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How to Pose Children (21 Posing Ideas + Tips)

How to pose children (ideas and tips)

This article was updated in January 2024 with contributions from Kaspars Grinvalds and Melinda Smith.

How to Pose Children (21 Posing Ideas + Tips)

Children are fun and very positive subjects to photograph. Getting those authentic emotions and capturing the joy of childhood in a single photo can be a wonderful feeling.

However, dealing with kids sometimes can be quite challenging. They often have specific interests and thoughts, and you need to be very patient and adapt to their behavior – otherwise, you won’t end up with any good images.

In this article, therefore, we include two types of resources:

  1. A list of 21 ideas for posing children. Because kids aren’t always willing to follow your instructions, however, don’t assume that you’ll be able to use these child posing ideas directly; instead, use them as a reference for ideas and different scenarios for you to try.
  2. A handful of quick tips for effectively posing kids even when they don’t want to be posed.

Ready to learn how to improve your child photography with our expert advice? Let’s dive right in!

21 child poses to try

Image by Melinda Smith

In this section, we include plenty of posing ideas to get you inspired, starting with:

1. The basic headshot


This pose is about as simple as it gets, which can be a very good thing! Just ask the child to stand and look at you directly, then instruct them to turn their body slightly so their shoulder is pointed in your direction.

2. Lying down and resting


This one’s a sweet pose for kids. Get your subject to lie down on the ground and shoot from a very low angle.

3. Lying down with chin in hands


This one’s a variant of the pose discussed above, where your subject is lying down. Again, make sure to maintain that low angle, and ask your subject to face you directly with their feet pressed against the ground.

(This child photography pose can look especially great when captured on grass!)

4. The blanket tent


This one is perfect for photographing younger kids, such as toddlers. Have the child lie in a bed and cover them with a blanket. For the best results, make sure that the colors of all the bedclothes go well together (white works well!).

5. The teddy hug


This is a good pose to try if the child is struggling to relax. Ask them to hug or play with their favorite teddy bear (though it also works with pretty much any other toy, too!).

6. The table activity


Try taking pictures of kids in their everyday environment, especially when they’re doing what they like – playing their favorite games, doing homework, or as in this example pose, painting with watercolors.

Keeping them busy in a familiar setting is a good way to get them to cooperate and to get the poses you’re after!

7. Reading a book


It’s a good idea to set everything up so the kid is busy with their own interests and not even noticing your actions. Looking at a favorite picture book is just one example of how to keep them posing for you; as they read, you can snap away with your camera!

8. The big smile


Be attentive! If you, the child, and the child’s parents do some fun activity, don’t miss the kid’s laughing or shouting, which often results in very emotional and thus rewarding shots!

But, please, no staged cheese smiles! Avoid fake emotions at all costs.

9. Eating food


Use some delicious food items as props. You might be able to capture very interesting moments photographing children eating some sweets, ice cream, fruits, etc.

10. Blowing bubbles


Soap bubbles are simply a must-have accessory for photographing kids. First of all, children just love them and are happy to blow some bubbles. Second, bubbles can provide an outstanding visual hook in your photos.

11. Hide and seek


When photographing outdoors, you can involve your subject in a hiding (and reappearing) game. Get them to hide behind some object – a big tree, for instance – and ask them to peek out of the hideout. Make sure you’re ready to grab the shot!

12. Playing in the sand


Beaches and sandboxes are both very nice settings for photographing children. They can play and keep themselves busy while you observe and take your shots while not disturbing them one bit.

13. Fun with a ball


If you’re after some action shots, give your subjects a ball to play with. Then adjust your angle for an interesting perspective! For instance, if you shoot from ground level while introducing the ball as a dominant foreground object, you can get a very cool shot.

14. The pet hug


When shooting children and family photos, never forget that pets are also family members. Involve them in your shots, and you’ll instantly notice how much joy and emotion they create.

15. Swinging on the playground


A playground is a very good place for outdoor shots, and it provides endless opportunities for action photos. But one of the best ways to get great child poses is by asking them to climb on a swing and just have fun!

16. Standing with sports props


If you’re photographing a child who’s interested in a sport, then ask them to bring their gear! You can take a very special portrait with a ball under one arm or a stick held over a shoulder.

17. The parent and child


This is another great pose for younger kids, where the parent lies on the ground with the kid on their chest. If the kid is still a toddler, the parent could even hold them in the air!

18. On the hip


This is a very simple and natural pose: The parent holding their kid on the hip. For the best results, try different head positions.

19. The hug


This pose can be extremely touching – just ask the child to hug a parent! And be ready to capture their natural emotions for a priceless photo.

20. The piggyback ride

This engaging, fun, and easy pose is surprisingly uncommon and original. Ask the parent to lie down on the ground, then instruct the kid to sit on and hold onto the parent’s back.


21. The family hug

This one is absolutely beautiful for family portraits that include kids. It can be arranged indoors in a bed as well as outdoors on the ground. In my experience, it works very well in different combinations and with different numbers of subjects.


Tips for posing children

Image by Melinda Smith

Have you ever had a kid in front of your camera and found that, no matter what you tell them to do, you end up getting the most unnatural position ever? Chances are, the kid is as baffled as you are. They don’t know what you want from them. They haven’t been studying Pinterest boards and kids’ clothing catalogs. They just know their mom dressed them up and told them not to get dirty or mess up their hair, and now some stranger is telling them to put their hand there, look over here, bend their elbow like this. Most kids don’t understand this.

Let me share some posing tips with you so you and your little model can get some great shots!

