Oh Joy

how to choose outfits for family photos... 18 Nov 2015

how to choose outfits for family photos

Every year, I have friends frantically texting me as they prep for their family photos asking about the outfits they have chosen and what their kids or husband should wear. It’s the one time a year that people might spend a bit more time choosing that special outfit for the whole family. Picking out outfits for my family is actually really fun for me because to me it’s like a design challenge that involves a lot of the same components of color, texture, and balance that I keep in mind when putting together any other image (that's the art school part of me coming out). Whether you’re taking photos of you and your partner, you and your pup, or you and your family of 15, I've partnered with Artifact Uprising to share my tips for choosing outfits for family photos with some outtakes from this year's holiday card to demonstrate…

Oh Joy Family Photo by Morgan Pansing

1. Dressing for the environment. The first thing to think about is how casual or dressy you want to be. I say you should wear something more special than your average casual Saturday because...why not? If you’re spending time to take these family photos, you should use it as a chance to wear something a little extra special. That doesn’t mean you need to go black tie and wear a ball gown to the park, but dress so you feel excited about what you’re wearing and so your kids are excited, too. Also, think about where you’re shooting the photos. If you’re going to the beach, then soft flowy pieces look great in the wind. Or if it’s a snowy/winter scene then cozy on up so that the scene feels like a moment out of your real life. This year, we chose a modern, urban setting outside the Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles.

Oh Joy Family Photo by Morgan Pansing

2. Color and texture. When outfitting a the whole family, I compose a set of outfits the way I would a full scene—balance, texture, and color come into play. If you have a certain stand-out color or pattern, you want to see that pop of color/pattern in a couple places so that it doesn’t stand out in only one spot. In our case, we have a couple hits of neon yellow, a couple hits of black, a few neutral stripes, and some blush throughout. Men and boys can be the hardest to dress because there are far less options in male clothing (poor guys). But if you love color and want to incorporate it in their outfits as well, find smaller areas like a cool belt, a bow tie, hat, or shoes where they can wear a pop of color and feel comfortable in that shade (check out Bob's blush shoes!). Also, think about textures. If you’re taking your photos in a very modern setting that has strong lines and not a lot of color, it could be nice to balance that out with some clothing that has some softness or texture to it (hence our soft skirts and dresses). Also, across the board, I typically avoid wearing all white, all black, or anything with bold logos or typography.

Oh Joy Family Photo by Morgan Pansing

3. Complement without being too matchy matchy. Unless you are going for the Ugly Christmas Sweater look, I like to have some elements of the family outfits that match or complement without anyone wearing the same exact outfit. For example, if you have multiple kids, they can wear similar colors or patterns. Or, they can wear the same style of dress or shirt but in different colors or patterns. That way there are parts of the outfits that are the same without the full head-to-toe outfit being the same. Ruby and Coco are two slightly different dresses in the same pattern, but to avoid them looking too matchy, I gave them different tops to wear over the dresses. Same goes for the grown-ups, try to have part of your outfit link back to one other person in the photos even with a touch of the same color or pattern. 

How to Choose Outfits for a Family Photo

4. Try on the clothes before you take photos. Especially if kids are involved, make sure they've tried on the full outfit ahead of time. I can't even keep track of the number of times I've put on a new pair of shoes or a new dress and Ruby doesn’t want to wear it cause they hurt her feet or something itches. Or sometimes you’ve been saving a super special piece of clothing for a few months and then your kid outgrows it before they go to wear it. So do a test run in the full outfit beforehand so you and your kids are in comfortable clothes that fit! (For example, the outfits above were what I had planned for the kids this year. But Ruby would not wearing the stockings because she felt too hot in them, she outgrew the shoes I planned for her, and we decided not to have Coco wear the headband in fear of it constantly falling off during shooting). So we simply took out some of the unnecessary accessories and switched out Ruby’s shoes for a bigger pair we already had.

