How to preserve family traditions that your kids will remember forever | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Holiday memories are steeped in family traditions.

We take pictures of experiences that are meaningful to us. Places and people we want to remember. Lots of people have the fondest and strongest childhood memories around holidays. They stand out in our memories as more poignant because our recurring family traditions and rituals strengthen the memories over time. And also because we take pictures and videos of them. 

 Family decorating for Christmas

It’s so much more than Christmas morning.

Most often, our Christmas photos are from Christmas morning, unwrapping gifts, or playing with new toys surrounded by scraps of discarded wrapping paper, a colorfully lit tree in the background. If we're lucky, there are a few images of our parents too. But rarely do these photos tell more of the story than what happens on Christmas day. This post is my call to take pictures of your family that go beyond the main event.

 Family decorating Christmas tree together in Washington, DC

Traditions don’t just happen. We make them happen.

Now that I have kids, I appreciate all the effort my parents, and my mom especially, put into making Christmas a special time for us as kids. Decorating was especially fun. Each year taking out the tiny ceramic village with it's fake snow and lit up houses. Carefully taking out the individually wrapped glass ornaments and the growing assortment of hand made ones from school. And, as we got older, having wrapping parties in the floor passing scissors and tape back and forth whole watching cheesy hold movies. 

I know now that these traditions didn’t just happen. My parents made them happen. And by doing so they shared with us what was meaningful to them and what was valuable to our family.

 Father and toddler baking for Christmas

Family photos and videos highlight the best of the holiday spirit.

It's the memories that stand out most for us that we're most likely to pass down to our own children as tradition. And that's why it's important to document more than just the unwrapping of gifts. Documenting this time with your children with photos or a family film is a special way to highlight the best of the holiday spirit. As we all know, it's not about the gifts on Christmas morning. It's about the thrill of anticipation, the magic and mystery, and most of all the joy and love of family. 

Traditions are how we highlight what matters.

Whether that's driving to the local farm to pick out a tree or baking holiday cookies to share with friends and neighbors, traditions are how we highlight what matters.  So this holiday season, document those rituals that are important to your family and preserve those values for your children and for generations to come.

P.S. I’m booking 2019 films and photo sessions now! Happy Holidays!

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.

Friday Fun - Five things to kick off your weekend | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

We encounter a crazy amount of information every day.  So I'm doing my part to add to it! :-) But seriously, my favorite way of finding new stuff is recommendations from friends. So every Friday I'll pass along my favorites from the week - things that inspire, uplift, educate, or just entertain. These are not affiliate links, so I'm not making any money - I'm just sharing things I enjoy.  Here are this week's favorites:

  1. Something old

    400 B.C. is pretty old. Apparently old enough to be the oldest intact shipwreck found. Old enough to have been around in the days of Plato and Socrates. It’s hard to fathom something being around this long. Not quite as cool as the giant Sequoias in California (2000+ years and still going!), but still pretty cool.

  2. Something not so old

    Do you remember calling your local number for time and temperature? I do. It was the town bank and they gave a pleasant account of the time and temperature any time of the day. And for some reason when I was a kid, I found need to call it multiple times a day. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. And there are places that still provide the service.

  3. Something current

    If you’re not a member of a minority, you may find conversations about race to be uncomfortable. Or maybe you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, so you don’t say anything. I’ve learned a lot about race from my husband, but still carry the awkwardness and ignorance that comes from being white, even if I am a female. Anyway, there’s no need for our children to be as awkward as we are, so here’s a video to help you talk about race with your child.

  4. For booklovers

    Anyone who loves to read already knows this, but a new study confirms that growing up in a home filled with books is good for you. At least 80 books is ideal. Literacy improves with more than 80 and levels off around 350. “Good for you” translates to higher reading comprehension and better mathematical and digital communication skills. Researchers aren’t sure if the positive effects will also result from access to similar numbers of digital books. :-)

  5. More time for books

    Once you have kids, time spent watching TV dwindles dramatically, but we could all use a few tips on how to waste less time, whether it’s watching TV or mindlessly scrolling social media feeds. This article recommends planning out your downtime in advance and doing something that is satisfying or mood-enhancing (exercise, reading, music, meditation, etc).

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.

A new mom on why a newborn photography session is a must | Northern Virginia Newborn & Family Photographer

Meeting new families is one of my favorite things about being a photographer. Developing relationships with families and documenting their family's growth over time is icing on the cake. I caught up with this family, who just welcomed their third little one, for a newborn family film at home. I could gush about newborn details, nursing, naps, and sibling love for days, but instead, I'll leave you with some words straight from this Mama on why she chose to have a newborn family film session, even amidst the craziness of adjusting to life with a new baby.

