Skip to main content

Posing Groups

Lesson 14 from: Portrait Photography Bootcamp

Lindsay Adler

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

14. Posing Groups

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of the lesson is posing groups in portrait photography.


  1. What are some guidelines for posing groups in order to improve the quality of the photograph?

    • You want to create balance and proportion in the group.
    • Show unity by having some form of overlap or interaction between individuals.
    • Include triangles and shapes in the composition for a dynamic and visually appealing photo.
    • Avoid having everyone do the exact same pose and aim for asymmetry.
  2. How does the instructor suggest creating unity in a group photo?

    By having individuals overlap in some way, such as overlapping shoulders or touching arms.

  3. What is the importance of creating triangles in a group shot?

    Triangles add depth and movement to the composition, making the photo more visually interesting.

  4. Are the posing guidelines applicable to all types of group photos?

    Yes, the guidelines can be applied to photographing families, friends, or organizations.

  5. What are some common mistakes in group poses?

    Having heads lined up in a row, lack of balance in the composition, everyone doing the same pose, and not considering the depth of the photo.

  6. How can negative space be minimized in a group photo?

    By ensuring that individuals are overlapping or interacting in some way, rather than having a lot of empty space between them.

  7. How should men be posed in group photos?

    Men should be given specific instructions on where to place their hands, such as in their jean pocket or on their hip, to avoid them standing with their arms crossed.

Lesson Info

Posing Groups

Now we're going to talk about posing groups which is not really probably as easy as it seems. There's actually several things to keep in mind and the rules I'm going to give you or the guidelines are going to be applicable whether you're photographing families or friends or organizations and so these are some things that I want you to keep in your mind as you're posing that will improve or give you a better quality photograph. So let's start and build those foundations of things that you do want and don't want out of a group photo. Alright so the first consideration is that you want balance and proportion. If you're looking at how you've posed your group and it looks like there's a bunch of people or a lot more attention being drawn to one side of the group than the other, you probably have to shift things because in a group, you want to be able to show unity. You want to show that they're a group so if it's uneven, it's not going to be successful. So related to that next point is that...

