What to Wear for Family Photos – Jenna Martin Family Photographer

For many families, the task of decided what to wear on the day of family portraits is the most stressful part. Should we match each other? Should we match our background? Do we have to get dressed up? Don’t worry. Before you freak out over the difference between denim and navy blue, lets go over a few ground rules. 

1.) Know your location.

Knowing your location is essential to determining your clothing options. Are you headed downtown for family photos or are you planning  day at the beach? Will you be among in the bold oranges, reds and yellows of fall or the soft pastels of spring? Your location should give you a starting off point for which color palette to choose.

2.) Choose your color palette. 

A great place to go for color inspiration is design-seeds.com. This is a site that breaks down the color palette of everyday moments into a list of usable colors. Now that you know your location, you’ll want to pick something that works with it. If you’ll be taking pictures on the beach, for example, you might want to go with a more muted or neutral palette, whereas if you’re shooting in an outdoor orchard in the fall you might want to use richer, bolder colors. The point isn’t to blend in with the background, but to compliment it.

beach fall spring2 winter1

3.) Choose your neutrals. 

Each of these color palettes have a neutral tone running through the middle. Usually, it’s your closest color to something in a gray spectrum or a brown spectrum. This should make up the bulk of your outfit. Think dark, denim jeans, khakis or a gray dress.

Added tip: For the most part, try to keep your shoes in this category as well. This will help draw attention to your faces instead of your feet.

4.) Add in your colors. There are two ways to do this: 1.) As your main colors in large doses and 2.) As your accent colors. For main colors think your shirts, coats, vests or skirts, while your accent colors are your bright pops throughout your wardrobe. In the spring palette above of pale pinks and blues, bright green acts as the accent color. This should be used in small doses through accessories or layers. Think headbands, scarves, belts, ties or even shoes (if you so desire to break rule #3).

5.) Mix it up. You know the fastest way to tell if a photo is from the 90’s? Everyone is wearing black turtlenecks. Don’t be afraid of patterns, textures and layers. Patterns add personality and textures and layers add interest. Think shirts under jackets with scarves and dresses under cardigans wrapped with a belt. These clothing options add more visual detail,, personality and impact to your photos.


Photo Credit: shannamichellephotography

6.) Don’t worry about the clothes getting dirty. I call family photo sessions an hour or two of “no rules.” You’ll probably be sitting on the ground at one point or another or your kid wants to pick up a slimy bug, so just roll with it! Trust me, you’ll love the photo I snap of your daughter’s cringing face as your son holds up a caterpillar for her to see. I’ll try and save the dirty stuff till the end, but the ones of your kids playing in a mud puddle or rolling down a hill are sure to be your favorites in the end.


7.) Let your personalities shine. Each person in your family has a personality all their own, so let them express it! As long as you stick to same general color palette and mood, it will still form a cohesive picture. If your daughter has a bohemian/hipster style, for example, let her stick to her style, just keep the color tones similar and let her choose a hat or scarf in the accent color.

In that same thread, you want your outfits to reflect your personality as a family. If you’re a down-to-earth, outdoorsy, casual family that enjoys camping every weekend, dressing up in formal wear for your family portraits is only going to result in stiff, awkward looking photos. You want to feel comfortable and natural during your family portrait session, not contrived and boring. Besides, I do not photograph contrived and boring people😉.


For more clothing suggestions and options for family photos, follow me on Pinterest! I’ve got a whole board dedicated to just this thing🙂.

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River Rocks and a Missing Sandal – Jenna Martin Family Photographer

Nick was another winner of my Father’s Day shoot, and I was just as thrilled as ever. There’s always a special feeling when I do a photoshoot for free, but when it’s for someone that really deserves it, it’s just a whole other level. For this we took a quick trip to the river and waded around in the water (ever walk around on slippery rocks while holding a couple thousand dollars worth of NOT waterproof gear?) and took a few pics.

Oh and that lonely little purple sandal? Its mate went floating down the river…that’s what happens when you’re playing in the water though!



