photography tips: posing couples & groups to show a connection

There are lots of things to keep in mind when you’re posing two or more people, but one of the most important things you can do is be sure to pose them in a way that shows a connection. This can be hard; most of us have been trained to pose for photos, which means we stand up straight and slap on a fake smile and worry about how our hair looks, etc., which can result in a really stiff photo. When you’re behind the camera there are plenty of things you can do to help people relax so your photo will reflect their affection for one another. Here are 11 tips for getting photos that show a connection.

1. Get people close together We don’t walk around all day right next to the people near us (personal space!) so when someone says they’re going to take our picture our first instinct is not to scoot right close to one another. However, getting people close together makes for a better photo. Compare the two photos below:

In the top photo the family is somewhat close together, but the way the kids are being held keeps mom and dad separated. Once they switch sides so they can be right next to each other there’s much more of a connection in the photo.

Try positioning an entire family around one chair like in the photo below. Have someone sit on the chair, someone sit on an arm, a kid or two on a lap, and other children standing just behind the chair. The physical closeness translates to an emotional closeness when we look at the photo.

Stick two kids together in the same chair and you’ll probably end up with great big smiles. Or a fight. You never know…but you might as well give it a shot.

2. Ask people to lean their heads toward each other When we sit next to someone it’s natural for us to keep our heads straight up and down (obviously). But a slight lean of the head toward each other shows we share some affection with the other person in the photo:

This can be especially important in groups – if everyone’s heads are clustered close together except for one person, he’ll stand out. So ask everyone to lean in (making sure all the faces are still visible):

When people sit right next to each other (shoulder to shoulder) it’s very hard to get their heads close together. So instead, make sure one person’s shoulders are slightly behind the other’s, like this:

3. Try a hug from behind Having one person (usually the smaller of the two your are photographing) hug from behind is a really cute pose that allows the heads to be close and shows a lot of affection:

It works well with kids and parents (big or little kids) as well as couples.

4. Position baby so his/her face is close to the others in the photo as well The most natural way to hold a new baby is in the crook of your arm, which puts them very far away from your face. Look at these photos:

In the first photo Grandma is looking right at the baby, which is very sweet and definitely conveys a connection. However, their heads are so far away from each other that you actually have to move your eyes to look at Grandma, and then at baby. Once Grandma holds the baby’s face up close to hers, you can look at them both at once, which just makes a more balanced photo. (For more tips on posing with baby, check out my DIY newborn photos series.)

The same concept applies with older babies and toddlers. Either bring the child up close to you, or get down close to her.

5. Give people time to get comfortable It’s hard to sit people down and immediately expect a good photo. Give people a chance to interact a bit by chatting with them before you start taking photos, and don’t expect a great shot as soon as you hit the shutter button. You might end up taking a slew of silly/cheesy photos before you get a sweet one, but that’s ok.

(DIY background boards found here.)

6. Ask people to make each other laugh Once you’ve done what you can to pose people so they’re close to one another, it’s a good idea to get expressions on their faces that show they’re enjoying being together. Look at the photos below. In the first everyone has a really nice smile on their faces – they all look good. But in the second photo, they look like they’re having a good time together, which makes for a better photo.

Usually all you have to do is ask the kids to tickle the parents to get the party started. Snap a picture or two of everyone before you ask them to make each other laugh, then more pictures as they begin to interact. It’s a good way to get a fun series of photos:

Why wouldn’t want a photo of herself and a sibling (or child, or spouse) having a great time together?

7. Ask people to look at each other People don’t have to be looking right at the camera and smiling to show they’re enjoying being together. Sometimes you get the best photos by asking people to look at each other.

And sometimes you get great photos by not saying anything at all and just taking a picture of the interaction that unfolds.

8. Ask people to hug Again, we are naturally kind of reticent when a camera comes out so our first inclination is to stand kind of stiffly next to each other. When you’re the one taking the photo, encourage people to give each other a hug – you can say “show me you like each other” – for a sweet photo.

(Just remind kids not to squeeze each other too tight.)

9. Ask people to kiss Not everyone’s comfortable kissing in front of a camera, and that’s ok. If someone’s a little reluctant, try saying “How about a quick kiss on the cheek?” You might end up with a photo that’s casual and fun:

Or innocent and sweet:

Either way, you’ll show a connection.

10. Try different angles When you want to show a connection it’s a good idea to make sure the main focus of your photo is the people in it, so try shooting from different angles. Pay attention to what’s in the background to be sure a house or a garbage can doesn’t steal the attention from the people in your photo.

You may want to zoom in very close on the people so there’s nothing in the background to distract from their interaction.

(More on photographing from different angle here.)

Other times you don’t want to be zoomed in too close – the rest of the scene might help tell the story (like the tall trees and the road ahead of the two boys in this photo). In this case you could consider a gentle photo effect that will help keep the focus on the people, like the slight edge blur shown here. Sometimes changing a photo to b&w can have the same effect. (I find it’s a good idea to go easy on special photo effects, however, so the photo doesn’t end up looking cheesy.)

11. Photograph body language Silhouette photos are fun because they remove all the details and expressions and leave you with nothing but body language, which can definitely show a connection. Getting a good silhouette often requires using the manual settings on your camera, but you’ll often end up with one when the light coming from behind your subject is MUCH brighter than the subject itself (like when you’re on the beach and the sun is shining behind your subject).If you don’t know how to get a good silhouette photo (I’ll post a tutorial soon!) then you can get the same feeling by simply photographing people from behind. If their faces don’t show then the fact that they are holding hands, hugging, etc., will become the most important detail in the photo.


  1. 2

    beatrice lawson says

    Thank you for this tutorial Autumn! Hope you don’t mind if I pin it as a reminder. Our family photos are the opposite of what you say and they end up looking stiff and silly… OK, I am also not a great photographer when it comes to technical details like lighting, but getting the right shot will go a long way towards fixing many problems.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *