Posing 101 – 5 tips for posing children

Let’s talk about my favourite subject: photographing children. More specifically, posing them. I’m not going to give you the same tips you can read elsewhere or even give you specific poses to try. Jenny Gibson has a killer posing guide for that. I just want to share some things I’ve learned myself. So I’m just gonna get right down to the meat of it today with these 5 tips for posing kids:

1. The games we play

I mentioned Gumby in the first post. Sorry I brought him up again…just try to forget about him. Cuz posing for kids isn’t going to work if you try to approach it like you would a grown up. In the sessions I’ve had with my family, the photographer could easily tell me to move my leg a bit to the left or change the way I was positioning my hand, but most children aren’t going to let you mould them in that way. That said, some will and in my experience, it’s been girls older than, say, 7 who are really easy to pose down to every last detail. But overall, this tip is about posing them without them even knowing it. After you’ve practiced posing with a few friends or family sessions, you’ll get into the groove and poses will start to come to you quickly. Then, you’ll find yourself seamlessly integrating it into your shooting style and -voila!- you’re now an expert at posing. How do I pose them without them knowing it? By playing the following games:

  • Let them be in charge 50% of the time. I’ve never failed to nail a session while allowing the kid(s) to have half of the say. And it simply goes this way: “How about this…you think up a pose and then I’ll do one!” They love being allowed to do whatever they want for their photos and you can weave in the real shots without them feeling manipulated or on stage. And sometimes, their ideas end up being really good!
  • Run. Skip. Jump. Don’t think of posing as a static thing. Thinking outside the box, posing is just being in control of your shots. It’s not about turning kids into something you’d see at Madame Tussaud’s. How about setting up some games – hopscotch, jump rope, a tire swing. This is posing, too!

2. Watch

…their every move. Follow him around and when you see him do something natural, turn it into a pose. Take this photo for example —> we were running around his parents’ farm and he -in one quick flying leap- jumped up onto the digger like he’d done it a million times. I said “stay right there”, lifted my camera and got the shot. But his left arm was just kind of hanging, so I suggested that he put it in his pocket. And there you have it…a totally natural, yet posed, portrait of a boy doing exactly what he wanted…but with a little extra flare from me. So basically, I’m saying keep your eye on their every move and you may see them do something you’d like them to do again as a foundation for a pose.

3. Feminine vs. Masculine

Posing is all about body language. Watch that the poses you’re employing are gender suitable. Specifically, I always watch the…

  • Hands – open for a girl, closed for a boy
  • Position – A cute little side glance is adorable for a girl but a bit delicate or vulnerable for a boy. For boys, I love getting them straight-on.
  • Hips – Hands on hips for a girl, hands in pockets for a boy (with the thumbs sticking out – I love that!)

Hands on hips = girly!

4. Set it and forget it

Once you set up a pose, let them get comfortable in it for a moment to prevent it from looking Gumby-esque. Heck…just tell a joke! The most frozen posin’ comes to life when the face becomes genuine and suddenly, it all just works.

5. Use a guide

I’ve only ever paid money for one posing guide. I printed, laminated and bound it on a keychain ring and carried it in my pocket during sessions. Not only did it give me visuals to keep me on track, but she explains the logic behind them which means that you don’t just look at the photos for copy-cat purposes, but they are a springboard for everything that comes after…you own ideas! After memorizing all the poses in the guide, my own brain kicked in and now, I see ideas flash in my head in an instant. Sometimes they incorporate poses I learned from the one and only guide I’ve ever used and sometimes, I don’t know where they come from…it’s just become part of who I am as a photographer, I guess! Some ideas for your own direction:

Make yourself a posing guide using your own favorite images you’ve taken. Print them in wallet size, write notes on the back and laminate them. Pop a few idea cards in your pocket before a session to keep your mind steady on the task (I get flustered and forgetful so easily) and using your own work as inspiration will also help you maintain consistency in your paid-for work which will pay off in so many ways.

So that’s all for today, folks! Check back  for more!




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Elizabeth Halford

Elizabeth Halford


She blogs about photography and business with her unique plain English approach. Elizabeth has been-there-done-that with running a photography business that doesn’t profit a penny and loves teaching photographers how to get away from the starving artist model of running a creative business.
Elizabeth Halford
  • Colleenhc - Yet another great post! Thank you!

  • Breanne Clemmensen - Thanks for a great article. I am looking forward to the rest of the week. I am okay at posing and telling people how to pose, but sometimes I get parents or others with them that have stuff in mind and then I don’t have the voice to come out and say lets do it differently. I had a senior photo shoot the other day that I was so pumped for and had lots of ideas and everything but the mom was so take charge that it was hard for me to say, yeah that great but lets also do this. Does that 50% game work with the older ages too?

  • Npshields - Thanks for taking the time to put this together; great ideas and extremely helpful! Keep up the awesome work!

  • Virgjones -  Just found your site through DPS. Great great posing tips. I’ll be back!

  • Abrown9 - Thank you for sharing!

  • Heidi Meek - Really great tips!

  • Chelsea - Thank you! Enjoyed your article!!!!

  • Dhininl - a great article.

  • Nathan Seeley - So I’ve done a few informal photoshoots for my friends and family, what I’ve seen work really well is (with two or more people/children) let them kind of play and be goofy and just keep taking those pictures (gotta love digital) I’ve gotten some adorable shots that way.

  • Jessica - Thanks for the great post!

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