1. Let go of your expectations

The first thing you have to do, if you want this experience to be fun for both you and the little one, is to let go of expectations. If you have a certain Pinterest pose in mind, and are determined not to be happy until you’ve forced your little tot into it, you’re both going to be miserable.

Sure, use those ideas as a starting point, but then go with the flow. You’ll be surprised where your wee subject might take you, and you might like the results much better than what you had in mind in the first place.

2. Let kids be kids

Image by Melinda Smith

If you can just let a kid be themselves and explore, sometimes the photos you get are actually more adorable than anything you could think up yourself. Part of each session could be unstructured, kid-led fun. Photos like the above could happen all on their own, or if the child is shy, you could ask them, “What’s in that window?” Make picture time into playtime, and let kids be themselves.

Some props can be good, but sometimes they just add to the chaos and you end up with a lot of canned, posed photos. I love kids’ cute faces, and that’s what I want to be the main focus of my photos. Don’t stress too much about making everything around the kid amazing. Like I said, kids don’t need much help to be adorable!

3. Work together

Make sure your cute little one knows that you are on the same team. Most kids have no problem being obstinate just for fun. If they sense that you really want something from them, they may quickly decide that they want the exact opposite.

I try to take the child by the hand often, even if it’s the first time we’ve met (they usually love this), and I let them feel that they are part of where we are going and what we are doing. If they decide that they want to put on the pretty dress shoes next, then that’s what we capture next.

Image by Melinda Smith

4. Let them be with a buddy

Image by Melinda Smith

Sometimes kids are nervous and anxious about getting their photos taken. Letting them take a few photos with a beloved pet, a favorite stuffed animal, or even the parents can help relieve the pressure and help them feel comfortable.

Image by Melinda Smith

Sometimes the most spontaneous laughs, the happiest smiles, and the most relaxed poses just happen when a child has their buddy with them. Adding a live wiggly friend can add extra work, but the payoff is often worth the effort. Have a parent help you keep the pet under control, and be quick. Encourage a lot of interaction, and be ready for anything!

5. Work quickly

Image by Melinda Smith

Kids aren’t going to appreciate it if you do a lot of posing cues and tweaks. Give general direction, and then shoot fast.

You could give some quick commands (e.g., “Now laugh at the silly caterpillar on my head!”), but don’t take a long time moving their arm just so or turning their head in the perfect direction. Most kids won’t respond well to that and will quickly grow tired before you get many good photos.

Use a fairly fast shutter speed (I like mine to be set at 1/100s minimum for kids), because they’re not going to hold still for very long.

Image by Melinda Smith

6. Bring something for them to do

I prefer not to use props generally, but a few well-chosen, meaningful props can work wonders. This keeps the child’s attention, plus you have the added benefit of capturing those hobbies that they are into at the moment.

And let them share their passion with you! For instance, instead of trying to pose them just so and explaining exactly how to hold the fishing pole, just say, “Can you show me how you fish with Daddy?” Let the child be the expert, and just have your camera ready.

Also, favorite dress-up clothes can bring out the model in a lot of kids. Chairs or boxes to climb on, sit on, stand on, and peek through can be fun, too.

Image by Melinda Smith

7. Some direction is good

You don’t want to stand there, staring the kid down, waiting for them to spontaneously be in a spot with great light while doing something amazingly photogenic. You’ve got to give some direction, but try to do it in a way that makes the whole experience fun and relaxed.

Here are some phrases that you could try:

  • Could you come sit on my swing over here? Oh, you are so big! I didn’t know you could climb that high!
  • Can you sit here, criss-cross-applesauce? (Or whatever they call sitting “cross-legged.” You can ask them what they call it. Most kids learn this in preschool).
  • Let’s hug our freezing cold knees. Your knees say “Thank you very much!”
  • Where’s your tickle smile? Do I need to find your tickle smile? Is it hiding in your armpit?
  • Whatever you do, don’t smile. No, I said don’t smile! (Classic reverse psychology!)
  • Where should we put your hands? We should put them away somewhere. Do they like pockets?
  • Could you hold this tree up with your back? Oh, thank you! That tree was getting tired of standing up by itself!
  • Let’s play copy-cat. Whatever I do, you do it, too.

8. Pay attention to personality

Some kids love it when you’re silly, others are pretty shy. Pay attention to how they react to you and adjust accordingly.

If they’re rambunctious, you might want to dial down your silly a bit so you don’t get them too wound up. You can still have fun with them, but talk in a calm voice, and don’t ask them to do too many crazy things because they’ll take what you say and take it up a notch or two. Before you know it, you’ve got a kid running in circles who isn’t listening to a word you say.

If they’re introverted, you might want to try to capture more serious photos and let them be contemplative. Don’t ask them to do things that they are uncomfortable with. When they’ve warmed up to you a bit, you may be able to give more requests, but pay attention to the cues kids are giving you and focus on capturing who they are, not the canned poses that you do with every child.

Image by Melinda Smith

How to pose kids: final words

Hopefully, you now feel ready to pose children like an expert! Whether you’re photographing your own child or you’re shooting for clients, just remember to keep your expectations low, to engage with your subject, and to be adaptable!

And while you should definitely use the child posing ideas shared in this article, always be ready to switch things up as needed.

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips or ideas for posing children that we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Melinda Smith
Melinda Smith

was born to be a teacher. She teaches violin lessons and fitness classes, as well as photography classes and mentoring. She lives on a mini farm in Eastern Utah with her camera, husband, kids, chickens, horses, bunnies, dogs, and cats. Visit her at Melinda Smith Photography.

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