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Skatepark: Bird’s Eye View – Jenna Martin Fine Art Photographer

This is one of those photos that happened all at once. I had made up my mind to shoot another photo this night, but as soon as I drove past the skatepark I completely changed gears (get it…nice). I decided I wanted to do something completely different. So I went home, changed, and headed back down to the local skatepark and hoped there were still people there.


There were. There were plenty of people there. The 90 degree day had slowly cooled off to the low 80’s, meaning it was just about perfect weather for a little time-killing.

Believe it or not, this was actually one of my easier photos to take. After I did the floating part, I just sat back and relaxed while I took plenty of photos of everyone else doing their tricks. Of course no shoot is complete without just a little bit of goofing around…

And then here are a few “extra” photos🙂

Not a bad night if you ask me🙂.

In the end, this was the final photo. It was awesome getting to hang out with everyone, and thanks to all the people that let me photograph them doing awesome tricks!



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Runaway Bride – Jenna Martin Fine Art Photographer

I’d actually been waiting for a cloudy day for this picture, but since the suitcases are on loan I decided last night was as good of circumstances as I was going to get, and in reality, I kind of like the way it turned out with the setting sun in the background.

I have to say, while some photographers plan their shoots to the millimeter, I tend to be more of a free spirit. I have a general idea of what I want the photo to look like in my head, but until I’m on location I never really set anything into motion. I guess you could say it all kind of comes to me in the moment. Sound cheesy? Probably, but I can’t quite think of a better way to explain it.

For this photo, I used suitcases as my prop. I set my camera up in the direction I wanted then began photographing myself until I got an image I was happy with. Fortunately (since I was quickly losing light) I hit a decent pose rather quickly, which meant the rest of the night was spent positioning my props the way I wanted them. Besides the obvious stares from cars passing by (no doubt wondering who the crazy lady dressed in white is and why she is standing on the side of the highway throwing suitcases into the air), the shoot went pretty quick. I snapped this photo right in the middle of the fiasco while taking a much needed break (it’s hard work throwing suitcases around!).


The editing, however, is not a fast process. It’s now 4:50 am and I’m just getting around to finishing up the blog post. Here’s a little peak of my morning as the editing goes along:

While I say I have about 8 or 9 layers going in the video, the final photo ended up as a composition of 32 layers, then a few extra for effect. It all came together for this final product:

Runaway Bridew

In the end, I’m actually pretty happy with it! Click here if you’d like to see the first of the “Dream” collection, and don’t forget to visit my website or Facebook page for more!


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Can I Get a Hottub?! – Jenna Martin Fine Art Photographer

On my first outing with my underwater camera housing, I had no idea where to go. I knew the water had to be semi-clear, but I had no idea just how clear. Could there be a little murkiness? Would I maybe actually like the murkiness? How much was too much to where it would distort the image? I had no idea. So the first place I went was to Lake Elmo, a spot right here in Billings. Granted, it’s known as a giant mud puddle to locals, but I needed to start somewhere. I recruited my boyfriend’s mom, Eddy, to come hold the camera while I attempt to model underwater.

Turns out, Lake Elmo was not the best place to start. The water was so murky I couldn’t see anything more than 6 inches in front of my camera. One hour of work down, no results. Next location.

Spot #2 was the river. I figured with moving water, the fine muck and mud would be washed downstream and the water would be fairly clear. I was even curious to see what the motion would look like. But alas, it was still too murky. I could see a vague blur of color where the subject was, but there still wasn’t anything I could possibly edit. I’m still in search of a deeper part of the river where the dust and mud can settle, but for now I needed another option.

I’d already taken pictures at the pool, but everything had that blue tint. I thought it was just the background of the pool itself, so I brought a variety of backgrounds. As it turns out, the blue tint is because of the chlorine. It can taken out in post, but it’s definitely quite the process. I needed an unchlorinated spot.