In the early days with a newborn, it’s oftentimes just a matter of survival day in and day out. And it’s normal to want to get through it before thinking about taking pictures and videos. But it’s so important and priceless to capture those early days. And working with Nicole gave me so much peace of mind. It felt like I was just inviting a good friend over for coffee. We didn’t fuss over what we were wearing or how the house looked. My kids were relaxed and being their unpredictable selves. And she was able to capture so much of what I cherish the most about these early days — the mundane moments that I know will be most precious to me years from now.
— S., Mom of three

They're only this little once. Between sleep deprivation, the other details of life, and time just flying, don't let those early days go by without preserving them! For more from this beautiful family, check out “Three reasons to have your newborn session at home.” And for a trip down memory lane, see how much has changed since our first session in northern Virginia a couple of years ago.

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.

Friday Fun - Five things to kick off your weekend | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

We encounter a crazy amount of information every day.  So I'm doing my part to add to it! :-) But seriously, my favorite way of finding new stuff is recommendations from friends. So every Friday I'll pass along my favorites from the week - things that inspire, uplift, educate, or just entertain. These are not affiliate links, so I'm not making any money - I'm just sharing things I enjoy.  Here are this week's favorites:

  1. Have you hugged your vet today?

    So this one is a bit dark, I'm sorry. But anyone with pets, or considering pets, should give this a read. It's easy to assume that vets have some kind of special armor that protects them from the emotional aspects of caring for our furry family members. Easy to assume because not much is said about the emotional burdens they carry and the moral issues they face. Eye-opening. 

  2. Sibling influence

    When we had our second child and especially as our youngest has gotten older, I started to realize the importance of sibling relationships. A few months ago, I learned that siblings are actually more influential than parents when it comes to development. I’ve seen this play out watching my youngest learn things so quickly from his brother. It’s a challenge sometimes to find ways to nurture their relationship with each other, but reading the statistics in this Atlantic article drives home the point of how important a positive sibling relationship can be not just in childhood, but throughout our lives.

  3. Ghostly fun photos

    I’m not particularly superstitious, but I’ll admit that there’s something creepy about turning my children into ghostly figures, even when I know it’s a Photoshop trick. This is still a fun tutorial though and I think I’ll try it out with my oldest who loves all things creepy.

  4. National Park Murder

    I’m just going to keep up with the macabre Halloween theme this month. Here’s a story about the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) of the National Park Service. They investigate crimes that take place in National Parks, which apparently happen more frequently than you might imagine. The story highlights an investigation of a death in Rocky Mountain National Park. I won’t give away the details, but it’s an interesting (and sad) read that highlights the work of a part of the NPS that I didn’t even know existed.

  5. Educate yourself (for free)

    Alright, enough darkness for today. Have you heard of massive open online courses (MOOCs)? They’re awesome. Coursera is my favorite resource for them and they feature courses on everything imaginable from universities all over the world. And the best part is they’re FREE. Some of my favorites have been in the arts (this one on photography and this one in graphic design). The only downside is that the require massive self-determination to finish. Everything is online (or the smart phone app), so it’s easy to watch and read. But it’s also easy to get busy doing other stuff and stop midway through (I wouldn’t know anything about this…). Anyway, if you’re looking for something fun to learn, check them out.

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.

September Faves | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

September was our first full month of school in Northern Virginia and our first year of kindergarten is off to a good start. When life is so busy, I find myself shooting less. But even with the busyness, we managed to find some new adventures. The slide photo was taken at Glencarlyn Park in Arlington. It was our first time there and was so much fun. I love sharing our local favorite places, so I’ll write a longer post about it soon. Now that the weather is cooling down, I find myself wanting to snuggle up in the house until spring comes again!

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.

Friday Fun - Five things to kick off your weekend | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

We encounter a crazy amount of information every day.  So I'm doing my part to add to it! :-) But seriously, my favorite way of finding new stuff is recommendations from friends. So every Friday I'll pass along my favorites from the week - things that inspire, uplift, educate, or just entertain. These are not affiliate links, so I'm not making any money - I'm just sharing things I enjoy.  Here are this week's favorites:

  1. Glacier Ghosts

    It’s almost Halloween, so it’s okay for a little macabre, right? I have a fascination with people who climb mountains. I’m afraid of heights and hate the cold, so you’ll never catch me attempting Everest, but I love reading about people who do. This article is actually about the Swiss Alps and what’s being revealed (hint: bodies are involved) as the glacier melts with climate change. Sad and fascinating.

