One of the most common ways I can set apart a typical photographer from one who has a little zing in his/her format is by how they pose their subjects. Posing is often underestimated but it deserves quite a bit of attention to learn how to create an environment that depicts the emotions you want to convey in the image.
If you ask people to sit together, even with the direction of being so close their hips are touching, they will likely sit in the top version. Then if you ask them to get ridiculously close, you can work them toward the bottom version.
The next time you are taking photos of a group of people, be sure to use the following tips:
Top Three Tips for Posing a Group of People:
1) Make sure everyone is touching someone else. If you don't, the one person looks like they don't belong in the photo.
2) Once they get close, ask them to get even closer. I can't say this enough, but not only do they look less awkward, they feel a little silly and then actually ARE less awkward in front of the camera. Win-win.
3) Use levels. There is a time and a place for people to be in a "Rockette" line-up, but your photo will be infinitely more warm and interesting if you adjust the subjects' heights by using levels available to you. This could be stairs (such as in the above example) or having adults squat and the kiddos stand with them (all while touching of course!).
Whether you're an amateur iPhoneographer or a blossoming professional photographer, I hope these tips help warm up your photos!