A great photo doesn’t necessarily need good planned posing. Take a look at this shot of Tony, Alex, and Scarlett:
I didn’t plan it, but I did have to wait for the right pose to present itself. It would be a tighter story without Scarlett, but I think it still conveys a coherent message: kids enjoying ice cream and conversing. A kiddie version of going to the bar, essentially.
While it doesn’t have to be pre-planned, there does need to be good posing, though. Otherwise it’s just a snapshot – something that looks disorganized and takes the mind away from what the image is meant to convey. The larger the group in a photo, the more important the posing is. Let’s move to this example from a few days ago:
I’d been planning this shoot for months. I looked up examples of how not to have awkward family photos and I refreshed myself on posing guidelines for groups. One of the most important guidelines is to create pleasing configurations. Although every rule is meant to be broken, one of the best ways to arrange groups involves creating triangles. The mind loves that. Before I really started nerding out on photography and moving away from snapshots, I would have just had us stand in a row and one of us would hold Sam. You’ve seen it a million times. It’s BORING and it looks unprofessional. What I have above, however, is something I’d be happy to put up on my wall. I have two triangles going on here – or essentially a diamond. Of course, this photo also reveals the unfortunate results of not having another photographer behind the camera. My wife, who took the photo, did not let me know that I needed to move Sam to my right to make the diamond not be lopsided. That screams at me – “I COULD HAVE BEEN WONDERFUL!” Here’s another example:
Again, this could have worked so well if we’d had another photographer around. Someone to mention that with the addition of my youngest brothers, that we had to move them all to the right to create a neat, overlapping triangle. Instead we have a lopsided photo. It’s not as horrible as it would have been if I hadn’t been thinking, but by being unable to see the composition from the outside, I couldn’t tell how lopsided it was.
One last photo to contrast against these. Unlike these photos where I’d been planning the arrangement for a long time, there was the rushed family photo before Dan’s engagement party:
This is a lot more of a snapshot than I would have preferred for what will probably be our most dressed up photo until Dan gets married next year. What is wrong with it? Well, for starters it’s a bit lopsided without reason. Yes, we’re in a good rule of thirds spot vs the middle, but we’re not looking off to the side, so it just ends up looking lopsided. Danielle and I should be a lot closer to each other and holding the children in front of us instead of between us. It almost looks like a metaphor. Then there’s Scarlett. She should be in front of the twins. It’d block their feet and also make her less lopsided. Finally, it should have been a portrait shot so that Scarlett wouldn’t look like an afterthought at the bottom. Perhaps we’ll do a slightly less formal shot sometime soon. Of course, we’d once again be in the quandary of not having the photographer able to observe things from the outside. But I think, given the short stature of the children, perhaps a sitting/lounging portrait would work best.
I hope you found that helpful with the provided examples. I also would love to hear any suggestions.