The earliest photos of this style were meant to make the person appear as life-like as possible, often posed in their best apparel. Children were posed with their favorite toy or often their mother. Flowers were often involved, and photographers often added some rosy ting to cheeks in post processing.
c.1890 Cabinet card by Beniamino Facchinelli showing deceased infant, lovingly dressed and positioned.
Many believe that photographers used a metal stand to place the deceased person, but this is simply not true. There was, however, a device called a Brady Stand that helped living subjects remain still for long perioeds of time. We're including some examples of the Brady Stand below. All of these subjects were fully alive!