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.

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.

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.

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. To amuse

@Vanderjames on Instagram - I'm not a big follower of celebrities on social media and I didn't even watch Dawson's Creek in it's heyday, but I can’t help but love James Van Der Beek's Instagram feed. He and his wife have like five kids under 5 and I love the humor and parenting insights he shares. Like this one highlighting the insanity of holiday beach trips with little kids. 

2. To inspire

Lots has been said about Mr. Rogers this year. But any article claiming to distill his wisdom into something I can apply with my own kids is going to grab my attention. While I found the claim (a simple set of rules for talking to children) to be a bit of a stretch (I think it was probably tongue in cheek), I found the insights into his meticulousness about each episode of the show to be fascinating. He is such a wonderful example of that. 

3. To motivate

I discovered NPR’s podcast Code Switch a few months ago and have been schooled weekly ever since on a growing variety of issues related to race and identity. One of my favorites so far was this one about the origins of the term “Ms.,” the bonds of friendship, and a unique insight of Mary Hamilton and her experience as a black female civil rights activist. There is always so much more to the story than what we think we know.

4. To guide

I’ve begun navigating the world of elementary school and have encountered a ton of wonderful resources lately for differently wired children, so I’ll be sharing my favorites finds here. This one comes from Understood.org, a site dedicated to giving families personalized resources for learning and attention issues. They have a special Back to School tool that provides articles based on your child’s age and skill/concern and helps you support them in learning to be advocates for themselves, make friends, and manage the various challenges of school.

5. Photo favorites

With all this talk about school, I can’t help but share the photo story of our first morning.

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.

Family films are the modern photo album | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

My family is my guinea pig when it comes to testing out new camera techniques and equipment. This has always been the case with photography and is equally true for videography. This summer, I got an underwater bag for my DSLR and had a blast documenting my family at the pool and at the beach. We ventured out of Northern Virginia in July for a family vacation and I started planning for this film the moment I knew we were going. I'm so excited to share it this week!

Each time I complete one of these films for my clients or my own family, I'm struck by what a moving experience it is. I love seeing my children flipping through the pages of the countless photo albums we have, but I've fallen way behind on yearly photo books. I've found that these films say more in 3-4 minutes than hundreds of printed photos can over the course of a year (especially if I'm not even printing them!). Movement, sound, and music convey so much emotion and story. I'm convinced that these family films are our modern day photo albums.

What will our children remember most from this time in their lives?

I've made taking video and making films a priority for vacations and trips to visit with family. My husband has films of himself from childhood and I'm a bit jealous. Childhood is a fleeting time in our lives but memories of events from that time make up a significant portion of our sense of self for the rest of our lives. Thinking about this and wondering what moments of our everyday lives our children are going to remember for the rest of theirs has given me incentive to invest more time in making personal family films for my family and for my clients. 

Films capture childhood characteristics, interests, and events in snippets that can be put in the context of the broader story of our family's life. Films provide a resource for our children and a glimpse into their history that would otherwise be lost, or at the very least subject to the subjectiveness of memory only.

Film captures the feeling of a moment.

With film, you get the sights and sounds and the feeling of what it was like to be in that moment when you were two or four and experiencing your family's beach vacation. You're dropped into that moment in time in a way that a still photo just can't evoke. I love seeing my kids flip through their photo albums and I will continue to make them (though I may never get caught up!). But seeing their reactions as they watch themselves in clips taken six months or a year ago is just priceless. Even they marvel at how much they’ve changed.

I also experimented with drone footage this summer and can’t wait to share that in a future film.

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.

July Photo Favorites | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I can't get over how fast summer flew by.  We ventured out of Northern Virginia to meet up with family at the beach and were also lucky to have two visits with grandparents in July. Nothing brings out my camera more than seeing my kids with their grandparents and other family members.  Because we live so far away, I want to relish all the moments of us together and create something for us all to look back on when we're apart.

Lately, I've been taking a few less photos and a lot more video and working on more personal films for my family.  I'm so far behind on printing photobooks and I like to think this makes up for it a bit.  I have plans to email (I'm far too disorganized for paper letters or journals at this point!) each of the films to my sons with a little note about their adventures.  Assuming email is still a thing in the years to come, I like to imagine they'll have a whole library of fun films to look back on as they leave home and start their own families. 

I'll be sharing films from our summer as I get them finished as well as some sweet client films as the busyness of summer winds down and the routines of fall pick up.

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.

June Photo Favorites | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Have I mentioned how summer is my favorite? I try hard to reserve all my weather-related complaints for the winter months and bite my tongue in the summer whenever I start to voice my annoyance at the humidity or mosquitoes (I often fail because they are no joke here in Northern Virginia).

Boy holding worm in backyard by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Boy holding large grub in back yard by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

There's no shortage of things to do when the weather is warm. Even the rain isn't so bad when you can jump in puddles and play in the mud.  We spend a lot of time adventuring in our backyard, digging for creatures and jumping on the trampoline. I really love how the kids bring about experiences that I would never had had otherwise (hello, giant grub!).  This Eastern box turtle showed up in our garage one day and we kept her for a few days, learning all about turtle habits and habitats, before setting her free again.

Boy touching Eastern box turtle in Northern Virginia by Nicole Sanchez Photographer

It's fun to imagine what childhood characteristics these guys might carry with them into the rest of their lives.  Like my eldest's love for nature and my youngest's propensity to do everything sooner than his brother did.

Boy flipping on trampoline in Northern Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Brothers jumping on trampoline by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

I'm also so excited to practice some underwater photography this summer.  These were so fun to take at our local Fairfax County RECenter pool.

Boy in swimming pool by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Boy jumping into pool 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.