June Photo Favorites | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Have I mentioned how summer is my favorite? I try hard to reserve all my weather-related complaints for the winter months and bite my tongue in the summer whenever I start to voice my annoyance at the humidity or mosquitoes (I often fail because they are no joke here in Northern Virginia).

 Boy holding worm in backyard by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
 Boy holding large grub in back yard by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

There's no shortage of things to do when the weather is warm. Even the rain isn't so bad when you can jump in puddles and play in the mud.  We spend a lot of time adventuring in our backyard, digging for creatures and jumping on the trampoline. I really love how the kids bring about experiences that I would never had had otherwise (hello, giant grub!).  This Eastern box turtle showed up in our garage one day and we kept her for a few days, learning all about turtle habits and habitats, before setting her free again.

 Boy touching Eastern box turtle in Northern Virginia by Nicole Sanchez Photographer

It's fun to imagine what childhood characteristics these guys might carry with them into the rest of their lives.  Like my eldest's love for nature and my youngest's propensity to do everything sooner than his brother did.

 Boy flipping on trampoline in Northern Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
 Brothers jumping on trampoline by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

I'm also so excited to practice some underwater photography this summer.  These were so fun to take at our local Fairfax County RECenter pool.

 Boy in swimming pool by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
 Boy jumping into pool by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Nicole Sanchez Photography works with busy parents in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland to create stress-free photo sessions that take all the loving, fun, and chaotic moments of family life to make beautiful photos and films that families will love looking at year after year. Contact me today to start planning a custom photography experience that's perfect for your family.

The best photo sessions for toddlers | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

There's a wonderful time in babyhood when parents are everything. Just the sight of your face brings forth the sweetest smiles in the world. And the simplest gestures or games create the best giggles ever. Thankfully, though children develop interests outside their parents as they grow, this adoration phase lasts well into childhood. I think it makes parenthood just a tad bit easier.  It's also wonderful for capturing some of the best parts of family life. 

 Toddler peeking in on mom in shower by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
 Mom trying to brush toddler's teeth by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

It's these moments that you want to soak up and savor the most. The ones you want to remember on bad days and reminisce about when your babies are teenagers and adults. This time is one of my favorite times to document for families.

 Mom nursing toddler on couch at home by family photographer nicole sanchez
 Mom holding baby at window by northern virginia family photographer nicole sanchez

I last saw this little guy when he was about 9 weeks old. And it was so sweet to see how much he's grown in the last year.  We had planned for some outdoor water play, but the weather was unseasonably cool for July in Northern Virginia, so we had some play time in the backyard and a visit to the park instead. Kids are flexible at this age and especially so when they're in the comforts of their own home.

 mom and dad playing with toddler outside in northern virginia by nicole sanchez photography

Documentary sessions at home are one of the best ways to get great photos of toddlers.  They're most comfortable with you in your own environment and the session is scheduled around your usual routines (meals, nap times, bath time, etc.). I enjoy spending time chatting, playing, and getting to know my families during sessions allowing me to capture all the beauty, silliness, and, sometimes, chaos of real family life.

 mom and dad playing basketball with toddler at northern virginia park by family photographer nicole sanchez

Nicole Sanchez Photography works with busy parents in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland to create stress-free photo sessions that take all the loving, fun, and chaotic moments of family life to make beautiful photos and films that families will love looking at year after year. Contact me today to start planning a custom photography experience that's perfect for your family.

Slowing down and getting in the picture | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I'm a recovering multitasker and wannabe perfectionist.  I am always making lists and always trying to squeeze in a task to check off my to do list. And though I hear the words "present" and "mindful" more than enough, I'm still learning to slow down and really understand what they mean to me. 

 Mother reading to toddler son in bed by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

I struggle often with finding a place between doing all the things that make life happen and slowing down to enjoy the moments that make life worth living. I question the necessity of tasks more often, but I still get caught up in the hamster wheel. 

I write this because even though the very act of setting my camera and remote up to take these images made me a little less present in the moment, I want these moments to be the ones I remember when my kids are grown and gone. I want to remember taking the time to stop and giggle even though there's piles of laundry that need to be put away. I want to remember welcoming my oldest son into bed with his younger brother, rather than losing my patience with him for interrupting naptime. 

