Around Our Clocks - 6pm | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I love late afternoon and early evening light in the front room of our house. Depending on where I'm shooting and how I expose, I can get a range of deep shadows, beautiful silhouettes, or light and airy images.

It can be hard to shoot during the 6pm hour, as it's usually a mix of dinner, playtime, and pre-bed tasks. We had grandparents visiting this time though, so I found myself with a few extra minutes to enjoy my son and husband reading. Lately I've even been able to capture both boys playing in the room. My littlest is now climbing up on the couch and doing headers into the mattress below. :-D

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 6pm.  Continue the circle by visiting Claire Toney Photography to see her July image.

Boy and father reading with cat in Northern Virginia by family photographer Nicole Sanchez
Father and son discussing book in Northern Virginia by family photographer Nicole Sanchez

July Favorites | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I have a confession to share. I fell off my last 365. I stopped counting somewhere after 300 images. And even though I was so close to finishing, after completing one two years in a row, I don't feel so bad about it.  I do miss the daily challenge and the unique images that would result from the effort of shooting daily, but there's only so many hours in the day and only so much spare time in a week.  

I still shoot a few times a week and I appreciate the pressure that's been lifted in trying to keep up with editing daily images. I'm sure I'll get back to another 365 project eventually, but for now I'm enjoying the freedom of just picking up my camera when the urge strikes.

Starting this month, I'll be sharing my favorite images from the month. Or in this case, the first ten days of the month, since I haven't edited beyond July 10 yet. :-D

Print Your Photos - For your office space | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

An alternate title for this post might be “Print Your Photos - How to distract your coworkers from your messy desk.” I spared you the picture of my messy desk - just know neatness is not my forte. At home, my husband encouraged me to move my desk to our attic so I would have more space (and he wouldn't have to stress about my mess).  I've now taken up half the attic and though I had great ideas to get organized (thanks to Marie Kondo and several trips to Ikea), I am not there. Yet. I still have hope...

Anyway, at work, I try to make up for it by putting up pictures. Besides brightening up the drab cubicle environment, they're nice conversation starters and since they're so easy to change, they're a great way to keep interested coworkers up to date on family life. I like to post a mix of family images with other subjects that make me happy, like travel, flowers, and landscapes.]

How to you hide your messy workspace?  Or, if you're not messy, how do you personalize your workspace?

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.

Storytellers' Circle - July | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

One of my favorite things about documentary family photography is the challenge of telling a story through pictures.  Ideally, the viewer should be able to look at the picture and understand what is taking place and/or be moved to some emotion.  I love cute pictures of my kids (just check out my Instagram feed!), but my favorite images, and I feel my best images, are the ones I have to work hard for.  A great picture is the result of multiple decisions made by the photographer about how to best show the scene they see and tell the story in a way that emotionally connects with the viewer.  This challenge is what keeps me pulling out my camera on an almost daily basis.

This post is part of the Storytellers blog circle, a group of documentary family photographers from all over the world, who come together monthly to post one image and explain the choices they made that take it from a simple snapshot to more profound storytelling. Continue the circle by checking out Jen Lucas's July image.

I'm sharing one of my favorite images from our recent vacation. Whenever we visit family, one of my goals is take images that highlight our large extended family. I love showing all the love but also the reality of family life. I'll want to remember both years from now when i look at these images and that's what i want my kids to see too.

Family eating breakfast and playing cards on vacation by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

When I'm considering making an image, I have three key elements in mind: light, composition, and moment.

Light - The light was what drew me to this scene. I loved the way the table reflected the light on their faces and the deep shadows that hide elements that are unnecessary to the story.

Composition - I squared up the the table and the window behind my mother-in-law and got close enough to fill the frame with them and exclude other distracting elements of the kitchen.

Moment - Once I was positioned, I just had to wait for good moments. I took 20-30 images of this scene and this was my favorite. There's good separation between my subjects and everyone is focused on the card my son is holding up.

What would make this image more successful? Part of improving the skill of making storytelling images is noticing what could be better and factoring that into future situations.  In this case, I had an “almost” image of everyone laughing at a funny moment in the card game that just didn't work because my father-in-law has landed back so he wasn't in the frame and the positioning of my husband and baby was off as well. A humorous moment would have been a better connection with the viewer, but the composition just wasn't there.

I look forward to sharing more of my process behind making storytelling images next month!

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.

A Spring Family Film | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I'm excited to share this family film and the news that I'll be updating my package options soon to incorporate the addition of family films!  It's been a labor of love and growth over the past year+ to learn the art of video, crafting clips into films, and how best to weave that into my documentary family photography sessions.  

