How to Pose and Instruct Families to Get Natural Relaxed Lifestyle Portraits

Awkward photos suck. What makes them awkward? When people don't know what they're supposed to be doing with themselves. When you're standing in front of the camera wondering if you should be smiling or moving, suddenly this stiff crooked smile wiggles its way onto your face and your forehead looks tense and your shoulders rise up.

This happens all too often with family photography because you're not professional models and standing in front of a camera is out of your comfort zone, your kids are squirming around and many photographers are so focused on clicking buttons and finding a good angle that they are totally silent behind the camera. #awkward

This whole problem is quickly & easily solved through clear communication. When I photograph families, I'm always explaining what's about to happen next and what I expect from the families. Confusion and overthinking is what leads to awkward photos so my instructions are intentionally giving just enough direction so you have something to focus on and you know what to do but they are still vague enough to allow free interpretation and authentic movement.

I want you to think about what you're doing, not how you're doing it. It's a dance between giving instructions and letting things flow freely. I give you a skeleton structure and you fill in the blanks.  Below are some specific examples of things I say:

"Hold hands and walk down the beach. As you walk you can swing your daughter, look around the view, laugh together. When you get to that log, turn around and come back."

"Stand here. Face out toward the water and throw your daughters up in the air. When you're tired or they've had enough, just stand close together and have a little family group hug."

"Sit here. Cuddle close together so your hips are touching. Tickle each other and keep tickling."

"Let's take a smiley photo at the camera. Stand close together. Look right here. One. Two Three. Perfecto!"

"I'm going to wander around and take pictures from different spots. You guys just play together around this area. You can splash in the waves, pick up rocks, cuddle, whatever feels fun."