 Mom shushing child during naptime by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
 Children cuddling in bed at nap time by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

I fall short of my aspirations all the time. But I find the more of these moments that I have - moments where I'm not focused on all the things, just the people in front of me - the pressure and anxiety to be perfect slip away and I catch glimpses of those oft extolled benefits of presence and mindfulness and remember that none of those other things really matter. The things that really matter are the people right there in front of me and they need me more than neatly folded laundry. 

 Kids snuggling in bed with mom by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
 Mom tickling laughing child by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

I've found a lot of inspirations in audiobooks from the library recently.  One of the ones I've really enjoyed is Hands Free Mama.  If you're looking for inspiration to slow down, you'll find plenty here.

This post is part of a collaborative documentary photography blog circle called Around Our Clocks. We're documenting a day in our life over the course of one year.  This month was 11am. Continue the circle by visiting Heather Tully to see her June image.

Nicole Sanchez Photography works with busy parents in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland to create stress-free photo sessions that take all the loving, fun, and chaotic moments of family life to make beautiful photos and films that families will love looking at year after year. Contact me today to start planning a custom photography experience that's perfect for your family.

No guilt photobooks | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

My life motto since having kids has been, "Done is better than perfect." Maybe there will be time for perfect some day (I won't hold my breath), but in the meantime this motto applies to just about everything, including making photo books.

Many of us start our parenting journey with Pinterest-worthy plans of documenting our kids' childhoods. We may even have special baby books and keepsakes from that first year of milestones. Maybe we even kept it up a second year. (Or maybe we never even got to our wedding album.) Then life happened and all our plans sort of fell apart.

If you're like me, despite your best intentions, you're a year (or a few) behind on printing photo books for your family. I don't have any magic remedies to check all the books off your list, but I do have a few tips to ease the backlog (and the mom guilt) a bit.

 Stack of photo books featuring family vacations by Northern Virginia Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Choose an event instead of a whole year. 

Like any big project, breaking it into pieces makes it more doable. You may have thousands of photos throughout a year. They're probably on multiple computers or multiple devices. It's too much to go through in one sitting. You have to break it up into manageable chunks. My favorite way to do this is to have special photo books for vacations or family visits. (Bonus: these make great gifts for family members.)

You could also do this by breaking the year up into sections. For my phone photos especially, I find that printing one or two months at a time is much more manageable than organizing a whole year. If you use a service like Chatbooks, you can set up an automated feed and print whenever you reach a certain number of photos. 

 Open photo book with pictures of family vacation by Nicole Sanchez Photography

Go date forward.

Start of with a win and go date forward rather than picking up where you left off with your last album. Maybe one glorious day you'll have time to go back and fill in the gaps, but for now just celebrate the small successes and work your way to the bigger ones. Start with a fun summer album and work your way through each season.

Embrace cloud storage and organization.

I use OneDrive to back up all my photos. The phone app automatically backs up all my mobile images to the cloud (and cleans up space on my phone), which makes me rest easier knowing my photos are safe in case I lose or damage my phone (like I just did while on vacation).

I can access these images from either my phone or my laptop when it's time to make a book. I also love that you can share folders as well. I have real-time access to all my husband's pictures and can add them to my own folders for albums.

 Close-up of family vacation photo in a photo book by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Don't totally forgo digital. 

Printing is really important. Having all these images collecting digital dust on your hard drive or your phone is a waste, but you don't have to shun digital altogether. One thing I love about using Lightroom to make my photo books is that I can easily create and save a PDF version to my hard drive. We've set up email accounts for our boys (don't get me started on my lofty plans of writing letters to my kids every birthday...) and I can send them the files as an added measure in case the hard copy books ever get lost or destroyed. 

 Variety of family photo books by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Ditch perfection and celebrate whatever you're able to accomplish.

I may have left off yearly albums after my oldest son's first year, but I have managed to print vacation and family visit books. Not only do they make great holiday gifts, but I love seeing the growing stack that each of my kids have in their closet. I keep one set for my husband and me that is on our bookshelf. Lately my oldest has added these albums to his reading rotation. The other night I walked by to hear my husband reading some of the captions from his first year. And it made all the work that goes into making these books worth it. 

