I’ve been doing lot of family holiday photo sessions lately and I’ve realized over the years, that the most natural and happy sessions are ones that tell a story. Of the families interacting with each other and doing what they would most naturally do when in the same setting and environment. That’s not always easy since the reality is that you wouldn’t find yourself all dressed up in a perfect woodsy setting frolicking with your kids.
My job as a photographer is to gently guide and provide direction to the families I’m shooting to get the most natural and candid photos as possible. Here are some tips and poses I use over and over again. Hopefully they will help you in creating beautiful family holiday photos!
Look around where you’re shooting and encourage kids to interact with the environment around them. Whether it’s throwing rocks at the beach or throwing leaves up in the air, children are more natural when they are allowed to play, which will capture their natural joy along the way.
Ask parents to interact with their child. This could be tickling them, throwing them up in the air, or giving them lots of kisses. I often step back once I have a setting I like and just tell parents to do what they would normally do with their child if I wasn’t there. Then I just capture the natural interactions.
Similar to #2, once I get the standard “portrait” shot of the kids looking and smiling at the camera, I like to step back and just let them interact with each other. I don’t give direction at this point since the goal is to capture kids doing what they would naturally be doing.
When you find yourself in a vast meadow, field or vast setting, it’s the perfect backdrop to step way back and capture the family walking to get a wide-angle view. Family photography is so much about close-in personal shots that I like to include a few wide angle views which tell a different story.
For families with more than one child, I love asking them to interact with one child each and stepping back to give personal space. This allows the image to tell a scene or story that a viewer is getting a peek into. Try different angles too, for example if you want to capture the background as you’re stepping back, cropping midway the body is one way to give a unique angle.
I’ve already mentioned that I love walking shots since they provide a dynamic sense of movement to photos. So many times, we focus on capturing faces but a nice change and creative perspective is capturing a family walking away or children looking forward towards something with their backs turned.
When you’re dealing with a young baby or fidgety toddler who just wants to play, one trick I use is to have them start off in front of the family and just run towards me. After several attempts, I always manage to get a natural, smiling image and the child is happy since he or she gets to run. A similar tip is to have the family all set up for the shot, and then have the toddler run into one of the parent’s arms.
If you’ve got open skies, go for a different perspective. This pose provides a different depth to the many close-up shots of parents and kids interacting. Don’t be afraid to break the mold when shooting families by cropping and getting different angles and perspectives.
Young children are playful and it’s not long until they get bored of standing still and saying “cheese!” For young siblings, including my own kids, I like to capture one child in front and one in back and tell them we’re playing a game. They get to take turns and then at the last minute I tell them we’re now doing both of them looking in front.
Towards the end of the session, kids are naturally tired and just want to do their own thing. I take this opportunity to give them free reign of playing right around the parents as they look on. It provides a sweet, often heart-warming, and candid capture.
What are some of your favorite family photography tips? I’d love to hear what works well for you! Make sure to check out more photo tips and ideas here!
Agnes Hsu is a mom of three and has been inspiring parents and kids to get creative with easy activities and family friendly recipes for over 10 years. She shares her love for creative play and kids food to her 2MM+ followers online. Agnes' commitment to playful learning and kindness has not only raised funds for charity but also earned features in prestigious nationwide publications.