Dads are amazing. They are the protectors, providers, laugh-makers, lesson-givers, and piggy-back carriers. Loving dads are truly the superheroes of every childhood. And nothing makes my mama heart happier than seeing the love between a father and his children.
When photographing fathers with their children, my priority is to make them comfortable. I want to capture genuine emotion. Being confident in my posing by guiding and directing helps the fathers I’ve photographed feel at ease during our sessions together. Instead of cheesy smiles and unnatural posing, I like to get images so full of love it’s almost tangible.
My favorite poses involve movement, connection, and joy. I like to start with a pose and then let natural moments unfold. Having a starting point for the posing will help you and your subjects feel more confident and comfortable.
But for me, it’s often the moments after the pose that show the most emotion. I have my camera ready to capture the pose as well as those special moments that happen when everyone forgets the camera.
Here are my 8 favorite poses to capture the love between a father and his kids.
Circle of love
It can be nice to have a more traditional portrait where everyone is facing the camera. Encourage dad to be front and center for a family portrait.
If he is taller than everyone, have him stand behind his family and ask him to wrap them in a circle of love. Ask him to squeeze his family. Tell him to show all his love for them in a single hug.
For posed portraits, pay attention to everyone’s hands. Having subjects place their hands in pockets or connect their hands with each other will ensure a nice, connected pose. Before you snap the shutter, take a couple seconds to analyze the frame to ensure everyone’s posing feels connected and relaxed.
For family portraits I like to use a lens that offers a lot of compression. For images like this I’ll turn to my 85mm f/1.4 or my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Setting an aperture of f/4.0 will ensure the whole family is in focus and the compression of these lenses will help them all pop against the background.
Big and little
The juxtaposition of big and little is always fun to capture. I especially love to show juxtaposition of scale between dads and their babies.
While dad is holding his baby, come in close to grab a tighter composition including just his hands and his baby. My favorite thing about cropped images like these is that it tells a universal story of fatherhood love. Photos like these could be any dad holding any baby, which makes it timeless and impactful for a wider audience.
I like to shoot these types of close-ups wide open to get maximum compression and depth of field. Use a portrait lens and open your aperture wide. Toggle your focal point right to the center of the story.
Dancing is by far my favorite pose for dads with little girls. Every little girl I’ve ever met loves to dance with her dad. Even better, it incorporates movement and fun which gets the best poses and facial expressions.
I’ll direct dad by telling him to dance slowly with his daughter like she’s a princess in a fairytale. Encourage him to slowly spin his daughter. The movement of her clothes will enhance the storytelling.
Try different angles. I love to take a step back, shoot super low to the ground and include some depth and detail from the foreground.
This is a fun pose to try interesting crops. By cropping dad out of this image, I was able to tell a universal story of fatherhood love.
Since your subjects might not be on the same plane while they’re dancing, set a narrower aperture of f/4.0 or smaller to ensure sharp focus on both of your subjects.
Into the air
Giving dads a fun task is always better than making them feel “posed.” One of my favorite prompts is to have Dad lift his child up into the air. Smiles always come easily when you’re swinging your child into the sky.
I like to get low to exaggerate how high the child is flying and I use a wide-angle lens to capture the whole setting.
When incorporating movement, it’s important to have a fast shutter speed to retain focus and crisp detail. Increasing your shutter speed to 1/500 or higher will help ensure sharp focus.
This is a fun pose for a silhouette. The success of a silhouette lies in being low enough to the ground so that everything important to the image is above the horizon line. You will often find me laying down on my belly to capture a silhouette!
Be sure to increase your shutter speed and use a narrower aperture than you would typically use so that your subjects are nice and dark against the background.
Nothing says protection like being held by your dad. Whether it’s on their chest or high up on their shoulders, have dad pick up his child (or children!).
This is another perfect opportunity to try different angles. Have dad turn around and take a photo of the child looking over their dad’s shoulder.
Ask dad to pick up all his kids at once. Have him spin around or tickle his children while holding them. The smiles, laughter and joy you’ll capture will be priceless!
With lots of movement, giggles and multiple subjects in a single frame, remember to adjust your aperture to a wider depth of field to ensure everyone is in focus. For images with multiple subjects in a single frame I like to keep my aperture around f/3.2 – f/4.0.
Incorporate a talent
I love to include the talents and hobbies of families in their photos. With just a little bit of planning ahead, you can create photos that are infinitely more special and personal.
Have dad play a song on his guitar with his child beside him. Capture them working together in his wood shop or kicking a soccer ball in the yard. Get candid shots of a father in his element sharing his favorite talent with his children.
Incorporating one of dad’s talents or hobbies not only tells a personal story, it also gives dad something to do. He’ll relax and feel comfortable doing what he knows he’s good at. The images I’ve taken of fathers (and even grandfathers!) in action doing something they truly love tend to be my favorites for the storytelling they provide.
For storytelling images I like to use a wider angle lens such as my 24-70mm f/2.8 or my 35mm f/1.4. These allow me to include context from the setting and include all of the important details of the scene without having to be too far away from my subjects.
Simply sit together
Posing a family should never be overly complicated. Something as simple as sitting together, ensuring that everyone is connected, can make for beautiful photos of a dad with his kids!
Have dad sit down with his children in his lap for a happy smiling photo. I like to position my subjects so that they’re noses are on the same plane. If a subject is too far forward or too far behind, it will be more difficult to achieve a sharp focus.
I find that asking people to smile at the camera often results in forced expressions. And that’s not what we want!
Instead of asking the father and child to look at me and smile, I’ll ask the child to repeat silly phrases that will encourage natural laughter. One of my favorites is to encourage kids to say, “My Daddy wears diapers!” There are no straight faces after a child says this about their father! Once I get this image of laughter I’ll ask the child to look into their dad’s nose and tell me if he has any boogers. Again the laughter, smiles, and close connection.
Once you’ve taken a few photos, you will notice that everyone starts to warm up and will be ready for some looser posing. Less specific direction will allow you to get the candid moments that truly show personalities and authentic connection.
Ask dad to get close to his children and then simply wait. It’s even better if you can make yourself less visible by peeking from behind something like tall grasses, some shrubs, or a tree. This makes it so that the dad and his kids feel more alone and able to have a real moment together. It can be nice to just capture a quiet moment unfolding between a father and his children.
Don’t be afraid to get creative! Look around your location for ways to add layering in the foreground. Try getting low or shooting from behind your subjects. Get out a specialty lens that you’ve been waiting to use or shoot through a prism. Since everyone isn’t looking to you for what to do, you can get creative in your storytelling.
Create special memories during the session
It’s important to remember that the memories you make during a photo session are every bit as important as the quality of images you get. Keeping sessions with dads fun and fast will keep everyone walking away with a smile.
I want my subjects to walk away from a photo session saying, “That was so fun!” and never, “That took forever!” Knowing when to stop is key to giving fathers a great experience. Once you are confident you got a great shot, move onto your next pose.
It can be hard work to coax a dad into stopping everything for a few photos. Quite often it’s difficult to put words to the value of these moments until the photo is hanging on the wall. But take a second to communicate how much your child is going to treasure an image with their father thirty years from now. These photos of connection and love will be priceless treasures in years to come.
This Father’s Day take the time to capture a father’s deep love for his children. Put a plan in place to pose with confidence. Bring out the joy and laughter of fatherhood. Incorporate movement and real connection to capture genuine expressions.
Because to the child it’s not just their dad you’re photographing; it’s their superhero.