  2. A reminder

    The very nature of documentary family photography is about celebrating the beauty of the everyday. But it’s easy to forget in the bustle of school, extracurricular activities, and the general goal of creating a memorable childhood for our children. This article is a simple reminder that you are enough. Even without, and perhaps in spite of, all those things, it really is the simple moments spent being completely present with our little ones that are most unforgettable.

  3. Hope

    My grandmother has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for at least a decade and thoughts of the disease are not often far from my mind. NPR published an article this week featuring a brain scientist’s take on how to stay mentally fit. Much of it isn’t surprising (computer brain games aren’t really effective; instead you should focus on staying active and eat healthy), but I was intrigued by the impact of social engagement. Especially in middle age and as you get older, it’s greatly beneficial to the brain to be around other people.

  4. Permission

    Parenting is hard enough, but when you feel judged, it’s especially tough. All parents have to make choices about how best to parent their own kids. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how different children are. Really different. What works for some, doesn’t for others. What works for most, doesn’t for some. It’s hard to take parenting tactics that go against the norm or against the way you yourself were parented. And especially in public, being judged or being in fear of being judged is almost ever present. At least for me. I love Laura Markham’s Peaceful Parenting strategy and often share my favorite resources here. This is one of them, written for parents of “spirited” children. And aren’t they all spirited at times?

  5. A deal

    If you’re a photographer, or aspiring to be one, check out the 5 Day Deal. It’s a once-a-year huge bundle of digital goods for photographers and videographers. Ebooks, courses, discounts, actions, presets, templates, etc. All for a fraction of the cost the items would be on their own. And a portion of every purchase goes to a charity of your choice (from their list). And it’s quality stuff, not cheap giveaways. My favorites this year are from Design Aglow and Kate Densmore. Enjoy!

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 have your newborn session at home with siblings | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Whether you're a first-time parent or bringing home your third baby, time is somehow warped during those first few newborn weeks. This is one of the reasons I love newborn sessions at home. With a new baby, and especially if you have other little ones at home, there's no time for anything but the essentials. It may sound stressful, and it sometimes is, but there's something freeing about just giving up all the extraneous things that are pulling at you and focusing only on what matters. 

 Toddler boy sleeping on Dad’s shoulder while Mom takes shoes off by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Eventually life has to pull you back in because other things do need to happen, like dentist appointments and oil changes, but for a few short weeks, you have every excuse in the world to tune it all out and just soak up your baby. Or all of your babies. So here are three of my favorite reasons to have your newborn photo session at home. And bonus alert: this was a film session, so I'll be sharing this family's sweet film soon.

  1. Sessions at home are best for kids.

    Introducing a new person with a camera to your kids is enough fun all on its own. Packing up the family and dragging them to another location for photos is a recipe for stress for everyone, especially with a newborn who needs to eat and be changed often. Kids hate being rushed and generally do the opposite of what you’re hoping for when they feel pressured. Having a session at home is immediately more relaxed. Kids are more comfortable and more likely to be themselves, which is exactly what you want captured in family photos.

    Family documentary sessions at home are flexible and made to suit your schedule. Kids need a snack? Great! Baby (or Dad) needs to nap? No problem. Daily rituals like meal times or snuggles or activities like baking or playing a silly game that you made up together are the bread and butter of family sessions. These are the real moments where you’re building connections with your children that will last a lifetime. No coaxing or cajoling necessary.

  2. Home is center of family life.

    Because home is the centerpiece of all that happens in your family’s life, it’s the best place to document the things that matter to your family right now. Whether it's a raucous game of Uno, seasonal crafts at the kitchen table, or sharing a love for baking treats, it’s what you do in your home that makes your family unlike any other. It’s the place you feel safest and most loved. These are the strongest memories that you and your kids will have from this short time in your lives. And it’s amazing to look back on these photos and see how life changes. What seems like a stage that will never end actually does someday to be replaced by something else. These stages come and go throughout childhood and can be easily forgotten if not documented.

  3. Home is part of your family’s legacy.

    I’ve written a lot about the importance of printing your family’s photos. When these photos feature your home, they become an even greater part of your family’s legacy and your children’s emotional foundation. Your home gives insights into who you are and what is important to you. When children see tangible photos in your home that highlight ordinary but beautiful everyday moments, they receive the message that they are important, family is important, and home is important. And that what they do every day matters.

 Mirror reflection of family with newborn at home 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 Nicole today to start planning a custom photography experience that's perfect for your family.