I fell in love with documentary style because of the natural way it elevates the beauty and meaningfulness of everyday life.  Looking at images of real, everyday moments with our family reminds us how sweet and fleeting this time is.  It's a visual reminder that what we do matters, even the seemingly mundane daily tasks that make life happen and keep our little people alive. ;-) 

The movement and sound of video adds another layer of emotional connection to the documentary experience.  Seeing your life in motion, hearing your child's sweet voice (and the adorable way she says "Dada") is incomparable to memories that fade and even photos that present only a static visual reminder. 

That's why, for me, creating family films is a perfect marriage with photographs.  You can't print a film and put it on your wall or flip your fingers through its pages of moments.  A film is another piece in the gallery of your family's story.  It's another way to share this glimpse of your family's life in this season for yourself, your children, and future generations.  

Not to belabor the point, but the future generations part is something that really excites me. As a daughter of our family's genealogist, I would have found my family's history much more interesting if I could actually see it.  Even with old pictures as a visual insight, I found myself wondering, "What were they really like? What did they do all day?" That question of what daily life is like is one that anthropologists spend their careers seeking answers for.  

So I'm going to make it easy for future generations to answer this question for my family (assuming the zombie apocalypse doesn't wipe out computers and cloud storage) and hope that this insight into our family's everyday will give them a fun glimpse of where and who they come from. 

I hope you enjoy this fun film with this sweet family.

June 365 Project Faves | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I am woefully behind on editing. Vacation always does that to me. There are so many more to edit than usual. This time I've been putting it off a bit more because I seem to have permanently misplaced an SD card with images from my last two days of vacation. Wah!!!

At least once a day, I remember an image that I took on those days and get so sad to think that those images are gone.  Our morning at the beach on Lake Tahoe and our hike to the iconic Emerald Bay. :-( I'll snap out of it soon, I hope. For now, here are my favorites from our June vacation. We ventured out of Northern Virginia to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe.

I learned that traveling with two kids, even with a ton of family to help, is exhausting, especially when you spend a lot of time in the car. It was all worth it though. We got to share so many experiences with family, including seeing Vegas from the hotel room :-D and visiting the giant Sequoias in California.

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.

Around Our Clocks - 7am | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

We took a break from Northern Virginia this month to meet up with family in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe for vacation.  I do not recommend Vegas for little kids, by the way.  It was fun, but a little too much stimulation for the boys.  We were there for just a few days and I enjoyed my morning ritual with this little guy.  He was up between 5 and 6am every morning (!) and we'd head down to the Starbucks in the hotel for breakfast.  Coffee (iced, preferably) is a necessity for this mama.  Thankfully, my parents are early birds too, so they usually caught up with us around 7am.  Casinos are pretty slow this early in the morning so we generally had Starbucks all to ourselves.  My Dad's not much of a baby guy, so I'm grateful to have these of the two of them. <3

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 7am.  Continue the circle by visiting Heather Tully Photography to see her April image.


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.

Print Your Photos - Mini Photo Magnets | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Every year I come across wonderful, crafty, personal gift ideas for those I love.  And every year, I wait until the last minute and end up ordering from Amazon or going to Target. :-/ I have been successful for some holidays, such as these wood block vacation photo displays last Christmas. (Yeah!) But more often than not, procrastination gets me or I just forget the wonderful ideas I had in mind because I think, "This is so wonderful - of course, I won't forget it!"  And then I do.

It's July and months from Christmas or any family birthdays, but since we just got back from vacation (and I'm trying to beat the heat in Northern Virginia), I've been searching for fun ways to display our vacation photos and especially for ways I can share them with family.  I have a perfect project idea for this year's vacation family photo, but I'm going to save it until I can share my version, so stay tuned. :-)

For now I want to share a couple of projects that I'm adding to my to-do list in hopes that by sharing, I'll sear it into my memory and just maybe start working on these projects sooner rather than later, so that when the next birthday or holiday rolls around, I'll have these ready for gifting.  

Bottle Cap Magnets and Thumbtacks

Bottle Cap Magnet Tutorial from Martha Stewart | Photo by James Merrell

I'm really excited about these photo magnets. I display many of my prints with magnets in my cube at work, so I love the idea of adding some personalization to my magnets.  You'll need to use the twist-off bottle caps, rather than the pop-off ones which get bent when removing.  If you're like me, you may not have these lying around, so you can order them online.  A quick internet search found a bag of 100 for a reasonable price on Amazon and the same company makes caps with a ring attached, so you could make jewelry out of them too.