Oh Joy Family Photo by Morgan Pansing

5. Be comfortable to look comfortable. You might see this as a chance to step outside your box and wear something more risqué, more glamorous, or more colorful. But don’t wear something you wouldn’t normally wear. Bob and I both wore clothes we already owned and have worn before this day. These photos should look like you and your family—just a bit more special. And if you don't feel like you or you’re uncomfortable in any way, it will show in the photos. Oh, if you have kids, don't forget to take a photo of you and your partner without the kids. I know it can be hectic to take family photos, but if someone can entertain your kids for a few minutes so you can snap a shot together, it's well worth it.

how to choose outfits for family photos

And, now here's a peek at our holiday card for this year! I hope these tips help you for your holiday photo, future family photos, or for any other special occasion coming up!

P.S. Two fun things...

1) Artifact Uprising has kindly offered 10% off holiday card printing with code OHJOYTEN valid through December 2, 2015. AND...

2) You can enter your email address in the box below to enter to win $250 credit towards printing your cards with Artifact Uprising. Entries close on December 2, 2015.

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Artifact Uprising—a brand I've been using and loving for years. All content, ideas, and words are my own. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that allow me to create new and original content like this for Oh Joy.

{Photos from this year's family photo by Morgan Pansing. Past family photos from card's past: Max Wanger and Jesse Chamberlin (sparkly streamers card), Katherine and Luke Griffin (bougainvillea running and family montage). Still life photos of the cards by Casey Brodley, styling by Ariel Fulmer. Outfit details: Joy's sweater from J.Crew, skirt from Darccy, shoes from Target, necklace from Lou Lou Lollipop Finery. Bob's shirt from Apolis, pants by Betabrand, shoes from Greats. Ruby's dress by Two Els, cardigan from Crew Cuts, shoes by Zuzii. Coco's dress by Two Els, top by Crew & Lushoes by Zuzii, hair pin by Homako.}

on love and loss... 16 Nov 2015

Christopher David Ryan print

Ever since Friday, I haven't had much to say on social media. After hundreds of innocent people lost their lives, I didn't have anything meaningful to say or share. With a few days now to process, I am ready to express a little bit of what’s going on in my head…

I don't normally talk about current events publicly—or at all, really. It’s kind of an inside joke among those who know me and love me is that I have no idea what is going on in the world. And, it’s mainly because most current events make me sad, angry, or fearful. But of course, things like this—what happened in Paris—I cannot ignore. I can’t always live in my bubble of peace and happiness as much as I really want to. Because it's about imagining that (just for a second) what happened in Paris on Friday could happen to any of us.

I lived in New York during 9/11 and was close enough to the World Trade Center when it fell to have seen people covered in crumbled debris running for their lives not knowing what was to come next. We all knew the world was changing, and we had no idea what was next. I know what it's like not to be able to get in touch with loved ones to tell them you're safe. I’ve felt the loss of a loved one suddenly without having the chance to say goodbye. I've felt these things and they are terrible and not something I wish upon anyone. But I am lucky to still be here to take these experiences with me and help them fuel my desire to live each day with more meaning, to hold my kids and my husband closer, to remind my parents how much I appreciate them, and to live without regrets.

I don't have any solutions for world peace. I wish I did. But what I can say is to just feel what you are feeling when sad things happen. If you want to help those in Paris (or any other country experiencing devastation of some sort), help however you can. Whether you help in physical ways, in financial ways, or you simply send all the energy and love that you have to give to complete strangers in another country—just do it. Because while those who were hurt might seem so far away to you, that could be any of us. And if it were me, just knowing that a ton of strangers were thinking of me and praying/hoping for peace in some way, I think I would find one tiny bit of comfort in that. 

While blogging about design or fashion feels trivial sometimes in the light of the bigger things that are often going on in the world, I continue to remind myself is that life is short and every day needs to be filled with what makes us happiest, with the people that make us happy, and with ways that we can enrich other people's lives. For me that's what I attempt to offer, and I will resume my happiness bubble tomorrow. But for now, I continue to feel sad for those people I don’t know and continue to hope for peace in any way possible.