you want to show unity. If everybody is just standing three feet apart, arms crossed, not interacting, it doesn't look like they have anything to do with one another, so you want some form of unity, which could be an overlap in shoulders, perhaps, or it could be for a family a hand on the shoulder or for friends, arms around the side. It's things like that. So when you have the group you want everything to be balanced and proportionate but you want it to look like a group. You don't want a lot of negative space between individuals. There needs to be something that carries you through that composition. Now speaking of composition, something else that you want is you want to build in triangles. For the best small group shots, the entire composition is built on the idea of triangles. You don't want everybody's heads all lined up in a row. Let's say you're photographing five people and they're all approximately the same height and you just line them up in a row, it's so stagnant, it has no movement, it's not dynamic, but if you look at some of the best photos of groups, you see so many different layers and so many different levels. So if any of you have seen Vanity Fair or Vogue when they have the really large group shots of the celebrities and they kind of fold out and you can see them, every single person is posed in their own way and at a different level because what that does is it encourages your eye to travel throughout that entire composition. If they're all lined up in a row, it looks more like they're getting ready to get their mugshots taken and so it's not really giving you a beautiful composition. So you want your balance and proportion, you want them to look unified as a group, but you also want triangles and shapes. Now when you're photographing a really big group, let's say that it's for a graduation photo for an entire class or a whole corporation, some of these rules don't necessarily apply and in those instances, sure, it might be okay to have people's heads lined up as long as there's some stacking, you know, different layers, but one long line isn't going to work. But I'm thinking for small groups, primarily, that's when you can really shine. That's when your posing strength is going to show. Different layers, different triangles, unity, overlap, but you don't want anything to be too symmetrical. So I typically avoid everybody doing the exact same pose. It doesn't look genuine. It doesn't look comfortable, and it doesn't really move your eye throughout the frame. So these are just some of the elements that I'm thinking for really great group poses. So what I want to do is I want to take you through, show you some of the bad things that you commonly see and how to work around them, how to move past that for better poses. So I'm going to start. Can I have you three ladies first real quick? Okay, so if you were posing because I just raised the camera and you were best friends, usually you'd probably kind of put your arms around each other, so can you guys do that? Okay. So, I mean, you absolutely see this. So that's perfect, okay. So what I see, is on the far left hand side, because her friend to her left is a little shorter. Sorry. She puts her arm around and does this. Anytime you're having people putting their arms around one another, it does two pretty terrible things. What it does is it's forcing their hips towards camera. They're being forced straight on, which is where they look their widest, so that's not going to be flattering. If you look, pretty much all of them are straight on. It's opening them up, but also you're reaching up to someone that's taller, which would raise your shoulder and you're hunching down to someone that's shorter and it's not going to be flattering, so when I pose groups, I'm making sure that everybody is posed individually, but still overlapping in some way. So let's say that this is a group of college friends, college best friends, and I want to do a cool kind of fashiony pose for them, I want to do something a little different. Could I have an apple box? What I want to do is I want to get their heads off of the same level and I don't want to wrap arms around in any way. So let me build in one by one. So let's see, could you do me a favor? Can you come up to this box and you look comfortable with your-- You can stand behind and put your hand on your hip the way you were, you looked comfortable. Okay, I already saw it. If I see someone posing well on their own, I'll work with it. So she puts her hand on her hip, hips back, push your hips away from me and your butt that way. Okay, good, yeah, yeah, you're doing it, perfect. Alright, so she's just doing a normal woman's pose, cool. Alright, so then what I'm gonna have you do, is I'm gonna have you stand next to her and I'm gonna have you, in this instance, let's see. How about you pose like this and put one leg out to the side. This is, just looking cool, okay? And a little bit further over. Alright, so I'm giving each one of them. And turn your foot out for me. So she's got her own pose. The reason I posed her like this is because she's very, very, very slender, although you are too. This is like, most slender group ever, but if I turn her too far to the side, she's gonna look really small and she'll kinda be diminished in the group so I have her turning to the side so that she'll take up equal proportion. I don't want it to be uneven, like I said, unbalanced, so I want to make sure there's visual balance in the frame. Now, again, I said I wanted different levels and so I brought out an apple box. You could have an apple box or a stool or you could sit someone on the ground or have them kneel and so I'm gonna have you sit here. Let's take a look. And I'm gonna have, can you put your arm on her shoulder? Good. I'm gonna have you turn that way, to your left, other way, there you go. And looks great, put your hand on your hip. Perfect. Alright, so here's some of the things I'm thinking is as I look at this, I've got some triangles going on and I want there to be some interaction. If they're all just standing there not touching each other, it doesn't look like a group shot, so that's why I have her with her hand on her shoulder. I may have you just come up a little closer. Great. And I'm gonna turn your hips towards camera a little bit more, perfect. And so everybody's got their own pose, but they're all overlapping. Either she's not really overlapping her shoulders, but at least she's touching her arm. That's a point of unity and she's not touching her arm, but she's overlapping in her shoulders and her head, so they hold together as a group and then making sure that everyone looks good, because I find that a lot of times what ends up happening is they just say, "Okay, everyone sit down," and then there's so many people you're not paying attention to, how it's flattering the form so that looks great and I want you to bring your arm behind her back a little bit. Yeah, good, and just scoot behind her a tiny bit more. I'm