3 things I've learned from having my own family photographed | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

There's truth in the adage, “practice what you preach.” Especially when you have kids, because they'll be the first to call you out. (Not that I would know from experience or anything.)

The saying applies to having your family photographed as well.  While I love a great family portrait where everyone is looking and smiling at the camera, I love even more the pictures of real life.  These are the ones I most enjoy taking for others and the ones I most appreciate of my own family. 

brothers reading with mother on couch

When I look back on pictures from my childhood, I wish I had more photos of my parents and with my parents. Photos that show them being parents and that also offer glimpses into who they were besides Mom and Dad. That's what images of real life offer. An opportunity to see aspects of your life that you may not see when you're in the moment. These images offer an opportunity for your kids to look back and realize that their parents were regular humans too. Heroic and flawed all at once.

baby tumbling off couch with mom's help

I've hired documentary photographers to document my family's daily life several times in the last few years and every time I've left the experience feeling so grateful to have those moments captured in a way that my children, husband, and I can look back on in years to come.

Having someone photograph my family is so different than doing it myself.  And since I know how it feels to invite a near stranger with a camera into your home and into your life, I wanted to share insights from my experiences and address concerns that some families may have about hiring a photographer to come into your home to document your family life.

mom snuggling son in her lap

1.  Don't worry about feeling awkward.  It's normal. If you feel uneasy, just remember how important it is for your kids to see YOU in pictures of their childhood. 

Often, one parent is the designated (officially or not) photographer in the family, leaving their presence in photos relegated to infrequent cell phone images by other family members, selfies, or the once yearly family portrait for holiday cards.

Of course, in reality you're an integral part of your family's daily life. Working hard to keep the ship running and providing love, support, and fun to your whole family. Having someone else there to photograph leaves you free, even for just a few hours, to just engage with your family.  You may feel a bit awkward or a bit frazzled, but if you just remember your only job is to enjoy time with your family, that is what you and your family will remember and see in your pictures.

mom looking funny trying to entertain son

2. Kids will be kids. Especially in front of a camera.

Kids have a way of doing the exact opposite of what we want them to do when there's an audience, especially a camera. The best thing to do is to roll with it. Have a rough plan and if they have other ideas, adjust.  They'll be more cooperative if they feel heard.  And even if they put on a performance, you'll likely get some funny photos for the trouble.

boy standing on top of toilet edited by nicole sanchez photography

Documentary style photographs capture both the endearing moments and the challenging ones. Parenting can be a roller coaster ride. In the span of just a few minutes, you might experience both a meltdown and a fit of giggles. You shouldn't be shy about preserving both.

3. Don't worry about the dull moments. Or the meltdown moments. Or even the frustrated-with-your-spouse moments.

Real life is funny. And frustrating. Fun. And just hard sometimes. Give your children the gift of reality. Life doesn't always happen in golden light and with pretty smiles. Life is also eating play-doh or playing in the toilet when mom's not watching. And making messes and avoiding getting your teeth brushed.

boy making face while getting teeth brushed

There will come a time when you no longer have to worry about keeping your kid out of the toilet or throwing a fit or no discernable reason (please tell me this is true??) and you're going to want to remember these hilarious and trying moments, even if it doesn't seem that way in the moment.


Seeing these images of just a couple of hours from a morning with my family  in October makes me appreciate and love our chaos all the more.  One day these guys will be grown and I'm sure my husband and I will be bored (after we catch up on years of sleep and television watching, that is).  I'm so glad we'll have these images to look back on and see a glimpse of the little people they used to be and the (awesome) parents we once were.

mom tickling son while dad feeds baby

These images were taken by my talented friend Whitney Rowland and edited by me. Check out Whitney's awesome post on documenting One Second Everyday with video on your phone.

A Fresh 48 Newborn Film | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Last week, I shared this beautiful mama's maternity session on Capitol Hill. Today, I am so excited to share her baby's Fresh 48 film! This little boy arrived on a beautiful day in Northern Virginia and it was a joy to document a part of his first day. There is nothing like capturing a newborn. Everything is so fresh, sweet, and new. Even when they're squalling through frigid diaper changes!

Documenting this time on video is a such special way to remember those first moments.  And it goes by so fast, especially when you're in that new parent haze. I find myself looking back on my sons’ newborn images and videos, thinking, “I can't believe he was ever so tiny.”

And, oh, the sounds. Those adorable squeaks and sighs! Video truly captures the essence unlike anything else!

Also, I just have to say, the staff at the Women and Infant Health Center at Virginia Hospital Center were so friendly and accommodating to work with.

Contact me today to learn more about documentary family films.

Capitol Hill Maternity Session | Washington DC Family Photographer

There's no denying that kids make documentary sessions fun. They're unpredictable, full of spirit, and often unaware of the camera, which makes for great photos. So what if you're still working on growing the kid? Is documentary-style a good choice for a maternity session?