{Print above by Christopher David Ryan}

on being different... 9 Nov 2015

Teaching Kids About Being Different

A few months ago, Ruby went through a phase where she kept saying, "I just want to be normal." She didn't like it when we said she was funny or cute or entertaining. She would get upset, stop whatever she was doing, shrug her shoulders and proceed to tell us she just wanted to be normal. Of course, that upset me a lot because she doesn't yet realize that not "being normal" is what most people strive to be. The most successful and creative people in the world are those who think outside the box and who defy what's considered "normal".

While my husband and I knew it was a phase and tried not to worry about it too much, I knew that it was my job as her parent to keep telling her in small ways how we are all different and special and how really there is no "normal". Most of Ruby's friends come from mixed families and so we talk to her all the time about how every family is different and special.

To make it easier for her to visualize, we've been using these animals (leftover from Coco's birthday party). I asked her what they look like and what makes them each special. We talked about the different colors they had and also what sounds they make, how strong they are, and things they can do that no other animal can do. Then, when I asked her which one was the "normal" one. She said that none of them were normal and they were all special. Finally, we talked about what made her different and special. Now she's much more okay with not being normal and is more aware of trying to think about what makes her...well, her. 

(Now, let's queue the music that comes on at the end of every episode of Full House right about now...)

I know we'll struggle with this issue throughout her life as she grows and changes and strives to fit in and be accepted by her peers (I spent a good chunk of my tween years wishing I looked like the other girls in my class). But for now, I feel a small bit of relief that we're helping her become more aware of everyone's differences and enjoying the beauty of that.

I'd love to hear what you guys think and any things that have helped you with this type of thing in the past.

{Photo by Casey Brodley for Oh Joy}

happy friday + thank you! 6 Nov 2015

Oh Joy Studio

Happy Friday! I wanted to end this week and says thanks so much for those of you who took the time to answer my reader survey or leave a comment on that post from two weeks ago. It was nice to hear your constructive feedback and especially the things that echo'ed what I've been feeling or thinking you guys might say. While for the most part, you guys love the mix of content I've always done, I think I could tone down the kid/baby content a little, get a bit deeper into some of the more "personal experience" posts from my life (both the good and the bad), post a little less about LA-specific places, and get back into more home decor and design content that I used to do.

It was also really helpful to hear how you guys follow along with Oh Joy (mostly on Instagram and Pinterest), what Oh Joy products you have and love, and what you want more of (it's exciting to see that some of the products requested are in our plans to launch soon ;). Also, regarding products I wanted to mention that there were a ton of comments that you wish Oh Joy products were available to those outside the U.S. While I certainly would love that, most of that is beyond my control since we don't manufacture our own products and everything we currently design is sold through retailers based in the US. Hopefully someday, we can expand worldwide and get Oh Joy to all of you ;)

I know that I cannot please everyone and I cannot create a site that is everything to everyone. So I have taken all your comments to heart and we have already started to make some changes that feel right to us while also sticking to the heart of what Oh Joy is about—the mix of things in my life that I feel passionate about and want to share with you. Because the day that I get tired of sharing things or I no longer enjoy this little piece of the internet, is the day that I will stop blogging. But for now, I still have a lot more to share and I thank you (so much) for coming along on the journey.

P.S. We randomly picked five readers from the survey to win a special Oh Joy gift. All five people were emailed yesterday!

{Photo by Casey Brodley of the Oh Joy studio}

coco's 1st birthday party! 4 Nov 2015

Oh Joy / Coco's First Birthday Party

A few weeks ago, we celebrated our little Coco's first birthday! I shared some of the materials we used for decorating her party, and here are a few photos from the actual party. Now let me warn you, it was super hot that day—like 100 degrees hot. The weather threw of a bit of a wrench in what I imagined to be a playful and relaxing party at the park. But despite the heat, everyone still had a fun time celebrating my favorite 1 year old.