Mini Photo Magnets

Mini Photo Magnets Tutorial

You can never have enough magnets.  At least in our house, we're forever adding cards, photos, art projects and the like to our magnet board.  Sometimes it takes multiple magnets for something to hold securely, so I love the idea of making lots of these mini photo magnets from Sundae Sins. The Polaroid look is cute, but I think I'll try to go with my squared Instagram images with white borders. 

I found both of these ideas from this inspirational list over at For Creative Juice. I'll post updates when I follow through on these projects. Hopefully sometime before December! :-)  In the meantime, if you have tips for beating procrastination when it comes to gift-giving, lay them on me in the comments!

Want to learn how to document your family's everyday?  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.

Documentary session Q&A: how to make your family's session memorable | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

If you're interested in a family documentary photography session, it's likely that you're looking to capture your family's honest moments, interactions, and connections in a way that you can look back on for years to come. But how do you ensure that your session is “honestly” filled with fun, loving, photographic moments? Can you plan both honest and spontaneous?  I think so.  The goal of planning for a documentary session is to be able to look back on your images and recognize a reflection of this particular season in your life. That may be quiet or chaotic, adventure-filled or low key. The point is that it's you.

Toddler girl in kitchen with mom in Springfield, VA by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

There are two ways to go about “planning” a documentary family session. I put planning on quotations, because it's not so much planning as it is reflecting on what's important to your family and how best to capture that in a session.

A key element of documentary family photography is how flexible it is. Each session is adaptable to the photographer and family working together. Documentary family photographers put families at ease and turn what can be a stressful activity into an opportunity to be fully present with your family, with no expectations except to be yourselves and enjoy being together.

Little girl resting her feet on Dad's legs by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

For some families, this may mean planning specific activities in advance. Knowing what's to come (and preparing the rest of your family) can be a good way to set some expectations. For other families, planning itself is stressful and spontaneity rules the day.

Here are a few common questions and answers to put your mind at ease when choosing and preparing for a documentary family session.

What type of activities should we plan? How many things should we do?

The most important aspect to consider when preparing activities for your session is, “Is this something my family would normally do?” Staging a pillow fight or baking cookies makes for lovely photos, but consider what you want to remember (and what you want your kids to remember) when looking back on the images years from now. If baking is not your forte and you spend much of the activity worrying about the giant mess and overconsumption of raw cookie dough, then stress and the moment feeling “forced” is likely what you'll remember when seeing those photos.

If, on the other hand, you have a family tradition of making your grandmother's pancake recipe on Sundays and then piling onto the couch for cartoons, you're on to something. Or maybe you play board games in your pajamas. Or dig for worms in the garden.

There's no shortage of ideas.  Just choose something you enjoy doing together as a family and not just something you think will make for cute photos.  

Girl playing piano with Dad in Northern Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

No plan, no problem

I used to be a big planner (and a baker, for that matter), but having kids (and a husband resistant to routines and schedules) has left me no choice but to live in the moment a bit more.  Planning can be stressful with so many factors at play that can easily derail a strict itinerary.

For cases like this, it's perfectly fine for the plan to be, “let's go with the flow.” You might have an idea or two in mind of possible activities, but you're ready to adapt to whatever the mood calls for when the time comes. Maybe it's raining and a walk to the park is out of the question, so you build blanket forts inside instead. The point is for everyone to feel at ease with no pressure to perform. Kids especially pick up on stressors like this and will tend to do the exact opposite of what you're going for in a situation like that. If you instead allow them to lead the way or give them a voice in choosing, you'll naturally end up with honest, fun, and loving moments.

LIttle girl nursing in home session in Northern Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

I hope you enjoyed these images from my session with this Northern Virginia family.  We discussed many options leading up to their session.  Their ultimate decision to have a few activities in mind, but let their daughter lead the way, made for a perfectly relaxed session filled with genuine connection and beautiful, loving moments.

Want to learn how to document your family's everyday?  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.

Around Our Clocks - 2pm | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Warmer weather in Northern Virginia has us out of the house more frequently,  And an increasingly mobile baby makes it more challenging to break out my camera lately.  So I took advantage of some one-on-one time with my oldest son for a recent dental appointment which coincided nicely with the 2pm theme for this month's Around Our Clocks blog circle.

Continue the circle by visiting Camille Arner, Family Photographer in Park Slope, Brooklyn, to see her May image.