Well, Memorial Day has come and gone; we’ve power-washed our deck; and we’ve had our first s’mores of the season. It’s official–summer is here for our family! For many of us, summer also brings with it a family photo session! Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, the grass is green, and our skin takes on a healthy glow… a perfect time of year for taking pictures! And oftentimes we ladies are starting to think about our holiday cards already, too. (It’s music to my husband’s ears when I take a peek at my camera after shooting some pictures, and I say, “I think we can use one of these for our Christmas card!” He loves to check that box and be done with it!!)
With the exception of one time last fall when Aubri from Pink Sky Photography took pictures of our family (what a treat!!), our family has never had a professional photo session. I know that is shocking to those who know me personally because I LOVE pictures. But luckily for me, I have some friends who are pretty darn good with a camera, so I will get my kiddos organized (and my husband–let’s be honest, I’ve got to get him on board for this kind of thing!), and we’ll head outside to a beach or a field–or even the backyard. I’ll hand my camera to my friend, and that’s when we’ll all stop and stare at each other. So often, we’ll get to where we’re going–looking all color-coordinated and with our hair combed–and then we’ll be like, “What should we do now??” It can be hard to figure out how to pose! And if I start telling everybody where to go and what to do, I’ll immediately be sweating bullets. And if mama is sweating bullets, she is not going to be looking good in any pictures. And if mama isn’t looking good in any pictures, you can bet your bippy that none of those pictures will be framed in your home, and they certainly won’t be mailed to every person you know around the holidays either!! So perhaps it would do everyone some good to have an idea about what you want to do before you get to this (exciting) photo session, or the whole thing could be a big ol’ waste of time!
If you’re often in the same boat and need some posing ideas, (or if you’re going to be having some professional photos taken soon), I thought it might be helpful to compile a group of pictures to give you some inspiration. Photographers love knowing if you have a “vision”, so maybe something below will catch your eye. When we had our session last fall, I pointed Aubri, our photographer, to this shoot done by Angie from Simplicity Photography. (many pictures from that shoot–and others from Simplicity Photography–are shared below.) I loved how comfortable the shots seemed, and I felt like the style of the shoot really captured the closeness of that adorable family. I also thought their clothes were pretty darn awesome! (Clearly they spent some time working on that end of things.) It really helped Aubri to know that’s what I was going for when she took our pictures. Hopefully you will find some inspiration below yourself!
Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate/referral links. Please click here for further explanation.
CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
As you pan down this post, I’m hopeful that not only will you get some posing ideas, but perhaps you will find some clothing inspiration as well. Many photographers now include “styling” as part of their fee–they either help you themselves with your clothing and accessories, or they will have you work with a stylist. It really does make a huge difference when you spend some time compiling your family’s outfits. If you get a picture with perfect smiles, a cute pose, and beautiful scenery, that photo can’t be incredible if the clothes don’t work. So if you’re going to make an effort to get some really special pictures that you can cherish for years to come, I’d suggest that you put some thought into what everyone wears. All the photos below are special in their own way, but some really stand out simply because of the great styling and the attention to detail–oftentimes it’s the necklace, scarf, headband, hat, etc. that really helps to set a photo apart. Those little things can make a nice photo amazing… With that said, be true to your own style. You don’t want to look back and feel like your photos aren’t reflective of your family’s personality. View a step-by-step guide for dressing your family for a photo shoot here at Heidi Hope Photography.
Time of Day: If you are taking pictures outside, you will get the best light just prior to sunset. First thing in the morning is also good, before the sun gets too high. But keep in mind that you may want to work around your youngest child’s schedule and take the pictures during his/her best time of day, regardless of light.
Weather (Don’t Fight It!): If it’s going to be really windy, maybe it’s not worth it to go down to the beach even though you had your heart set on that. (Or put everybody’s hair in a ponytail!) If it starts to rain, maybe you can pull out some colorful umbrellas, and have some fun dancing in the rain. If it’s cold, make sure everyone is dressed warmly enough. When we had our pictures taken on a sunny day in Florida, my 5-year-old decided she was cold (even though it was 70 degrees!), and unfortunately I didn’t have a sweater for her. That was the end of her cooperation! Basically, try to be prepared for anything and just roll with the punches. You can’t change the weather, so don’t let it ruin your pictures–embrace it! Maybe you’ll end up with something you didn’t have in mind, but if you’re open to possibilities, you may love the result even more!