This is a long post with lots of photos and details described, so click below if you want to see more!


one year with coco! 20 Oct 2015

Oh Joy / Coco monthly photo

I feel like it was just yesterday that I gave birth to this little munchkin. One year ago, I was scared to add another baby to our already very comfortable routine. I didn't think I could love another baby as much as I loved my first. And then Coco came around with her calm, yet persistent, personality and I fell in love all over again. She's been standing up a storm (but not quite walking yet), babbling "thank you" and "agua" and mostly just winning us over with her two-tooth grin. Here's a look back at how my littlest has grown over the past year...

Oh Joy / Coco monthly photo

And um, doing laying down monthly photos is pretty much impossible from 9 months on when they get to be super wiggly and won't stay still (hence these photos get a little wilder near the end). If I had to do it all over again, I would take monthly photos very differently (more on that in another post)!

Oh Joy / Coco monthly photo

These two. It's not always smooth-sailing with sisters, but this is just the beginning of getting to see how they'll interact with each other in the future. No one makes Coco laugh more than Ruby can. And while Ruby gets upset with Coco not always being able to do the same things that she can, Ruby said she's sorry when earlier this year she asked if Coco could live somewhere else. She would like Coco to stay with us now.

{Mini pinata numbers by Katie K. Franklin. Coco's Outfits - 1 MonthBoden onesie, Thief & Bandit leggings, 2 MonthsRylee & Cru onesie, Little Hip Squeaks headband, Freshly Picked moccasins, 3 MonthsLittle Hip Squeaks onesie, Thief & Bandit headband, 4 Months: headband by Thief & Bandit, top and pants from TargetFreshly Picked moccasins, 5 Months: full outfit by Ultra Violet Kids6 Months: top by Ultra Violet Kids, bloomers by House of Mia, hair clip by Pitchoun, blanket by Aden & Anais7 months: tanks by Kira Kids, shorts by Ultra Violet, blanket byLittle Auggie8 months: tank by Thief & Bandit, bloomers by Noe & Zoe, blanket by Virginia Johnson9 months: romper by Sweet Threads, blanket by blanket by Aden & Anais, 10 months: romper by Margherita Kids, 11 months: romper by LemLem, 12 months: orange romper by Hello Ellie.}    

ruby's 4th birthday party! 12 Oct 2015

Oh Joy / Ruby's 4th Birthday

Today, my sassy and spunky Ruby turns four. Over the weekend, we celebrated with a small party at a local dance school where the kids learned some fun hip hop ballet moves and shook their booties to T.Swift, Justin Bieber, and Meghan Trainor. It was pretty cute to watch...


happy friday + party time! (excellent!) 9 Oct 2015

Oh Joy Cake

Happy Friday guys! The next few days are full of partying for me as both of my kids are having birthday parties this weekend. Ruby's having a small one and Coco is having a bigger one (with our close friends there, too). And then, on Monday, we're taking Ruby to DISNEYLAND as an extra special birthday treat! Even though we live only 45 minutes away, we've never been there before, so it should be pretty fun. I'm also going to need a nap after all of this.

Hope you guys have a great weekend—one that is way more relaxing then mine will be ;P

P.S. Thanks to those of you who have been joining me on Periscope—it's my new favorite social media app, and I love seeing you guys there! I'll be hopping on there today at some point (you can find me @ohjoy).

{Photo by Casey Brodley, styling by Ariel Fulmer}

happy friday + in my bag... 25 Sep 2015

Oh Joy Bag / Styled by Emily Henson

One of my favorite prop stylists, Emily Henson, recently featured the contents of my bag on her blog. I had no idea the contents of my bag could look so good, but leave it to a stylist to turn the madness into a beautiful shot! You can read the full story about what I carry around in there and why right here!

Have a great weekend guys!