Eddy explained that we could try her hottub. It was tiny, but it was unchlorinated. Sure we were going on 3 hours of wasted time and I was unsure of whether or not I could even get a photo in a tiny space, but we had to try. So I put a wide angle lens on my camera, submerged myself in barely 1′ of water and clicked away. And these were a few of the results🙂.





Feel free to click here if you’d like to learn a little more about how I made my underwater camera housing🙂.


Daydreamer At Heart – Jenna Martin Fine Art Photographer

In all reality, I shot this photo because I wanted an excuse to wear my new white dress🙂.

I got it for $12 at Goodwill and I’m pretty sure it was used as a wedding dress at some point. Thing is though, it’s HUGE on me, so unless I cinch it with a belt and wear a few inches of footwear, it’s barely manageable to walk in. All that extra fabric really helps when it comes to taking a floating photograph though.

The funny thing is, this photo is nothing like how I imagined it would be. I actually arrived at the idea that I wanted to be floating away on an umbrella, very Mary Poppins-ish. Through editing though, I decided the umbrella was really just getting in the way. I didn’t want to appear that I was using the umbrella as a crutch, I wanted to be floating on my own. So hence, the umbrella got cut.

This was also done in a field close to my house and since it was taken around 5:00 am, I didn’t have to worry about getting in trouble for trespassing…which, um…I totally wasn’t.


Building Underwater Camera Housing – Jenna Martin Fine Art Photographer

When I first started really getting into photography, the thought of underwater photos intrigued me. How amazing it would be to capture images underwater,” I thought to myself. So I started researching exactly how one might go about putting their camera underwater, because lets be honest, this setup surely wasn’t going to do the trick (and yes, that’s one of my many beautiful cats lounging on my countertop).


But upon typing in my search inquiry, my heart sank. It looked as though there were two options: 1.) A camera bag and 2.) A housing facility. The camera bag, priced at the low end of the spectrum (roughly $100-$150), seemed to better fit my budget, but after reading the horrible reviews every bag received (“Hugely susceptible to human error”, “Leaked the first time I tried it in my bathtub”, “Leaks if placed lower than 1′ of water”, “Leaks because it’s Tuesday” ) I decided against it. I needed something substantial that put one of my most valuable possessions in as little of harm’s way as possible.

So next I took a look at housings.

For a 5D Mark II, underwater housing starts at roughly $1500 and goes up from there. $1500? I was nowhere near being able to afford $1500! I slammed my computer shut and thought to myself, “It’s okay. I just need to save up some money before I can start taking underwater photos. I can live with that.”

Except I couldn’t live with that. The thought burrowed into the back of my brain and wouldn’t leave. “Does this mean only people with $1500 lying around should be able to take underwater photos?” The more I was told I couldn’t take the pictures without proper equipment, the more I became obsessed with it. There just had to be a way…”

And that way, I decided, was to make my own housing. I figured I could devise a structure that would allow me to put my camera inside, and I could use an automatic shutter release to take the photos from the outside. As long as all my settings were adjusted before I put the camera underwater…it was possible. So I recruited the help of my boyfriend’s step-dad, Scott, and we started to build.


The first prototype was part of an insulated cooler. I needed to have a removable lid so I could take my camera in and out. I figured we’d cut the bottom out, replace it with Plexiglas and seal any spots where water could get in. Seemed simple enough, right?


Not even close. As soon as I reached a depth over 3′ deep the Plexiglas popped off the bottom like a dandelion head. Apparently I had completely underestimated the amount of water pressure I’d be dealing with here…

Some adjustments had to be made. Instead of sealing the Plexiglas on the inside of the container, we sealed it on the outside. By pushing the small disc against the contraption to which it was already attached, the water pressure was working with me instead of against me. There were still some issues with the lid leaking (as per the water-soaked dive weights inside), so I thought an extra dose of duct tape might do the trick for now. 


How wrong could I be. The bottom seemed solid, but water was still rushing in from the top. Since I couldn’t find an O-ring large enough to fit inside, I tried everything else: thread tape, weather stripping, plenty of silicone and countless other options. Sealing from the inside certainly wasn’t going to do the trick.