And if you haven't managed to print any books, don't despair. Back your pictures up and they'll still be there when you get around to it. 

Nicole Sanchez Photography works with busy parents in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland to create stress-free photo sessions that take all the loving, fun, and chaotic moments of family life to make beautiful photos and films that families will love looking at year after year. Contact me today to start planning a custom photography experience that's perfect for your family.

Three reasons you should photograph your family's traditions | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I spent a beautiful morning recently with this mom and her 8 month old son at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia. We walked on the trail along the Potomac River and by the Jones Point Lighthouse, chatted about motherhood, and took a rest and some pictures before heading back to their house to photograph their weekend pancake ritual.

 Mom and baby sitting by Potomac River at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia
 Mother and baby son on blanket by Woodrow Wilson Bridge at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, VA

My family has been visiting this park since my oldest son was a baby and as I documented this morning with this mom and baby, I thought about the importance of family traditions and how they enrich our lives and our children's. Here are three reasons why you should celebrate and photograph your family's traditions.

 Mom and son on Potomac River bank at Jones Point Park in Northern Virginia

Traditions make up a part of our identity. 

Family traditions tend to get their start in baby's first year. There are naturally lots of firsts, especially around holidays and growth milestones. But long term traditions get their start in the first year too. Parents start to find their footing, develop confidence, and routines emerge that make life more manageable.

 Mother feeding baby a strawberry in Northern Virginia kitchen

If you're a mom, you're well aware of how rituals and routines are so important to kids (and your sanity). But they also provide a sense of identity and teach children about their family and their culture. These routines may be simple like bedtime reading and snuggles or family dinners around the table.  These everyday activities make up the foundation that your kids ground their lives in and they are worthy of celebrating.

 Mom making silly faces with son in high chair in Alexandria, VA kitchen

They teach us something about what's important in life. 

Some traditions are passed on from prior generations, like favorite recipes or summer vacations at the beach.  Some come about organically and contribute to making life run smoothly, like Saturday morning grocery trips and a visit to the playground.  Whether old or new, traditions are always the result of you, as a parent, making a choice to highlight something that's important, something that honors your family and your love for each other and the life you're building. 

 Mom feeding baby homemade pancakes at home in Northern Virginia
 Baby smushing and eating pancakes at home in Alexandria, VA

This time is fleeting.

I don't need to tell you how fast time is flying.  Those stages that feel like they're going to last forever, like nursing in bed before nap time or weekend walks around the neighborhood, are going to pass all too soon.  Our kids grow so quickly and are always changing.  Sometimes our rituals and traditions change too.  Sometimes our kids are too young to remember them, which makes photographing these stories all the more important.  Paging through a photo album with your kids and sharing these memories reminds them of how special they are to you and further solidifies that foundation that they are grounding their lives in.

 Mother nursing baby from above over shoulder at home in Northern Virginia
 Mother and son snuggling in bed before nap time at home in Alexandria, VA
 Baby toes in bed snuggling with mom in Northern Virginia

I love hearing about other families' rituals and I especially love photographing them because I know that these memories with their parents are the ones that kids are going to look back on fondly. And someday their own children will too. 

 Mom kissing baby's head while snuggling in bed at home in Northern Virginia

Nicole Sanchez Photography works with busy parents in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland to create stress-free photo sessions that take all the loving, fun, and chaotic moments of family life to make beautiful photos and films that families will love looking at year after year.  Contact me today to start planning a custom photography experience that's perfect for your family.

Around Our Clocks - 9am | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Have I mentioned how glad I am that it's summer in Northern Virginia? The first few months of this year were a little rough for us (figuring out the best learning environment for our oldest), but we're doing much better now. Perhaps not least because we can just head outside and play in the dirt when tensions start running high.

Mother and son self-portrait reading a book by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Perhaps you've heard the adage that children are our greatest teachers? Some days I think I must have more to learn than most. I've heard this saying dozens of times since having my first kid, but it has never had much meaning for me until this year.  I guess I thought that lessons from children must be easy or obvious.  But this year's lessons haven't at all been a passive acceptance of simple concepts - for me, at least.  Though perhaps simple in retrospect, I've found in them all kinds of emotional baggage and more personal faults, shortcomings, and mistakes than I was interested in knowing about.  On my good days, I also realize I've found more acceptance, patience, and love - for myself and my family.