Activity: If you’re worried about your kids being a photo disaster (we’ve all been there!), perhaps you can have some “active” props ready so they forget they are getting their picture taken–things like bubbles, books, balloons, a kite, etc. You could even set up an outdoor tea party! You could also tell your kids to do something, such as run, jump, or be silly. Hold them upside down, tickle them, put them up on your shoulders… Just try not to stress if you start to “lose them” (easier said than done, I know, especially if you are paying money for your photo shoot!). You can get some amazing pictures (as you’ll see below), by just letting them be kids. Surely you’ll want your pictures to reflect the love and laughter your family shares–so relax and just go with it! Not every picture has to be posed symmetrically with everyone smiling right at the camera. (Although let’s be honest–those are nice, too!)
Reward: It never hurts to promise your kids a little something if they are wonderful during the photo shoot! :) It doesn’t have to be a gift. If you’re using balloons, for example, maybe they get to let them go at the end of the shoot. Maybe you let your kids run into the ocean with their clothes on when all is said and done! (You will probably get your best pictures of the day at that point!) Our kids’ personal favorite for most any bribe we throw their way: If they are really, really good–Mommy and Daddy just might do the funniest, silliest, craziest dance they have ever seen. :) Oh, if you could only be a fly on the wall for that…
Breathe: If your pictures are feeling stiff, try taking some deep breaths. Our photographer had us do that during our photo shoot last fall–it really was a great tip. We all needed to just settle into things–it was an especially good tip when she took some pictures of just my husband and me. We needed to stop being so posed and just relax!
Food: Make sure your family isn’t hungry. (This includes your husband.) Hungry family members make for whiny and uncooperative photo shoots.
Husband: Get your husband on board! This is key. Tell him how much these pictures mean to you. Maybe even give him a beer. He’s going to smile, kiss, swing kids around, and “happily” do whatever he’s told for the next hour or so (while wearing whatever he’s told to wear). You know what… on second thought, give him two beers. Food and two beers. That should do it. :)
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR PICTURES
I know some photographers hesitate to offer your images to you on a disc simply because they want you to use and enjoy your shots–they want you to display them, share them, and love looking at them every day! Too often our pictures these days end up “trapped” inside our computers. Furthermore, to quote myself from this post I wrote where I share a wall gallery I hung: “I believe that if our kids constantly see pictures of our family enjoying life, holding hands, laughing, sharing special moments, etc., it helps them to really feel confident in that love and security. If they’re surrounded by happy images, I think it encourages them to be happy as well–and they will be more likely to feel like they have grown up in a loving home because they can actually see it all around them.” So whether you take the pictures yourself or a photographer takes them for you, just promise yourself that after going to all that trouble, you will actually do something with the pictures! I think you’ll be glad you did. :)
So once you have all those great pictures, what should you DO with them?! Some ideas:
CREATE A WALL GALLERY
After we had our pictures taken last fall by Aubri from Pink Sky Photography, I had a wall gallery of canvases made at Canvas On Demand. (I can’t recommend them enough–the quality and service was outstanding! I also saw a box pop up when I got to their website, and by just “liking” them on Facebook, I was able to get 50% off my order that day!! Needless to say, that’s when I ordered this entire gallery!) See a glimpse of how it turned out below. You can view the post here for more shots of the canvases and to see how easy it was to hang them perfectly the first time around! I also had a single canvas made of a special picture of my husband and me–view it here (and see how I hung it by marking the wall with toothpaste, of all things!) I have to admit that constantly seeing a picture like that of us (it hangs in our bathroom) helps to remind me of the love I know we have for one another–even on the days when we’re annoying each other! :)
MAKE A PHOTO ALBUM
You could also take the session and turn it into an album full of pictures. I used to love scrapbooking. (Find the best albums ever here at Exposures–it is the only place I will buy albums. Their quality and photo-protection is superior to any other albums I have ever found!!) I still keep a Christmas album (see it here) where I tuck in our holiday card and describe how we celebrated each year, and I also have an album for each of my girls where I keep their 8×10 portrait pictures from each year. (When they graduate from high school, that will be a gift for them–a complete album of their pictures through the years–see a picture of it in this post.) But aside from those ongoing albums, I have now moved into the world of making my photo books online! It’s so much easier, and you can print multiple copies, too. If you took your great photo session, for example, you could create a single photo book online, and then order a copy for yourself, one for each of your children as a keepsake, one for grandparents as a gift, etc. You do the work once, but you can get multiple copies of the book–simple!
I have made photo books at Shutterfly, Blurb (see the book I made for my daughter’s first birthday), and Mixbook. They are all great.