Pregnant woman sitting at reflecting pool in front of U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC

Documentary sessions are wonderful for maternity sessions and especially for first-time moms, as I found with this awesome mama in Washington, DC. Together we planned a session that reflected and celebrated both her life and interests before baby and her love and excitement for her growing baby.

Living and working in DC area is a joy for her and I had a wonderful time capturing some beautiful pregnancy images at the Capitol Building on the National Mall.

Mom making a pie during lifestyle maternity session in Washington, DC by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

After that, we captured her love for cooking during a cozy in-home session. Much of pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, is spent marveling at a wondrous belly and imagining the baby growing inside. Documenting that is a beautiful part of maternity images.

Most of all, I love thinking that someday this baby boy will look back on these images and see not only how loved and anticipated he was but also how beautiful and interesting his mom was, even before she became his mom.

Mom holding and looking at pregnant belly in lifestyle maternity session at home

Stay tuned for more of this beautiful mama. I'll be sharing her fresh 48 newborn session soon!

Mom drinking coffee in kitchen during lifestyle maternity session in Washington, DC by Nicole Sanchez Photography

Visit my session information page to learn more about documentary maternity or newborn sessions or contact me today to begin planning your custom multi-session package to document the arrival of your little one.

October Favorites | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

We've had mercifully mild fall weather in Northern Virginia this season, though we seem to be making up for it with rain and cooler temps in the last week or so. While I was sad to see summer go, I do love the festivities in October. We visited the pumpkin patch and had lots of Halloween fun. But mostly, we enjoyed some final warm days outside. Here are a few of my favorites from October.

Want to learn how to better document your own family's day-to-day?  Sign up for my mailing list to receive 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun guide to documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.

3 Reasons to Print Your Photos Right Now | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Printing photos is one of those tasks I put off for too long and when I finally get around to doing it, I ask myself why I waited so long. Usually it's because I have a hard time choosing what to print and how to display them. Tips for both can be found here. For now, here's a little motivation for getting some prints made. Special bonus is that it's early November, so you've got plenty of time to print for gifts before the holidays!


Here are 3 reasons to print your photos right now:

  1. Conversation starter - I have several “gallery” walls in my house made from print sets I make with Artifact Uprising a few times a year. They're easy to change out and update, though I like to keep some of the oldest ones around to reminisce. Like the other day, my husband and I stood by a picture of our now 4-year-old when he was around two and tentatively stepping around a giant puddle. Now he just charges through them. Life is busy and it's sweet to be reminded of those moments that seem like forever ago.

  2. Smile bringer - I can't count the number of times walking by a picture of my kids has brought a smile to my face. It's especially welcome at the office where it's easy to get caught up in the daily grind. Seeing a favorite picture of my oldest leaping of the couch or my youngest grinning ear to ear helps me take a moment to reflect and reset.

  3. Family history opportunity - As my son had gotten older, it's become more important to share stories of our family with him. Nurturing family roots is an important thing to do in childhood and pictures can be so helpful. He sees pictures of himself when he was a baby with his grandparents and other family members. Having them on display helps him know that even though we live far apart, he has family that loves him very much.

The more you take the more you can print! Want to learn how to better document your own family's day-to-day?  Sign up for my mailing list to receive 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun guide to documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs (worth printing!).

A mother daughter family film | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

When you have multiple children, it can be challenging to carve out one-on-one time to spend with each child. Time spent with the whole family is special, but it's also special and so rewarding to spend a little time with each child individually.  It's amazing the little details and nuances you can miss during the hubbub of daily family life.  One-on-one time, with fewer distractions, highlights those aspects of their personality that are changing so fast and are so fun to watch as a parent.

It was such a joy to spend a morning with this mama of three in Northern Virginia, capturing some special time with her youngest child and only daughter.  As a mother of two boys, it was especially sweet for me to document these mother-daughter rituals like putting on make-up and hair bows and nursing snuggles in bed after a morning of fun.

Film is a special way to preserve a glimpse of family life at any moment in time.  And any time is a great time to capture those details that make childhood and parenting special.  It's amazing how much change you can see, even when watching a film just a few short months later.  From their voice and the cute way they say certain words to the scurry of little feet so excited about life - they're on to the next thing before we know it.  And it's so easy to forget!

Learn more about family film sessions here or contact me to chat about a unique session for your family.


