How to Decide Where to Have Your Family Photo Session | Alexandria, Virginia Family Photographer

A lot of thought can be given to details when you're planning a photography session for your family. Where should you have your session? When should you schedule it? What should you wear? Will the weather be nice? Will your children be cooperative? Will your spouse/significant other/pet be cooperative? ;-) In many ways, choosing to do a documentary session can ease these typical concerns.  So over the next few months, I'll be answering some common questions about session planning and sharing how awesome (and easy!) a documentary session can be for celebrating and preserving a part of your family's story.  First up - where should you have your session?

Dog outside staring in window in Alexandria, VA by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

What's the best location for a family documentary session?

The simplest answer is wherever your family feels most at home.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, this may indeed be in your home.  Or it may be out and about adventuring, where you find yourselves in your element.  The most important thing is that everyone is comfortable, having fun, and engaging with each other.  Does that mean there won't be toddler meltdowns or teenage attitude? No, probably not.  But that's okay.  And I'll photograph it happily, because that's the season of life you're in and it's worth remembering (and showing your kids!). 

You might worry when choosing an in-home session, that you'll miss out on beautiful, seasonal outdoor images.  But documentary family photography can really be the best of both worlds.  And in Northern Virginia, where the weather can be mild even in the winter, taking photographs in both your home and outdoors can be a great way to keep kids engaged for the entire session. 

Documentary sessions are typically longer than a traditional portrait session, so there's no pressure to fit everything in.  The session just naturally flows at whatever speed your family goes at.  Even my shortest session, at two hours, allows for plenty of time to capture a range of activities at a leisurely pace.  

Blue-eyed boy sitting in mom's lap at backyard session in Northern Virginia by Lifestyle Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

In home documentary sessions are unposed and unscripted, but that doesn't mean you can't plan ahead a little too. Some families plan for certain activities, like making breakfast or playing a game. Others let the kids take the lead and just go with the flow of the day. Flexibility is key to making the session fun and allowing for real moments and connection. 

Working in an outdoor activity can be a natural part of a documentary family session, especially if it's your own backyard or a nearby park. For this session in Alexandria, VA, mom is a yoga teacher, so it was only natural that she and her sons worked in some yoga while they played in the backyard. I loved that their family dog was always nearby and a part of so many of the images.

Mom and son holding butterfly at outdoor family session in Northern Virginia by Documentary Photographer Nicole Sanchez

You may worry that your home is messy or your kids won't cooperate. And why would you want to remember that? I say, because that's life lived.  I try to embrace the mess, unpredictability, and the chaos in my photographs because that's real and real is beautiful. Life changes and kids grow so quickly and I want my photographs to put you right back there in that moment years from now when this time is a distant memory.  And what's more, I want your children to be able to see this part of you and themselves that they may be too young to remember.  Those parts of early life later become an important piece of figuring out who we are and where we belong.  

Toddler waiting for mom to give him juice in kitchen at in-home photography session by Documentary Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Learn more about documentary family sessions here.  Do you have questions about documentary photography?  Let me know in the comments or send me an email.  I'd love to answer them!  Next month, I'll provide some answers about when to schedule your family session (Spoiler Alert: there's never a bad time. :-) ) and more ways to keep kids engaged.

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