USE THE PHOTOS CREATIVELY OR GIVE AS GIFTS
Obviously you can print your pictures and frame them (I always use Shutterfly to print my pictures–I like to have them mailed to me. I personally don’t think the quality is as good when you have them printed at Target via Shutterly and pick them up.) But aside from printing and framing a picture these days, you can also get creative–this post has many ideas for using your pictures around the house (or as gifts) in unique ways. You could make photo mugs; have a photo printed on a vase; create a photo puzzle; print your photos on coasters, canvases, pillows, or even your iPhone case! You could also have a custom key chain made (I have this one with a picture of my four daughters in it–I love it!! It’s held up really well even though my keys bang against it constantly). See even more options here. So many ways to use your photos these days–it’s endless!
Ah, the holiday card. Some people love creating them (like me); some people dread creating them (like my mother. So guess who makes her cards for her every year now? Yep.) But regardless of whether or not you actually enjoy having your cards made (and then mailing them out), I think it’s pretty likely that we all like receiving cards each December. Who doesn’t like finding “real mail” in their mailbox?! I love receiving any card in the mail around the holidays, but I especially enjoy the ones with a picture or two inside. And with all the great online companies these days, it’s so easy to order your photo cards online–some will even mail them for you. Minted even offers to print all your recipient addresses for FREE! So when you’re taking pictures this summer or later this fall, perhaps you can keep those “dreaded” cards in mind. If you’re like my husband, the sooner you can check that task off your list, the better! Apparently he doesn’t enjoy the whole process quite like I do! :)
If you’re looking for more inspiration for your holiday cards, be sure to check out these posts:
100 Photos to Inspire Your Holiday Cards
30 Fun Photos with Wording Ideas Linked to a Holiday Card with that Sentiment
15 Great Sites to Order Your Holiday Photo Cards
WHERE I ORDER MY CARDS
Tiny Prints has been my go-to company (for Christmas cards, invitations, birth announcements, etc.) for the past several years. One time I wasn’t happy with how they cropped a picture (without telling me) when printing my 250 (!) holiday cards, and they reprinted them and sent them to me overnight, no questions asked. They have great service, and I love their designs.
Minted is right at the top of my list now as well (maybe even the very tippy-top!). I used them last year for my holiday cards, and they were my favorite cards yet. They included vellum paper inserts to be sure that the ink didn’t transfer inside my folded cards when mailed (because that does happen, especially if you have a picture printed on the inside). Minted also has the best envelopes you’ll find (I love the brown kraft paper myself), and they print on really beautiful paper as well. (You can view our family’s card from last year here.) It’s pretty safe to say that I think I’m developing a crush on this company. :)
I have also always loved Shutterfly. I typically order photo thank you notes there after the holidays so we can send out a little glimpse of how we celebrated, along with our note of gratitude.
To give you some ideas, see below for various cards I have ordered over the last several years.
Thank you so much to all the talented photographers who gave me permission to feature their work in this post. I am truly grateful that you have allowed me to share your beautiful pictures. I’m inspired by each of you! Please check out any of their links below for a closer look–maybe you will even discover someone near you who can take pictures for your own family! :)
Ampersand Studios Photography (Idaho)
Amy Robertson Photography (Florida)
Azul Photography (North Carolina)
Blue Lily (constantly traveling; worldwide)
Bre Thurston Photography (Washington/Seattle)
Emily Garrison Photography(Florida)
Esther Louise Photography (Florida)
Fresh From God (California)
Heather C. Johnson Photography (North Carolina)
Heidi Hope Photography (Rhode Island)
Mindy Leigh Photography (Michigan)
Peekaboo Photography (Utah)
Pink Sky Photography (Michigan; also shoots occasionally in Florida & Colorado)
Rebekah Westover Photography (Utah)
Simplicity Photography (Utah; occasionally travels)
Sorensen Studios (Arizona)
Sydney Middleton Photography (Minnesota)
Zoe Berkovic Photography (New York, New Jersey & Connecticut)
For even more inspiration and posing ideas, be sure to view this post with 100 Photos to Inspire Your Holiday Cards or click on the collage below.
Finally, without further ado…
They are organized by various posing ideas… I hope you find some inspiration!
By the way, I had started this post with the intention of sharing 100 photos… I’m past 125 already! Too many amazing shots to share!!
Get on the Same Level
Stack it Up
Form a Triangle
Find a Doorway
Turn Different Directions (Flattering for Mom to Turn to the Side!)