The secret to a relaxed newborn session with two children | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

What's the secret to a stress-free newborn photography session at home with an older sibling? It's the secret to just about everything in life that involves children. Just take it easy. The moment you plan something is the moment one kid or the other will decide to do something completely out of the ordinary to throw you a curveball. It's Murphy's Law.  The bane of parents' existence, but it can make for a great session.

mom reaching out to toddler while holding baby by northern virginia family photographer nicole sanchez

Children can easily sense when we're stressed. Even newborns. If often will make them more clingy (and whiny).  So if you're worried about everything going perfectly, that's a surefire way to ensure it will not. I'll go even further and say perfect isn't what you want anyway. Life with kids is messy and chaotic. Documenting it as it is, sweet and difficult moments alike, is where the goodness lies. That's where the moments we capture together will be ones you and your children look back on and remember, “that's how our life was.” And it was awesome.

I shared images from my in home maternity session with this Northern Virginia family just a few weeks ago. It was a joy to witness a bit of their journey to becoming a family of four.

father admiring baby son by northern virginia newborn photographer nicole sanchez

The early days of life with a newborn can be a bit of a blur. Between lack of sleep and and seemingly endless routine of feeding and diaper changes and naps, the days may seem slow but they add up so quickly.  Before you know it weeks and months have gone by. So it's especially sweet for me to document those very first days, freezing moments that may otherwise be forgotten in the early days parenting haze.

brothers playing together with parents in northern virginia nursery by nicole sanchez photography

Those days are extra sweet with an older sibling, though they're perhaps a little more chaotic. Nursing sessions are likely less quiet and relaxed and there's an almost constant need to enforce boundaries as a toddler learns the concept of gentle. On top of being exhausted, you've still got to come up with endless ways of entertaining an older sibling and helping them understand their new role as an older brother or sister.

toddler jumping on crib bed while mom holds baby in northern virginia by family photographer nicole sanchez

It's a time of adjustment to a new family dynamic. There are new roles and expectations and some falling back into old rhythms. There's a lot of remembering what life was like the first time around and noting what's new the second time. It is hard and sweet. And so special to photograph.  But I'm probably biased. :-)  

big brother watching mother swaddle baby brother by northern virginia family photographer nicole sanchez

Interested in an in-home newborn session?  Contact me today to learn more about a documentary session for your family. 

September Favorites | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I've been behind on editing images for several weeks, so I only have about 3.5 days of September done. ;-)  Luckily, those days happen to be images that I love. We've had a dry spell in Northern Virginia and the weather has been quite warm. These hiking images were taken on our favorite trail at Mason Neck State Park in Lorton, VA.

I'm slowly warming up to the idea of fall and the holiday season. It helps that Halloween is just around the corner and I love getting the kids dressed up and going trick-or-treating (though I don't have costumes yet!).  I can't wait to share those, though at the rate I'm going, it may be January before I edit them!

Around Our Clocks - 4pm | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

These two guys have so much fun together.  It's a joy to watch.  We have a lot of open parks and green space in Northern Virginia and one of our favorite things to do is explore new places.  This one just happens to be down the road from our day care near Mount Vernon.  We were playing in the field and noticed this GIANT praying mantis.  Luckily, I had my camera. ;-)

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 1pm and it's our last month! I can't believe we've completed the year. Continue the circle by visiting Camille Arner to see her September image and stayed tuned for an update on what direction the circle will take next.

Documenting Change - In-home Newborn Session | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Those first days and weeks at home with a new baby are especially sweet. They may also be a blur due to lack of sleep, so documenting them can be helpful in that regard. ;-)  A new baby is a big change for parents, even if they've done it before. For older siblings it can be the most momentous change they've experienced in their whole life.  This little guy had been home about two weeks when I visited his family in Northern Virginia. 

In-home newborn session of Family members each doing their own thing by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Though every family is different, there are some fairly common experiences that come with parenthood and childhood.  One of them is the transition from three to four.  

Father and son cooking breakfast in home by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Boy showing off his muscle at family breakfast by Northern Virginia Photographer Nicole Sanchez

When I was pregnant with my younger son, even though my older son was very affectionate with my belly and interested in the baby that was growing inside, I still worried that bringing a new baby into our family might traumatize him somehow.  It probably did on some level, but he seems okay anyway. ;-)

Young boy heading out for walk with pet dog and mom with baby in Northern Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Children's responses to a new family member vary, but they are amazing at adjusting to change and it's amazing to watch them interact with their new sibling. The bond siblings share is different than their bond with parents and it's one, as parents, we hope will be forged in childhood and last a lifetime.

Parents waiting for boy Boy sitting in road on scooter by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

During a newborn session it might seem that the primary focus would always be on the baby, but I try to feature each family member and capture a glimpse of their role in the new family dynamic. Older children are learning to navigate life with a little less input from parents, new babies are simply adjusting to life outside the womb, and parents are on a moving spectrum of totally rocking it and just holding on for dear life. :-) 

Boy running away from crying baby by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

It's a mix of lots of love and a bit of chaos.  And documenting those early interactions and moments of adjustment make looking back on this time a little easier and that much sweeter.  

Want to learn how to document your own family's day-to-day?  Check out 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun guide to documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.