looking for too much negative space. That looks good. So let me take that photo. Okay, you guys look great. (camera clicks) Perfect and one two three. (camera clicks) And you're good, you're all smiling so that's good. You decided on what the mood was, you're best friends, perfect. (camera clicks) And wiggle your front finger, you're pinky is all crazy in that one, yeah, good. Oh. (laughs) Good. (camera clicks) Okay, cool, so this would be for photographing friends and I'm stacking in layers, but here's how I think of it. I say, "Okay, as friends this is a good pose." Maybe as family, I might use a little bit different body language. Maybe I'd move them closer together, wrap in a little bit more, or if I added a brother of one of these women to the frame, his body language would be different than if I added one of their husbands to the frame, so it's not quite as simple as just posing everyone differently. You have to think of context. Is this family, is this friends, is this business? But those general rules still stay the same. Alright, so let me think about, I'm gonna add in a couple other people and so I said the rules that you want, you want some symmetry and you also want to stack in triangles, so if I look, here's what I have. One, two, three. I've got triangles there. So where are some other places that I could add another person? Alright, well I could add somebody maybe over here as another head or someone sitting on the floor right here but I want to make sure it's not too asymmetrical. So if I added someone over here, I might have her turn out a little bit so that there's a little bit more attention to the composition this direction and I think what I'm going to do is I'm gonna build in as if there was a... Let's bring in a sibling. You want to be a sibling? So let me switch you out for a second. Okay. Okay, so they're all siblings, right. They look like it, perfect. I'm gonna pose you behind a little bit and just put your hand in your front pocket and you can drop your back arm, great. So I still think this looks a little more friends, because they're kind of posing individually. Can you do me a favor? Can you turn towards him and just put your arm on his shoulder? Okay. Okay, so for me, that's a little bit more like, okay, this is maybe, we're related, he's my friend. However, we're gonna go weird now. (laughs) That's friend, let's change that-- Or, that's sibling, it's brother sister, let's go to now they're married,(laughs) like, well, it's true though. (laughs) Now what I want you to do is I want you to wrap your arm around him and get even closer. I mean you're gonna actually maybe, maybe wrap your arms around here. Oh, okay. Great, yeah, perfect. So it just communicates something different and maybe this, well, you know, this could be (laughs) a daughter (laughs) or maybe a sister, but, yeah, you two are sisters, perfect. So if you're getting the concept. I'm still including everybody and I'm stacking and I'm going for triangles and I want everyone to have their own pose, but body language varies based on if this is family, friends, corporate, etc. So you guys all look good. I'll keep you in-- Let's go back to brother sister mood. (all laugh) Okay? Alright, excellent. So let's add someone else in here. I'm going to actually, Katelyn will you grab another box? Let me just see. So I can add another person in and I'm thinking I'm gonna add Katelyn in over here. Good. Perfect. So when I add Katelyn in over on this side of the composition, what I'm looking for is I don't want their heads to be exactly lined up and I want to make sure I have triangles, but something that we will talk about a little bit is going to be the depth of your photo. I don't want everybody to have a ton of space between them, so I am going to move you up a little bit. You're just gonna step up closer to her just a tiny bit. And I'm gonna scoot you towards the edge of your box. Great. Perfect and you're gonna put your hand on your knee and put that hand on your hip, or, yeah, without hurting her, perfect. (laughs) So, this I could do a group shot and then I would stare at it. So I got my triangles, my different levels, I can add in another person front and center because that would be another triangle, triangle, triangle, so can I have you come sit front and center. Perfect and you can just sit sideways for me and put your back knee up, great, and put your hand on. Perfect, so. One, two, three triangle and then a triangle and a triangle, so I'm building in that composition. So this, to me, is looking like friends but if somebody is a sibling, I might make a little bit different change to the body language or maybe this is your sister, so put your hand on her arm or on her shoulder, just unifying, but everybody is overlapping. Nobody is standing, for example, can I borrow you? Mm-hmm. Can you scoot your apple box this way? Ooh, not that, no you're not that exiled. (all laugh) Maybe like there. Okay. If I pull her too far to the side and she's not overlapping with anyone in any way, it'll look like she doesn't belong in the group so I want her to at least overlap a shoulder with an arm, or reach over and touch someone's shoulder. It's keeping the unity there, so I will scoot you back a little. You're not that exiled. Okay, so let's talk about a couple other things that you could do incorrectly. Can I have both of you do something for a moment? I'm just gonna have both of you stand over here, okay? And both of you cross your arms. Okay, so when-- Yeah, you're just being too cool. So when I look at this frame, what ends up happening is I've got the triangles and everything over here and then it, they just kinda trail off to the side, so I've lost my balance, I've lost the overall composition I was going for, so I would have to do something, like can I bring you over here? Okay, now you two are married, okay, you're married to her. We're married? Yeah, he's like, all right. (laughs) You don't know each other, right? No. No. Yeah, so they don't know each other. He's totally into it. Okay, that's fun. Great. So I could do something like that, and you can put your arm back around, but you know, yep, there you go, excellent. (laughs) So at least I still have my triangles and it's a little more balanced. I will bring you in just a bit and, so, related to that, as I have many people in the frame, I'm gonna mess up my pose for a second. Will all of the guys cross their arms. Okay. Its okay to have similar poses, but when you see it a lot, it starts to look like you forced the pose a lot. Like you just said, "Stand there and everyone's bored." They all crossed their arms. You basically said, "Alright, guys, go out there, "cross your arms, just stand there." It doesn't look like there's as much thought to it, so I do try to pose people individually and specifically for guys, make sure that you tell them where to pose their hands. We've talked about, I've talked about posing men. A lot of times in groups if you don't tell them where