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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Including Pets in Your Wedding

Ask anyone about their pets and you will find one very common thread; they’re family. Many of us have just as many pictures of our pets stored in our phones as we do of our children. The term “family photo” is by no means limited to the human beings in the family.

And your wedding is no different. Many people want their entire family to be there, meaning of course Fido needs a spot in the ceremony. However, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  I’ve witnessed a beautiful moment with a pet; the groom’s dog gently putting his paw on the groom’s leg after trotting down the aisle with the ring, almost as if to say, “Here’s your ring, buddy. Now go get her.” And I’ve witnessed pure chaos; the bride’s small (albeit adorable) puppy howling, squealing, and peeing throughout the ceremony. It’s not hard to decide which of these scenarios you rather have at your wedding.

So here are a few things to keep in mind when giving your furry friend a central part in the ceremony:

Know what your pet is capable of: How well trained is your pet? Will your dog walk down the aisle and be able to sit and stay on the sidelines, or does he have absolutely no idea what the word, “come” even means? The last thing you want to do is attach your ring to the neck of an animal that can’t wait to roll in the first disgustingly smelly thing it finds. You’ll find your big day much less stressful if your dog (or cat, or pig, or hawk, etc) can at least follow basic commands.

Understand that allergies may be a deal breaker: As much as you’d love to have your (impeccably behaved)  four cats sitting front row at your wedding, keep in mind that people may have allergies. While your guests probably aren’t going to fight you in your wedding preferences, some of them won’t be able to keep themselves from looking red-eyed in family photos and sniffling and sneezing throughout the entire ceremony. In this case, consider adding your pet’s paw print to the guest book, some photos of them in the invitations, a tribute to them as a bit of the cake-topper, or even a small charm in your bracelet or bouquet.

Know if other pets will be there: Besides the problem of allergies, keep in mind what your guests may bring. I once went to a wedding where the bride’s normally extremely well behaved dog was meant to carry the rings. However, when her groom’s uncle arrived with his seeing eye dog, the bride’s dog spent the entire night trying to, ahem, “woo” the other dog. It was a near disaster.

Be ready to cater to your pets: Always keep in mind that your pet needs to be cared for. If your wedding is an all day event (ceremony and reception in the same location, party goes till the wee hours of the morning) there needs to be food and water for your pet. Even if the ceremony and reception is but a mere 2 hours, if it’s in 90 degree heat there still needs to be a source of water. And of course, there needs to be someone willing to take your special family member out for potty breaks, and it’s probably not going to be you.

But through it all, the important thing is that your entire family is able to be there with you. Even allowing your pet to be there for the ceremony and then asking your mother or the bridesmaid to take them home before the reception is perfectly acceptable.