The Battle of the Family Photo

I’m in the middle of a huge throw-down argument with my thirteen-year-old daughter. I’m at my wit’s end so I’m taking it to the people! Here’s the deal:

It’s been about eight years since our last family photo, so we’re planning over the holidays to gather together for a portrait session with my husband’s parents. The last time we had this done we all wore the same color shirt, something recommended to us by the photographer. We all thought the result was good, and so we’ve planned to do it again.

Over an hour or so, my MIL and I pored over the Lands’ End catalog (it must be Lands’ End — they make talls and offer the same colors in both men’s and women’s shirts) and settled on pine (a dark green) as our color. The pine shirts come in several styles, so each person can have the style shirt they want.


The girl threw a holy fit over the color. She’s digging in. She prefers the “rich red” and has also suggested we either wear all white or all black. I’m philosophically fine with any of these four colors, but really, getting six people to agree on a single color for a family photo is stressing me out.

I’ve threatened several times to call Grandma and let her be the final decision maker on this issue. The girl has offered to not appear in the photos at all.

What would you do?

A. Order the pine shirts and just let the chips fall where they may.

B. Go ahead and do the photos in the pine shirts without the girl. She’ll regret it when she’s 30.

C. Call Grandma and negotiate another girl-approved color (despite the fact that other family members won’t be OK with those colors).

D. Say “screw it” and let everyone wear whatever the heck they want.

E. Let the girl wear the color of her choice while everyone else wears pine.

I’m counting on you guys. I’m ready to tear my hair out. And that wouldn’t make for a very good family photo. While you’re pondering my conundrum, take a look at these for a laugh:

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19 Responses to The Battle of the Family Photo

  1. You say the same color shirt was ‘good,’ but there are lots of ways that things can be good. Was it clearly better having all the same color as having mixed? What was it about having the same color that really helped out?

    If this is a Christmas-themed photo, I would suggesting having everyone choose from a mix of the rich red and the pine green. If you don’t want such a theme, then that won’t work at all, naturally. However, that shade of green might match well with black, if the duotone idea is appealing but the color scheme isn’t. It’s better to have at least two or three people with the different shirt than one.

    By and large, of course, these are the troubles of the teenage years. It’ll be better to have her in the picture sulky than not at all, because then in 20 years she can feel embarrassed about the whole thing, as we all tend to do when we think about what we were like when we were that age.

  2. Barbara Hutchinson says:

    Order the pine. There is time between ordering and picture date to find another way to convince her (e.g. any special parties she wants to attend, gifts she wants….(get my picture)? Once grandma shows up, hopefully that will carry enough intimidation she will wear it rather than disappoint. Stick to your guns! Wait until daughter says she won’t be in picture without boyfriend and boyfriend thinks it makes too much of a statement! Life is good 🙂 Last year I just did my sweet little dog Christmas photo and dissed family.

  3. Gretchen Schiltz says:

    I’m going to agree with Brian and suggest branching out into additional colors. My brother’s family did a portrait with two colors of shirts (blue and pink) and it turned out beautifully – the contrast really worked. I think the deep red and pine would be gorgeous, especially on you brunettes! 🙂

  4. Amy says:

    I say defer to the expert: call @angiebrement. She often has her subjects in a multicolored palette with a theme or thread tying it all together.

  5. AcmePhoto says:

    I commented on twitter, but I’ll add a note here. I’m a professional photographer, but this isn’t really a photo issue. It’s a willpower / parenting thing, so the answer isn’t really a technical photo answer.

    On the photography side, considering there has NOT been a formal portrait in many years, solid colors might make more sense as this could be more than a simple Christmas time photo. If photos were made every year for more of a holiday day card, red and green might make more sense.

    Talk to your photographer about doing some smaller groups / breakdowns as well. To all–> Family photos are important so make sure to take some time out of your busy lives and get some made. Also, go to a REAL photographer, not a department or mall store. Search for a photographer that is a member of and preferable a certified photographer thru PPA. Photography is way more than having fancy gear, it takes personality, a good eye, planning, etc. It’s an investment and cheaper is seldom better in this area. (so shop around and find work that is truly awesome)

    Adam Nollmeyer / phx AZ

  6. Since every other person has agreed to the pine green, my suggestion is to tell your girl to suck it up and deal with the shirt for the 30 minutes she’ll be wearing it. You’re the parent and she is the child, therefore you are the boss. When she’s 18, then it’s a different matter altogether, but for now she lives under your rules.