Kids Run Ahead
Kids Wrap Their Arms Around Mom & Dad
Stand Close Together
You could do this with any number of brothers–just change what’s written on each sign!
Pile on a Bed
Back to Back
Use a Ladder
Kids Up High!
Find a Bridge
Sit Down and Snuggle Up
Lie Down on Your Belly
Use a Fence
Find Something to Do (Great for Kids!)
Lie Down & Look Up
***Originally I had posted two pictures taken on railroad tracks. Those have since been removed due to safety concerns and readers pointing out that people are actually usually trespassing if they’re on railroad tracks. Thanks for keeping me informed, everyone! :)
Have Baby Curl Up Face-Down
Bubbles Bring Smiles…
Hug it Out
Use Interesting Seating
Grab Some Balloons
Lie Down in Opposite Directions
Focus on the Lower Half
Get in a Row
Wagons, Bikes & Skateboards…
Catch a Moment
Use a Dock
Stand in a Row & Hold Hands
Have the photographer walk up to the dog and start to whimper (like a dog) in order to get the dog’s attention. The dog will be curious by the sound and will most likely freeze as the photographer backs away (still whimpering). Snap the pictures in a hurry while the photographer continues to whimper. The dog will be trying to figure out what’s going on while everyone else smiles naturally because the photographer is making a complete fool of herself! Works like a charm! :)
Up on Shoulders
Walk in a Line
Cheek to Cheek
Work the Attitude!
Give a Little Kiss
Shoot from Above
Shoot from Behind
Well, that does it! I hope you are inspired to take some pictures. I know I am!!
And remember that even when things go awry during your photo session, try not to stress (easier said than done, I know!) Just enjoy the moment… if a pose you have in mind isn’t working, move on. Don’t force it, because it won’t go well if you do, and you certainly won’t be getting any good smiles at that point anyhow! And if all else fails and the wheels are completely falling off, just turn around and get some neat shots from the back! Nobody will know that your children are crying, your husband is annoyed, and one child managed to get mud down the front of her dress… it’s all good! :)
Great ideas!!!! and some cute little models :)
Great ideas! Love them all!
Thank you so so so much for all this ideas, this is BY FAR the best post about family pictures! SO SO HELPFUL!
You are so sweet to leave this note for me… thank you! I’m glad you found the post to be helpful! :)
By far the most amazing ideas I have seen! I am a stickler of having pictures taken every season, and with having a baby this year, it gives me great insight to try and capture beautiful moments that will last a lifetime! I love the beauty of photography, and how each picture tells a story. Thank you not only for sharing these, but giving creative insight as well behind each picture!
I agree, Amanda!! I love pictures and the stories they tell. Congratulations on your new baby! :)
Just discovered your blog tonight and love it! Great pose suggestions ( for families and holidays). Love the humor in your writing. Keep up the great work.
Christine in CT
Aw, thanks Christine! What a nice note to wake up to this morning! I really appreciate your kind words, and I’m so glad you found me and my blog! Take care! Happy Halloween!
Thank you so much for the inspiration! I have my first family photo shoot in a week and to say the least I am a bit nervous! Wish me luck!
So glad you found some ideas! Good luck with the photo session! We just took some pictures last weekend, and it can definitely be a bit stressful leading up to it. I curled a lot of hair that day with all the girls in my family, let’s just say that! :) But it’s always worth it in the end. You’ll get some great shots, I’m sure, even if they don’t line up with your “vision.” Sometimes you just have to go with it, I’ve learned! Thanks so much for taking a moment to drop me this sweet note!
Amazing post! Thanks for compiling all the examples. It gave me so many ideas for our family shoot next weekend.
Thanks! :) Glad you found some ideas. Good luck with the photo shoot!
I absolutely love your wall color in the photo wall gallery picture, what paint color is that?
Hi Heather! The color is Sherwin-Williams Waynesboro Taupe (a color match to Benjamin Moore #1544). I really love it. We had 5 samples on the wall for weeks before I finally settled on that one. :) We also have Gargoyle (which is two shades deeper, I think, on the same strip) in a small TV room. That is a great color as well. Thanks for the note!
[…] This HUGE post from Harvard Homemaker starts out with tips on everything from prepping for the family photo shoot to printing out your […]
Will be using some of these poses for my first family session!!
So exciting! I love me some family photos! :) Good luck… glad you found some ideas here!
i am loving looking through all your pictures and getting ideas. I have a photo shoot today. Dad just broke his foot yesterday and so we’ll see how it turns out. SO many photos give me lots of idea though. Thanks!