Mother and son self-portrait high-fives by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

This sh*t is hard.  And if you're ever feeling like you're the only one who feels that way, know you're not alone.  My social media feeds are filled with beautiful images and sweet moments (ahem, like the ones here).  These are often my favorite ones to post in my own feed because sometimes I'm surprised that even in the midst of a chaotic day, sprinkled with meltdowns, pleading, or yelling (from all parties) - even on those days - we can still have moments like this. Because as imperfect as I am and as often as I fall short, my boys are wonderful examples of what it means to forgive, move on, and be utterly present in this moment of life. 

If you find yourself in need of parenting inspiration, I can't recommend enough the Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids resources.

This post is part of a collaborative documentary photography blog circle called Around Our Clocks. We're documenting a day in our life over the course of one year.  This month was 9am. Continue the circle by visiting Heather Tully to see her May image.

Nicole Sanchez Photography works with busy parents in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland to create stress-free photo sessions that take all the loving, fun, and chaotic moments of family life to make beautiful photos and films that families will love looking at year after year.  Contact me today to start planning a custom photography experience that's perfect for your family.

Three reasons to book a photography session for your family vacation | Washington, D.C. Documentary Photographer

Today I'm sharing a fun vacation session from this sweet family's visit to Washington, D.C.  The D.C. area is such a popular place to visit.  From spring cherry blossoms and Smithsonian museum visits to the Capitol Building, National Mall and monuments - there's no shortage of fun (and free!) stuff to do.  

 Family Vacation Photo in Washington, DC by Nicole Sanchez Photography

I have a soft spot for photographing family vacation sessions. I have fond memories of my own family's vacations to the beach and camping and I love looking back on those pictures with my parents and sister and sharing them now with my own kids.

It can be hard to get the whole family in the frame together though, especially when wrangling little ones. There's only so many times you can ask a stranger to take a picture and, often, one parent becomes the designated photographer and is missing from most photos.  In my family, that would be me (surprise!), so I love hiring a photographer to document part of our trip.  Here are three reasons why:

 Vacationing family in front of Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
 Boy taking a break on National Mall by Washington, D.C. Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

1. No pressure.  Planning a family vacation with children is no joke.  Choosing a kid-friendly location, searching for fun activities, and figuring out logistics is time-consuming and stressful.  And once you arrive at your destination, it's still not time to sit back and put your feet up with a glass of wine (I somehow never realized this until my first vacation as a parent. Go figure. :-) ). Hiring a photographer takes the pressure off of trying to capture all the fun of what your kids are doing and allows you to just enjoy the fun with them with no added pressure.

 Family walking in front of National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

A documentary session also means no need to stop what you're doing to take photos (although a quick portrait in front of the Capitol Building is likely a necessity!). You already have enough to worry about (snacks, public transportation, potty breaks, and, and, and...) - fewer photo interruptions makes for more cooperative family members throughout the day.

 Boy on family vacation in Washington, D.C. by Nicole Sanchez Photography
Boy holding rock by Washington, D.C. Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

2. A local expert I've lived in the D.C. area for ten years and have loved taking my time getting to know all the area has to offer.  Hiring a local photographer means you get access to all their knowledge - including the best places to visit and eat (and the best times to go), off-the-beaten-path attractions, kid-friendly recommendations for everything, and, of course, the best photo opps.

 Family Vacation at Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

I loved planning this D.C. vacation session and getting to know this family a bit before meeting them.  From their love for trains and dinosaurs and a need for time and lots of space for running about with two energetic boys - we were able to make the most of their limited time in the city, while also keeping things flexible, low-key, and stress-free.

 Kids playing in museum in Washington, D.C. by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

3. You were there too.  (Or your spouse.) The point is, it's a family vacation.  And the whole family should be present.  When looking back on these vacation photo years from now, the pictures your kids will appreciate the most will be the ones of you together.  When going through my family photos, my eyes always linger most on the pictures of me with my parents. Some things change and some stay the same and these moments frozen in time are glimpses into our stories.  Who would we be without our family?  These photos help us remember the stops along the way.

 Mom holding son on vacation in Washington, D.C. by Nicole Sanchez Photography