to pose their hands, they stand like this and then it looks like their blocking thems-- I don't know. (laughs) You know what I mean? I see so many wedding photo where people are just standing like that, so I at least pose hands and generally for guys I usually either pose with just their thumb in their jean pocket or their whole hand in and just leaning a little towards camera or crossing their arms is okay as long as it looks comfortable. Okay, so you can go back to the poses you were in. Great. So if I want this to be symmetrical and I want this to be balanced, I could figure out another way. I could maybe have him kneel. Would you kneel on one knee there? Yeah. Okay. Proposal. (all laugh) Exactly. Perfect. Other way? Yeah, just whatever you're comfortable with. It doesn't matter. Okay. Okay. Good, so again, triangles and everything and now I could add another face, maybe would you come be married to him? Sure. Great. So you're gonna look married and be all lovey to him. Go for it. Okay, cool, and I think that I need you to overlap just a little bit more and now you might need to step over, it's like-- Perfect! Great. No, you're okay where you're at right there and kick your hips back. That way, perfect, and turn your shoulders towards me just a little, great. So I'm making sure that everybody's unified. So I look at that and I think that that's a pretty decent group pose. I approve, and very attractive people. Excellent. Okay, so I'm gonna take a shot of you guys there. Perfect. Ready, one, two, and three. (camera clicks) One, two, and three. (camera clicks) Great, perfect. I wanted to take a moment to take a look at the type of pose that I think people get into naturally. Like if you just told a group of people, "Hey, everybody bunch up, why don't you all pose?" and then they give you something like this. So I want to break down what doesn't work, how I can fix it, what I'm analyzing in my head. Alright, so we're going to go through all of the mistakes I see here. First of all, I see a lot of heads lined up. I got these girls perfectly in a row, those guys perfectly in a row, so that doesn't work. It's so linear, there's no movement in it. Okay, the next problem I see. Okay, these dudes in the back. The guys always do that. They wrap their arms around each other all intertwined and it hunches up their shoulders, especially when you're photographing men in suits, I mean, it just absolutely destroys the jackets, it looks terrible, so I know that I'm gonna have to fix. Alright, so then the next thing I said was you want there to be balance in the composition, balance in the group and so, okay, at least over here there's a little bit of balance, but then you've got these two ladies randomly off to the side. They don't look like they have anything to do with this group. Okay, let's go back to posing. Symmetry, these girls are posing all the same. That's pretty boring. There's not much movement there, so I know I want to change that and then also, they're facing straight on towards camera with their knees and that gives us the problem of posing we've talked about called foreshortening, so they're going to look like they have a little bit shorter legs. And then I noticed one other thing. The guys are pretty far back. They're several feet behind and so they actually look pretty short and if I happened to be shooting from a lower angle, you would barely see them at all, so they get minimized in the frame. So I'm just gonna go through and try to fix things. Okay, so guys first of all, I'll have you just not hug so much. Sorry. That's all right. So you girls. I can do like, a little bit of symmetry, but not that identical. Can you turn out for me? Perfect. And can you, let's see, you can put your hand on your knee that way, perfect. Okay, now let's see. I'm gonna have you turn out. So at least there's balance there. They can face outward. And you can put your hand on your hip, one hand on your knee. Alright, she starts to get lost, so I'm gonna come back to you eventually. But I think that right now what ends up happening because they're all the same height, or approximately, it makes such a straight line, that I might have you sit or stand. So maybe I'll have you stand on this one. Okay, so I'm gonna switch, perfect. Alright, so I'll bring you back in a minute. For you guys, step way up. Okay. And let's pretend this is some sort of family, something like that. Can you put your hand on her back, look like you like her just a little bit? Yeah, you can put your hands on your shoulders, perfect. Alright, let's see. Let's add in, I'm going to have you marry him now, okay? So I'm gonna have you wrap your arm around his arm. Perfect, and hips back, great. Perfect, alright. So I've got still a pretty straight line of guys in the back there so I'm probably gonna want to change that so let's mix that up. Could I put you in the middle? I'm gonna have you switch. And I also, unless there's a reason, like it's a bridal party, I probably shouldn't have all the guys in one place, all the girls in the other. So that looks wonderful. I'm going to have, let's say, these two are married and this is your brother, okay? So you're just gonna put your hand real soft on his arm. Okay, great. And then you put your other hand on your hip. Perfect. Can I have... I'm gonna bring you in here, okay? I'm gonna have-- and you guys just wanna scoot out a little bit, make room for him? Alright, let's sit comfortably. You can kinda lean forward on a leg. Yeah, I knew you were gonna be cool about it. See, I already knew, I didn't, I just knew you were gonna do that. Perfect, okay great. So then I can figure out if you want to sit in the front or if you have a sibling, and try and figure out how they're all related. So let's say that you want to come and sit in the front someplace. More or less. And let's see, so if you don't knoow each other, I probably wouldn't sit right between his legs, maybe just like a little bit (laughs) you know. I mean you could, I'm just saying. And then for composition's sake, make sure if a guy is facing straight on towards camera that like how you arm is well-placed and to obscure things. Maybe turn a little bit to the side. Pick a side that, yeah, like maybe turn that way just a little bit. Okay, cool. And so as I'm looking at this, this is where I would add someone else. I might add somebody here if I had another person in the group and I could add somebody over here standing, like my height, this would be perfect in the group and maybe I know her or I could sit if I were joining this group. I could sit right around here, so I'm building, I'm looking for symmetry, but not too symmetrical. I want balance. Everybody gets their own pose, I have different layers, and notice everybody's overlapping or interacting in some way. So those are your checklist for what to do when you're posing groups.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lighting on Location
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


