Tips for celebrating the holidays in a new home - Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Our family moved to a new home in Alexandria in December. We've settled in nicely despite having a laundry list of things to be done. The move, especially coupled with the holidays, got me thinking a lot about family traditions and what makes a house home. It was clear amid the chaos and stress that what mattered most to the kids wasn't our things, but us. Making time to put the list aside and enjoy spending time together with no other agenda was sometimes hard, but it was all we really needed to feel at home. The holidays have passed and the list remains a mile long, but we have a ton of new memories and maybe a few new traditions as well.

I had a holiday session with this favorite family in Northern Virginia who were also celebrating their first holidays in a new home. I've documented pregnancy, newborn, and one year milestones with them and it was so nice to share in their latest, creating new traditions and celebrating old ones to mark their first holiday in their new home. That their extended family was there to share in the love was icing on the cake. Families come to life when little ones are involved and these little guys were the life of the party.

So, in honor of new homes and new traditions, here are a few tips for celebrating and documenting your family's holidays at home:

Let the kids take the lead.

Planning for a specific activity can be helpful, but being flexible about specific moments is key. As soon as your kids know you have something particular you want them to do, that's the very last thing they'll wasn't to do. The best images come from spontaneous interactions and activities they choose themselves. Like impromptu dance parties.

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Invite their favorite people.

Intimate family sessions are amazing. But if you have the opportunity to involve extended family, like grandparents and aunts or uncles. Kids will be most likely to act like themselves around adults that they're comfortable with and it's a wonderful way to highlight those special relationships that will be meaningful to them throughout their lives.

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Savor the small moments.

With a documentary session, there's no need to rush from one activity to another. Those in between moments when your little one comes in for a hug and a bit of rest are truly the sweetest.

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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 answer for fun and stress-free holiday photos that your family will treasure | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Holiday photo sessions that capture some of the magic of Christmas and the winter season are a popular choice for families. But dragging your kids out, all dressed up, for a studio or outdoor session (especially with the unpredictable weather in Northern Virginia) doesn't exactly bring on the holiday cheer. Here are a few reasons why documentary family sessions are the best way to capture unique and stress-free photos of your family's favorite holiday traditions.

Mom showing Christmas ornament to toddler
  1. You don't have to leave your house (or your PJs).

    Wake up, roll out of bed, and prep however you like. Family documentary sessions are laid-back. There's no rush to get out the door or into the car. No need to cajole your kids (or your spouse) into getting dressed. You can snack when you need. Nap when you need. Take a break when you need. No worries if your kid has a meltdown or you need to stop

  2. Family connections is strongest at home.

    Home is where you are most comfortable. Most able to be yourselves. And most connected to each other. Without the stresses of worrying about public behavior or restrictive timelines, your whole family can relax and just enjoy being together and doing whatever you find yourselves interested in that day. For a holiday session, incorporating family rituals is a great way to celebrate what makes the season memorable. Whether it’s decorating the tree or baking a family favorite recipe, think about traditions you remember from your own childhood and what you most want your children to remember from theirs.

  3. Memories from home are the foundation our children draw from for the rest of their lives.

    Holiday memories have a particular way of standing out more strongly in our hearts. Preserving them in photos where everyone can be present (and not behind a camera) is a wonderful way to highlight those things that matter to your family and that are the best parts of the holiday season. Being together, sharing love and laughter, and honoring old traditions and creating new ones.


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.













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.

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.

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.

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.

How to make maternity leave unforgettable | Northern Virginia Newborn Photographer

I'm so excited to share this Northern Virginia maternity leave family session this week. No matter how long you're able to take off for maternity leave, it's safe to say it goes by too fast. But for such a fleeting time, it makes a permanent impression on your heart.

New mom and dad smiling at newborn in Springfield, VA by Newborn Photographer Nicole Sanchez
New mother smiling at baby by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Mother kissing baby by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Those first weeks and months getting to know your baby are unlike any other and are some of the sweetest of all motherhood memories (even with the insanity of little sleep and constant feeding and diaper changes).

New parents smiling at baby during diaper change by Newborn Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Baby making funny face while parents hold him by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Mom burping baby on shoulder with dad watching by Northern Virginia Newborn Photographer Nicole Sanchez

That's why I find this time so special to document with photographs. Time somehow passes differently during those newborn weeks. There's less pressure, less to do. Or at least, caring for a new little person takes up so much time and brain capacity, that nothing else is possible. But all that's important is really right there in front of you. 

Looking over mom's shoulder at nursing baby by Northern Virginia Newborn Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Mother doting on nursing baby by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Milk drunk newborn baby by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

I have such a wonderful time getting to know the families I work with. I love reminiscing and sharing about my own kiddos and my own maternity leave and newborn experiences. Most of all, I love watching new parents and the wonder they have for their new little one. 

Looking over Dad's shoulder looking at new baby by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
New Dad holding baby son by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Dad kissing newborn son by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Especially for first-time parents with just one child, there's really nothing but time to just stare in amazement at this new little person you created. Well, stare and test the boundaries of their milk drunkenness. Parenting does come with some perks. ;-)

Dad kissing mom holding baby by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Mom and dad snuggling new baby on couch by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Baby sleeping in mom's lap with dad on couch by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Mom looking at dad while holding newborn 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.

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.