    (Can you tell that I’m a bit dictatorial at times?)

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  8. Maria says:

    I choose A. Go figure – I was raised in a house of 6. When a color was chosen, that was law.

  9. Kathy G says:

    I like AcmePhoto’s suggestion to have a variety of pictures done. Can The Girl wear pine green for the family photo, and then quickly change to a shirt of her choice for other poses?

    Please let us know how the whole thing plays out.

  10. CJ says:

    Oh…good luck..I have no sage wisdom…I think this is where we are headed. It starts with a shirt color and then progresses to many many other differences of opinions. I was just admiring your photo the other day with the blue shirts…She is really happy with blue, it appears.
    Can’t wait to see the final product!

  11. Middle Sis says:

    Have her watch an episode of 18 and Counting–The show about the huge Duggar family. Whenever they go on a trip, they all wear matching clothes the entire time! This should make her feel better about only having to match for one picture. Have her bring an extra outfit to have her own portrait taken in, too. Good luck!

  12. Mike Murphy, OD says:

    1) I agree with Barbara; at 13, she can suck it up and do as asked for one flipping photo. 2) as an advanced amateur photog, I also agree with Adam (and we are about to do exactly that).

  13. Tricia says:

    If it were just about the color, I’d go with letting her wear red. But I was raised by a mother who didn’t appreciate childhood dramatics (which I learned to avoid most of the time for that reason!). She wasn’t unreasonable, but if she told me to wear pine green for a 30-minute photo, I’d wear pine green, even if I was sniffling through it in indignation. This is about precedent, not pictures. I’d go with “A,” so she understands that life is pretty much dictated by the sage words of Mick Jagger–she can’t always get what she wants.

    My mother also then made sure that much of what she had said “no” to throughout the year was waiting under the Christmas tree come December, so she did risk sending mixed signals. But somehow by then, I’d gotten the message. 🙂

  14. zuzu says:

    Oh, boy! My first thought was “suck it up, girl!” (her, not you.) Shortly after your family did it, we did the same thing. You were my inspiration, because it really did look great. The guys never wore their shirts again. Several years later, we did a family photo of all of us in brown and it looked great. I never wore that sweater again. I took one for the team. (And, I was the team captain! Go figure!)

    Then, I read some of the other comments. How about a mix of black and pine? Shelli Gardner of Stampin’ Up, always has a picture of her gigantic Mormon family in the front of the annual catalog. And all 900 of them are in one of two colors chosen (in various forms, of course.) Even when she just started the company, and her family was small.

    This might be a compromise. And you can hold it over her head for the rest of her life. But, she HAS to be in the picture.

  15. zuzu says:

    Crap, the link didn’t work right. You have to click on the “start here” arrow.

  16. CrozetMama says:

    I’m in the camp of “go together” versus “match.” I’m not a huge fan of the matchy-matchy family portrait. I’d rather coordinate, but let people’s personalities shine through. A good photog won’t have a problem getting great pics of your group in any color combo. And if all else fails, you can get B&W’s made. 😉

  17. Randee says:

    Maybe it is just that the 14 yr old has worn me down, but I just don’t care much anymore. The other evening she stomped into my room, mouthed off something that would normally have me chasing her down the hall to swat…either her butt or her mouth…and I just let her spout and leave whilst shaking my head at the drama of it all. H looked over at me and said, “Go spank her butt,” and I just wearily shook my head at him, too. “I’m too tired.” I suppose my point is that I used to be the one who said, “I’m the parent, and you are the kid,” and now I am learning to let go of some of my need for control, so if it were ME, I’d let the girl wear what she wanted. In the end, the color of her shirt is really not that important, is it? I’m saving my energy for the big things…

  18. Marie says:

    I’m routing for everyone wearing what they want. It’s a benchmark of their tastes at the time the photo was taken. Merry Christmas!

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