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How To Photograph Siblings Together Successfully

Learn how photographer Louise Downham gets the best out of siblings during a photo shoot.

| Portraits and People

The relationship between siblings is a wonderful, albeit sometimes precarious, one. Parents will, in all likelihood, prefer photographs of their children that show sibling love and affection rather than competition and jealousy, so look for (and enable) moments where siblings are sharing and interacting throughout the portrait session.

Children will often behave very differently for an outsider, so depending on the family dynamic, you may be able to get better results if the parents are more in the background. Be ready to step in, and have lots of strategies up your sleeve for distracting and avoiding rivalries.

If you’re stuck for ideas on how to photograph siblings together, then you’re in the right place. Read on for my top tips on how to get the best out of siblings during a shoot.


Photographing Particular Age Groups


Toddlers: For pretty much every family, pay the most attention to a toddler - they’re the ones likely to be least interested in this set of photographs. A great trick is to say you’d like to photograph them as a big brother / sister - complimenting them on how grown up they look next to their tiny brother / sister.

How To Photograph Siblings Together Successfully : Toddler with sibling

© Louise Downham


Toddler with a younger baby: If the toddler doesn’t want to cuddle the baby, turn it into a game for the toddler: Where’s the baby’s nose? Where’s their tummy? Can they hold the baby’s little hand? That way you can photograph the toddler stroking the baby, which will result in gorgeous snuggly photographs.

How To Photograph Siblings Together Successfully : Toddler with baby

© Louise Downham


Pre-school siblings: It can be a good idea to find somewhere for them to sit together (like an armchair or on a log) or holding the same item (like an umbrella), so they don’t feel they’re being ‘plonked’ for a shot together.


How To Photograph Siblings Together Successfully : Siblings under a brolly

© Louise Downham


Older children: If there’s a space between siblings, it tends to look a bit awkward so have them touching in some way. Suggest siblings put their arms around each other - this can also help to loosen up teenagers as it gives them something to giggle about. 


Encouraging Interaction 


Eliciting reactions: Say something outrageous (that the parents won’t mind you saying!) to make them laugh - this works really well for getting relaxed photographs of siblings together.


How To Photograph Siblings Together Successfully : Siblings laughing

© Louise Downham


Whispering: Ask the siblings to whisper a secret or a funny word into each other’s ear. You’ll have the opportunity to photograph some lovely moments and unexpected reactions as the siblings surprise each other.


How To Photograph Siblings Together Successfully : Siblings

© Louise Downham



Shared activities: Photograph the siblings engaged in the same activity, such as throwing leaves or running (nothing gets children’s attention like a race!).


How To Photograph Siblings Together Successfully : Siblings running

© Louise Downham


Holding hands: This is always incredibly emotive with sibling shots. Ask the older child if they know how to hold their sibling’s hand - most will do it to prove that they can! You might not get very long though, so be ready to take the shot.


Cuddles and kisses: If you ask children to cuddle each other, they’ll often accidentally squash each other! It can work better if you suggest the older child puts their hand on their sibling’s shoulder as they’ll end up relaxing into each other, but more gently. With kisses, ask the older child if they can plant a very gentle kiss on their younger brother’s forehead or cheek - it helps if you point out exactly where to aim for, and make it into a bit of a game. Take a look at my website for examples of this. 


Camera Settings

Use a narrow enough aperture to have each sibling in focus, if that’s what you’re aiming for (e.g. f/4.5 for two children, or f/8 if it’s a larger set of siblings).


Final Essential Tips 

Tapping into that special bond between siblings is key to a successful shoot, but the children’s ages make a huge difference. As always, pay attention to the children’s moods - if the toddler is getting cranky then take a break and photograph the baby or parents for a while. Making things fun is important at any age - it's up to you as the photographer to get the best out of your subjects. Even if a toddler has a tantrum or teenagers aren’t feeling co-operative, if you keep your sense of humour you can bring siblings back on board and capture those fleeting moments of sibling love and affection

For more family photography-related tips, take a look at Louise's 10 Top Tips For Setting Up Your Own Family Photography Business.


About Author: Louise Downham

Louise Downham has photographed 1000+ babies and children to date, and her photographs have been exhibited internationally and published in national magazines. She runs an award-winning family portrait business, Louise Rose Photography:

If you're looking for friendly support with your own photography business, Louise provides a mentoring programme, too:

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