{Photo by Casey Brodley for Emily Henson}

oh joy from 2005 to 2015... 22 Sep 2015

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

Last week, I celebrated ten years of Oh Joy! When I started this blog (and my business) 10 years ago, I never thought it would turn into my job. I never thought I'd make real, live friends through it. I never thought I'd connect with people all over the world and get to share my vision with complete strangers. I never thought that it would give me the opportunity to create something from nothing and create a job I truly love doing every day.

In celebration, I'm looking back at the last 10 years to show how things have changed and evolved and grown (both personally and professionally) in the last decade. This is a long post (but a fun one). So I hope you'll hang out and read along...

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2005 - This is when it all began. I left New York to move to Philly in pursuit of love. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) had just started his residency, and it was time to live together after almost 9 years of a long-distance relationship. I had just moved into a new apartment, gotten engaged, and was looking for a new design job. The world was my oyster, yet I was unemployed, broke, and yet trying to start my career and new life with my future husband. My blog in 2005 was about the things I loved—Bob, my cats, lip balm and potatoes, and snacks. I also started interviewing designers who I admired to ask them business advice and began sharing wedding vendors whose work I admired. I was looking for a new job and didn't yet know my blog would become a big part of it.

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2006 - This was the year I got married. I shared a lot of wedding inspiration (remember, this is before all the awesome wedding blogs were out, so it was all from print magazine and tear-outs). I also started freelancing at this time and worked for a variety of different companies. I turned our dining room into an office and started showing a peek into my design inspirations and indie products I loved. This was the year that I realized I was getting freelance work through those who were reading my blog and decided to freelance full-time and turned "Oh Joy" into not just a blog but a design studio as well. This was the first (and last year) that I liked the color "chocolate brown". I still liked cats, too.

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2007 -  By 2007, I was a somewhat legit business. I had design clients from around the country and was really immersed in Philadelphia and getting to know other designers/entrepreneurs there. I began a weekly design column for the local newspaper. I also launched a stationery line that year which gave me a taste of what manufacturing was like. This is the year I created one of my most recognized floral patterns for a card that now still lives on in wallpaper today. I started sharing my love of interiors and even got nominated in a Domino Magazine contest. It's funny to look back at the colors I liked back then and how much more muted my color palette was.

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2008 - This is the year that blogs started to become a thing. It was a really good year for new bloggers and some of your favorite blogs probably started around this year. I loved sharing up-and-coming designers I was discovering and kept myself constantly scouring for what was fresh and new. While I was still blogging daily, I was also focused on growing my design business. I did a lot of freelance work for Urban Outfitters and was still selling my stationery line in stores around the country—including Anthropologie. I was sharing all things Philly and even getting design recognition locally. And, I hired my first intern!

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2009 - In 2009, we left the comforts of Philly to move to San Diego for one year for Bob's job. I was sad to go but opened my eyes (and tastebuds) to a new city. I started using a social media tool called Twitter and I started a second blog dedicated to my love of food (I soon realized how it didn't make sense to start a new blog and just merged the two together ;). After realizing how much I loved making products (but hated dealing with manufacturing), I began to work with more companies to license my designs. I began exploring more local sites and shooting more original photos and getting more comfortable taking photos for my blog.

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2010 - I was loving San Diego life and going out to local events and eating my way through the city. I loved the weather so much, I begged Bob to look for a job on the West Coast so that I could stay in the sunshine forever. He found a job in Los Angeles and (after making sure our moms would be okay with us not moving back to Philly), off to LA we went! My first book, Creative, Inc., came out and we celebrated with my first book party (I still love this trailer we made)! I celebrated 5 years as a blogger and began adding in regular columns and contributors to my site. I began to develop real friendships with people I met through my blog (which now a days doesn't seem like a big deal, but back then was very new and kind of still weird ;). I began to acclimate myself to (yet another) new city.