One of my favorite courses thus far on Creative Live, and definitely well worth the purchase price. Lindsay effectively demystifies many of the critical stumbling blocks to achieving a practical understanding of many critical elements of portrait photography. I would rate this course as being perfect for the advanced photographer - a couple of the concepts might be beyond that of a casual/intermediate photographer, but even they would probably gain a great deal from this course. Her discussion on equipment, in particular was superbly done, and allows one to move forward in beginning to make the right choices to achieve whatever effect one is after in terms of capturing the subject. Finally, the great thing about this course, and the thing which makes it such a great value, is the overall scope of what is being taught. Lindsay covers almost everything imaginable, and does it all in a manner which is enjoyable, and makes the time fly by. There were many, many times during the various days of this course during which Lindsay would share some particularly great tip or technique, and I would think "Insert bookmark here." I don't dole out praise easily (actually left a fairly scathing review on another course here recently) but this course has won me over. Highly, HIGHLY recommended. I'm definitely going to check out her other courses as well.

a Creativelive Student

This is Lindsay's best course to date and believe me, she has given us some good ones already on Creative Live. She hit this one out of the park! She was very well prepared and organized. I could tell that Lindsay put a lot of work into preparation for the class because she just kept giving us great information non stop. There was no down time or wasted moments. All future instructors on Creative Live should be encouraged to watch this course just to see what good instruction looks like. Lindsay has evolved over the past few years and just keeps getting better as time passes. Thank you Lindsay and thank you Creative Live for a job well done! Craig Banton


This class is one of the best investments I have made in my photography business. Lindsay is an excellent teacher. She is a seasoned, yet humble, professional. Unlike some other instructors I have seen on creative live, there isn’t a lot of fluff in her teaching. She sticks to the topics, gets all the information in, but still manages to engage and relate to the audience with real life examples of her own experiences in photography. I have been a professional photographer for several years, but have mostly stuck to natural light. This course gave me the confidence to tackle more advanced lighting setups and expand my capabilities as a photographer. I really appreciate that she doesn’t bash flat lighting, like other lighting videos I have tried to watch. Most portrait clients do not want photographs with dramatic lighting, they want to look their best, and I’m glad that she acknowledges this. This class gives you the information you need to create whatever photos you want to create.

Student Work