Friday Fun - Five things to kick off your weekend

We encounter a crazy amount of information every day.  So I'm doing my part to add to it! :-) But seriously, my favorite way of finding new stuff is recommendations from friends. So every Friday I'll pass along my favorites from the week - things that inspire, uplift, educate, or just entertain. These are not affiliate links, so I'm not making any money - I'm just sharing things I enjoy.  Here are this week's favorites:

  1. More love for Mr. Rogers

I confess that I did not love watching Mr. Rogers growing up, but I see now the value in Fred Rogers slow, deliberate, gentle style of teaching. This article talks about his frustration with children’s programming and how he designed his show to approach kids in a way they were most likely to learn. As I watch my kids watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, I hope that they pick up on the values presented. Sometimes we need to receive messages many times in different ways by different people to really learn them. It's not the only television my kids watch, but I'm grateful it's in our tool box.

2. Family Traditions

With fall officially here and the holiday season not far behind, family traditions have been on my mind this week. I posted a personal film that I shot at the pumpkin patch last fall and remarked at how I marveled at the changes in my son in just one year. It really motivates me to keep documenting our life and making the time to put together these pieces of their story. I also came across this great article recommending dropping the guilt and just choosing one tradition each season to focus on. That's all kids need to develop lasting memories. There's also a handy list of suggestions. My favorite is finding pretty fall leaves to iron into wax paper for decorations. 

3. Be productive (in a good way)

I keep my family alive by following to-do lists. Otherwise, I could forget practically anything. But I appreciate the perspective of this article. Often we tackle the things on our to-do list that seem urgent or give us quick wins, but that distract us from doing the things that actually move the needle. The latter are the things that are high-impact in the long run, but seem too big to tackle or are least what we’re interested in doing. Apparently, Mark Twain called it “eating the frog” and recommended doing that thing at the beginning of the day. The result is feeling more fulfilled at the end of the day, even if you checked less things off your to-do list.

4. Or do nothing at all.

With so many things to do, making time to do nothing can seem blasphemous. From a creative standpoint though, I’ve had my best ideas when I’ve given myself a chance to take a break. Our society values grit, determination, and muscling through. But sometimes the value lies in waiting. Taking time, even short periods, to step outside the busyness and give your brain the space to process.

5. A trip through time

I took a photo of my youngest looking out a window in our house the other day and realized that I have about five years of photos taken at this same window with both boys. So I spent a little time digging through my Flickr feed and found a few favorites. Time flies! :-)

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.

A first birthday celebration | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I write a lot about the value of what happens in the day to day and why documenting it is so important. But documenting milestones important too! 

Most of us have a few pictures of birthday celebrations from our childhood. Usually blowing out candles. If we're lucky, those pictures include our friends and family too and offer a glimpse into our lives during a time we probably don't remember all that well. 

That's why I love photographing birthday parties. And first birthdays are especially sweet. Even more so, when you're surrounded by family and friends. I see this little guy being doted on by his big brother, parents, grandparents, and aunts and I just love that he'll have these pictures to look back on and see how loved he is.

Also, I'm a mom too, so I know how much effort parents put into making their kids' birthday celebrations memorable. From party favors to cake and theme selection - all the little choices that represent family interests and personality. I loved all the photographs that decorated this Northern Virginia party. 

I’ve had the pleasure of documenting these little guys through several milestones - maternity, newborn, and family sessions. Getting to know and make long-term connections with my clients is one of my favorite perks of being a photographer. If you’ve got milestones coming up, reach out to me about custom multi-session packages today.

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.

A fall pumpkin patch family film | Northern Virginia Photographer

It’s that time of year again! Our local Burke pumpkin patch opens in just a few days. I shot this personal film during our visit last October. Oh my goodness, how much changes in a year! A year that, for us, was full of challenges and growth, excitement, and love. And it flew by. I’m so grateful to have little snippets of his voice in the film (“I want to stay here forever!”). He sounds so grown-up now by comparison.

We've been visiting this pumpkin patch since our son was two and this was a special visit with his preschool class and was a fun chance to spend some special time with Mom and Dad. Since we visit every year, it’s fun to see what changes and how our sons’ experiences change as well.

Family traditions play an important role in childhood. They provide a sense of constancy in an ever changing world. They’re fun and give us something to look forward to. But just because we revisit them annually, doesn’t mean we will forever and it doesn’t mean we won’t forget the details. I love highlighting the importance of family traditions by documenting them in films that kids can look back on for years to come and marvel at their own growth, change, and things they experienced when they were too tiny to remember. 

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.