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2011 - As we began to start our future in LA, we also worked on starting our family. I announced my pregnancy, shared those bump photos along the way, and welcomed our first (life-changing) baby. I was working with a handful of freelancers who contributed to the site. I was managing 5 different freelancers, and we were posting 3 times a day! Bob (briefly) had a guy's column on Oh Joy which I loved but his real job took over, and I wasn't able to support his demand for a raise ;P. We were on Emily Henderson's show, Secrets from a Stylist on HGTV, and Emily almost gave me a heart attack with her first reveal all in pink and red. My design work was going well, but with the arrival of Ruby, I began to slow down on freelance design work and focus more on Oh Joy related projects. I also started using a new social media site called Pinterest ;)

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2012 - We were growing our content on the blog, and I was continuing to manage regular contributors as I transitioned into life with a newborn. However, after beginning to share more personal posts on my blog (especially when it came to those about motherhood), it felt weird for me to mix my voice with those of my contributors. I loved the visuals we were coming up with, but my blog didn't feel personal anymore. So, I took my blog back. I kindly let go of all of my freelance contributors who worked on columns for the site and went back to writing all the posts myself. It was ironic because my second book, Blog, Inc. had just come out, and here I was going in a direction that seemed like the opposite direction of where you'd think to go when you want to grow. But getting more personal felt right. We also celebrated Ruby's 1st birthday!

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2013 - My business was growing, and it was time to get help—not just remote freelancers that I had worked with previously, but actual employees who would work with me in person by my side. This was the year that my business really grew—I got a studio, hired my first two employees, and signed licensing deals with The Land of Nod and Target that would launch the following year. I was also creating more video content and trying to expand the types of content I was creating for the blog. Pinterest was a growing space for Oh Joy and images from this post got re-pinned 1.5 millions times within 2 days of the post going live. We also went to France, and Ruby learned the joys of baguettes and chocolate croissants.

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2014 - This was my biggest (and hardest) year yet. We launched our first Oh Joy collection for Target and baby bedding with The Land of Nod. We stopped having banner ads on the blog and blog income came from sponsored content instead. I focused more on outside projects (Oh Joy book in the works, our line at Target and other licenses) and had the blog be the companion to the Oh Joy world. I announced our 2nd baby and loved sharing style tips for other pregnant mamas. So we made my favorite video series to date—Dressing the Bump. I had a bumpy pregnancy with gestational diabetes and 3 weeks of bed rest while trying to finish a book. But that all didn't matter once our newest babe arrived. The cherry on top of the cake of the best year yet professionally, was the arrival of our little Coco who made our family complete. 

Oh Joy Blog - 10 years

2015 - This year, we launched my 3rd book and a line of Oh Joy Band-Aids,. I expanded my Dressing the Bump series from last year into Dressing the Babe which is so much fun for me to get a chance to show my personal style and take some fun photos with my kids. And because it's taken me a while to "not feel guilty" about the fact that I choose to work and own my own business and be a working mom, I've decided to show what I've come to realize my strength is as a mother—that my kids get to see their mom creating her own job, pursuing her dreams, and hopefully teaching them about passion and going after what you want in the process. Our "Career Day" series was inspired by this after seeing what Ruby would naturally pick up on by getting to see what I for a living. This year isn't over yet, but we've been working really hard on a lot of exciting things coming out next year!

So, here we are 10 years later. Lots of people ask...what's next? What's your plan for the next five years? Honestly, I don't have it totally mapped out. I have learned to put out a few goals out there (more products, doing more new things that challenge me, etc.) but also to know that there are paths that will reveal themselves and things I will do that I don't even know about yet. When it comes to blogging, I can't believe I'm still doing it. I still love sharing my ideas and my vision with you all, but to be honest, it does get harder and harder to keep coming up with new ideas every day. There are so many talented people out there, and I am always thinking about how I can improve and how I can share ideas in new ways with you. If there's anything you'd love to see here in the near future, please let me know. I always want to hear from you guys. And, again, simply thank you for just being here and for choosing to spend any part of your time here. It means more to me than you'll ever know.


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