So we opted for an outside option instead. We tried a variety of rubber options with a combination of pipe clamps. We even tried an old bike tire, but it turned out that it wasn’t even remotely waterproof (who would’ve thought?).


Plus, water was slowly leaking in through the Plexiglas window. Somehow, it was coming in through the lid, seeping down through the insulation and coming back out through the bottom. I needed to start from scratch.

Instead of starting with something already built, I decided to design something myself. When I met with Scott that night, he showed me some of the designs he had drawn up and they ended up being almost identical to what I was thinking in my head. Since my camera measured a little more than 6″ across, I knew that would be my rough estimate of a sizing option.


The available pipe options I had locally went from 6″ to 8.5″. We took a chunk of 8.5″ pipe, a chunk of coupling and sanded some Plexiglass to barely fit into the rim of the coupling. We sealed it, placed the pipe on top, sealed it with AVS glue and used a rubber pipe cap and pipe clamp as the lid. This had to work. It was just too pretty not to!

Off to the pool I went (thanks to the Comfort Inn for constantly letting me use their pool over the last few months!) hoping this would be the one.


And the result?


It worked! It worked, it worked, IT WORKED! Thanks Scott for all your help, and be sure to click here if you want to see my first round of underwater photos :)!

Now to make a list of all the things I can put underwater…


Champagne, Pups and a Fishing Pole – Jenna Martin Family Photographer

When Rachael first contacted me about taking her family’s photos, I could tell right away that we would get along. She was easy-going, interesting and fun…and I got all of that from her email. 

She told me about her family. How close they are and how they’ve never gotten family photos. When I asked how they would describe a perfect day together, she responded with, “Float the river with the dogs on the raft while dad fishes off the end and mom and I make chitter chatter and crack jokes about dad’s fishing.” So instead of asking the all to meet me somewhere downtown, I suggested we go fishing. We can hike back in the mountains somewhere, toss out a line, run around with the dogs a bit and I’ll take photos of them in their natural habitat.

I sent the email and waited. “Please say yes,” I thought. “This would be so much fun!” Sure enough, she wrote back and said her parents were all for it! So on the day of the photoshoot, I drove the 60ish miles to Red Lodge, MT, where I met up with Rachael, Dave, Deb, Griffin (the Jack Russel Terrier) and Sadie (the German Shorthair). We drove past the Red Lodge campgrounds to an undisclosed location, tossed out a line, let the dogs run around and even drank a little champagne (here’s to finally having family photos)!






Love and Mountains – Jenna Martin Wedding Photographer

I had the honor of photographing Justin and Katrina a few months ago during my paint fight engagement session. So for their actual engagement session, we decided to do something that didn’t involve them ending up with paint all over each other. When they asked if I would be willing to travel to Red Lodge, I instantly said yes; Red Lodge is one of my favorite places! Not to mention the fact that the Beartooth Pass is now open, and it’s rated as one of the top scenic drives in the country. How could I say no?

Plus, add on the fact that these two are about as laid back as you can possibly be, and I knew it would end up being an awesome time. It was. Climbing around like a hyper mountain goat with a camera, I was definitely in my element. We even ended up making it all the way to the top of Beartooth Pass, despite avid complaints from the car. Oh well, I think it was worth it🙂.






Like Father, Like Daughter – Jenna Martin Family Photographer

In case you didn’t already know, every May I give away a free Mother’s Day photoshoot and every June I give away a free Father’s Day photoshoot. Jeremy was one of the winners of the Father’s Day photoshoot this June. Now typically, the dad’s aren’t the ones super excited to get pictures done, but Jeremy was thrilled. He planned what Carly would wear, how her hair should be done and even what color to paint her nails. And how do I know these things? Because he asked! (cue: awwwww!!!)! As a photographer, there are few things more rewarding than a client that is excited to have me take their photograph, but when it’s a father exciting for family photos with his daughter, that’s just downright good parenting🙂.