Thanks for the note, Sarah! I hope the photo shoot went well, despite the broken foot! I’m sure that made for a memorable photo session at least! :) Glad you found some fun ideas you could use!
[…] Harvardhomemaker – Get Inspired For a Photo Moment […]
Hi! Thank you so much for the inspiration. The photos are just amazing. I am just a beginner and I love to click photos. I have a page Click (www.facebook.com/ashish.adyanthaya.click/). I would love to learn and improve my photography. Please do visit the page. I am planning a photo shoot for a family of 4 (3 + a dog). Will be taking your tips and will plan for the shoot. I am from Bangalore, India. Thank you for the inspiration.
Hi there! So fun to know you’re reading this on the other side of the world! You are sweet to leave me a note. I’m glad you found some inspiration here in this post. Take care and good luck with your photography business!
lovely & helpful… <3
You are so sweet. Thanks for the note. I’m glad you found some inspiration here. :)
Just wanted to bring to everyone’s attention that taking portraits and otherwise hanging out on train tracks is highly dangerous and also illegal. Train tracks are considered private property and you can be jailed and/or fined for trespassing. Also, don’t assume you’ll see or hear the train and be able to move on time. They travel extremely fast and cannot stop. A lot of people have unfortunately died this way.
Thanks for the comment, Kathryn. Definitely an important point.
Fantastic tips and ideas,gorgeous pictures! I recently started using My Publusher for my photo books,
They are unique because they offer lay flat pages,and the ability to stretch one picture over two pages.
This might not be the best for portraits but it is wonderful for landscape photos,they will even stretch panoramics to fit the page. I know Shutterfly has recently purchased My Publisher,but don’t know if they offer those options yet. Just something you may want to investigate. Love all your tips,especially on photography and ways to organize. Thank you!
Hi Toni! Thanks for the great tips about My Publisher! Never heard of that one. I’ll have to check it out! :) Appreciate the note – thanks for stopping by my blog and for taking a moment to comment!
You had me until the train tracks. You really should remove that part. It’s illegal and has proven deadly. No respectable photographer should ever agree to that. Otherwise, your article was great.
Thanks for the note, Shannon. I honestly had no idea it was illegal until another reader mentioned the same thing – but it makes sense now that I think about it – duh! I am hoping these pictures were taken on abandoned/unused train tracks – is that still illegal? And I would make a change to the post if I could, but there is some glitch with it, and I haven’t been able to update it for months – ugh! Hopefully one of these days I can figure out the solution to that. It’s been making me crazy!!
Great post! ~ Helpful for those of us getting started with portraits.
Thanks, Ethan! Glad it gave you some ideas!
Thanks, Useful tips
Great ideas!! Love them all thank you xx
I’m a longtime pro product and editorial shooter, so my family posing is weak. I’m doing my annual family shots and I found much inspiration in your work. Thank you so much for posting such great images! The write-ups were informative. You have a superb eye and you’re making precious memories with it.
Sincerely, Jeffery Luhn
This was such a nice read! I love how you put the photos into categories. Thanks!
This whole page was very helpful as i prepare to take family portraits for friends. Thanks!
GREAT post! Best part is you asked permission to share photos on your post, vs. just using them “with credit.” Awesome blogger integrity, too. ;)
Railroad tracks? Awful idea.
Yes, obviously your point is well taken. Thanks for sharing.
Lots of great ideas and auggestions. However, you really need to remove the suggestion of using train tracks. Not only is it extremely dangerous, it’s also illegal as tracks are generally private property.
I just removed them. Thank you for keeping me informed!
Oh my goodness, lots of great ideas here! I really love the wall gallery. I have been very bad about hanging family/kid pictures but a dedicated area would be great.
All of the pictures are beautiful and there are so many great poses! I’m having a really hard time coming up with poses for my family pictures this year. My husband and I have two teenage girls AND a five month old baby girl! The baby is to old for the cute sleeping poses but she’s to young to sit entirely on her own. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could incorporate a baby into our pictures? It’s easy when you have two younger children and a baby, but two teenage girls (16 & 17) and a baby is a little tough. You seem to be great at this, hopefully you can point me in the right direction. Thanks so much!! :)
Perhaps they could stand and kind of hug their little sister… or they can all lie down on their bellies… or they could prop her on a bench and then kneel behind her so their faces are on the same level maybe? Good luck! Sounds like fun to me! :)
Informative post especially for family photographers. Thank you so much for sharing the ideas and inspiration for family and sibling photos.