV show is PJ Masks, I'll ask the kid about PJ Masks to make that connection before we start shooting. That usually doesn't take very long. We're talking two to three minutes of chatting and then we get into actually shooting.

I always start every session with the whole family together. That just helps everybody calm down. It's not so scary for the little ones. They aren't being separated from their family. Everybody together just makes it start off really smoothly. Definitely if I were to start with the whole family together, the only exception is if a kid is like not having it, then I will do as many combinations as I can without that child and then we start including them in the photos. I have a whole blog post about what to do if a kid doesn't cooperate during photos. You can search that on my blog search like the word cooperate and you'll find it. 

What is your favorite family pose ? 

I love this question. I actually have a couple of favorites. These are ones that I don't get in every session. if I have time, I really do try to get them because I think they're so cute no matter what age the kids are. Specifically for younger kids, I always try to get a shot of the parents in the background, kissing, looking at each other, embracing and the kids in the foreground. They are the focus of the photo. I'll place them slightly to the side and quite a bit in front so that the parents are in the background blurred and the parents are up or the kids are up front. And I'll have them close their eyes and say “Mom and dad are kissing and it is so stinky.” If you go to my Instagram @rebeccaricephotography, you'll see tons of examples of that post specifically because I just love it. There's so much you can do with it. You can have them all smile. You can have the kids hug, you can have them make silly faces. There's so much you can do and it is just adorable. Another one that I really, really love is the run to group hug. I'll have Mom and Dad stand pretty far away. I mentioned this a little bit before where the kids stand behind me and I have them run and give mom and dad a big group hug. This is one again, I don't get to do it in every session, but the ones that I do, it's so sweet. They're like the best candid moments because you can see this sweet, genuine joy on mom and dad's faces. I always have it so mom and dad are facing me and I capture Mom and Dad's faces and the kids are running and I see their backs as they're running to mom and dad. I think it's just the sweetest. It always turns out super cute and it's even more fun the more kids they have. When you get into like three, four or five kids, that's when it's super fun with a pose like that because there's arms flailing everybody everywhere and kids are racing to try to see who can get to mom and dad the fastest. If we have boys, the boys always try to knock over mom and dad andI have to tell them this is not a tackle. Go and be sweet. We're going to do little hugs, but especially if it's like just dad, then the boys just try to take him down, which is hilarious. Those are probably my favorite family poses and I do use prompts for those. Of course, everybody thinks it's so fun all the kids have a blast. 

If anybody else has any questions about posing, I would love to help and talk with you to see how I can help. The best way to find me is on Instagram @rebeccaricephotography and you can just DM me. I love chatting with people in my DMs. If you're wanting that posing resource, definitely go check that out. That's The Complete Family Posing System. I linked it. You can check it out at

It's only twenty seven dollars. It's a total steal. And in there it has my whole posing workflow broken down in groupings. What you can do within each grouping and things like that. I have sixty posing prompts that you can use for kids of all ages, different family dynamics, things like that. Then it also includes a sample full gallery. You can see those posing prompts in action. So lots of people love that resource and it's super helpful, a quick tip thing kind of thing. They love it. 

If anybody has any sort of questions, I'd love to chat with you about posing, family photography, mom, life. I'm here for it.I hope this is helpful for you we'll see you next time.

Episode Transcript

06. Family posing secrets