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.

March 365 Project Faves | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Despite a last minute resurgence of winter, spring seems to have finally arrived in Northern Virginia.  We are happy to be enjoying longer days and spending more time outside. As usual, many of my March 365 project images were taken in the morning.  I'd love to have a bit more variety, but I also adore these moments with my family and am glad to have captured them.

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 plan for documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.

Around Our Clocks: 5PM | Northern Virginia Family Photographer


One thing certain about parenthood, and life in general, I guess, is that the only thing that stays constant is change. It's bittersweet, especially with kids. Watching them grow is so amazing and rewarding. It's like it happens in slow motion and fast forward at the same time.

And just when you think you have a piece of the puzzle figured out, they've moved on to the next stage.  I've found this especially true with little routines and habits. My son will fall into a pattern, doing the same thing for days or weeks, until one day he doesn't anymore. 

One of my favorite routines lately is him riding his scooter in our driveway as soon as we get home from school.  He'll hop out of the car and onto his scooter, making a few trips up and down the driveway before we go inside to make dinner. He's usually good about putting his helmet on and almost always asks me to watch him.  I usually put his brother down in his car seat to watch. Sometimes he'll stop riding to get the mail out of the box (which he still needs help to do) out to give his brother a hug. He's not so good about putting the scooter away and instead leaves it right in the way to be run over the next morning.  Thankfully, we've avoided this so far.  I know this little ritual will evolve or be replaced soon enough. 

Sometimes, I don't even notice the change immediately and it'll hit me months later when I see pictures like these and think, "Oh, remember when..."  And then I'm thankful for having preserved it and a piece of his story. 

This post is part of the Around Our Clocks documentary blog circle. This month we documented the 5pm hour. Continue the circle by visiting  Sincerus Photography, Fine Art Documentary Photographers, KC 

Boy riding scooter on sidewalk in Alexandria, Virginia by family photographer Nicole Sanchez&nbsp;
Boy riding scooter on sidewalk in Northern Virginia by family photographer Nicole Sanchez
Boy touching his baby brother's cheek in car seat by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

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 plan for documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.

January 365 Project Faves | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

In looking over my 365 photos for January, I noticed a bit of a theme. Our family seems to stay in our pajamas a lot on the weekends. I'm okay with this. In fact, I kind of deem the day a success if I never get out of my pajamas. Maybe not every day, but, at least in the winter, we're kind of home bodies and it's nice to see how much I can get done before getting dressed. And I really enjoy capturing images of my son in his pjs. Soon enough, he'll be too old for dinosaur prints and cute catch phrases. There's something playful and innocent about a child in pajamas. It brings whimsy and imagination to whatever activity they're engaged in and it's fun to bring that to my pictures as well.

I can't believe we're already so far into February. The year has gotten under way with a flurry of activity, some planned and some unexpected.  Just when I think I have it all figured out, I'm reminded that life ebbs and flows.  Nothing really stays the same for too long. And while I can appreciate the excitement and lessons that change (or disruption) brings, I'm also appreciative of the value of downtime and days where I can stay in my pajamas and recharge.

We ended January outside Northern Virginia with a vacation at Disney World and I'm excited to share those photos in a later post (though I took a lot less than I planned!).  I've been pretty easy on myself with missed days in my 365 project lately, and I'm looking forward to some spring weather (is it too soon to be hopeful?) that brings a bit more motivation with all the new growth and longer days. 

How's your 365 project coming along? If you haven't started one or need some motivation, check out this post. And while you're at it, sign up for my newsletter below to receive tips for documenting the beauty in your family's every day.

December 365 Project Faves | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Last month we enjoyed lots of time at home, but also had some adventures.  We had some unseasonably warm weather in Northern Virginia and made it out to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  I also swallowed my fear (!) and took my 3-year-old (and our baby too!) to the library.  One of my favorite places.  And to my delight, he loved it too.  The little one slept through the visit. :-)  I'm looking forward to going back.  

Many people have embarked on a new 365 photo project this January. Some for the first time. Some starting a second, or third, or __ project.  I still have about 100 days left in mine.  This is my third year doing a 365 project and I'll likely continue after a brief break.  I shared some of the lessons I learned and tips for completing a 365 here.  In December, I went easy on myself when I missed a day.  Although, this week I have renewed motivation for being more "on it."  

Looking through my favorites from December reminds me of why documenting our family's life and lifestyle is so important to me.  I want to have images to remind me of these everyday moments.  These quiet times for reading and snuggling.  These times of childhood magic and wonder and adventure.

One of the best things that a 365 project can do for your photography (aside from preserving moments for your family) is force you out of your comfort zone.  When you're struggling to find something interesting to take a picture of or it's the end of the day and there's no light left in your house, you have to get creative in making images.  Sometimes they're successful and sometimes not.  So this month, I'll be reminding myself of this when I realize I haven't picked up my camera and I'm tempted to just go to bed.  I look forward to sharing my results with you next month.

Have you started a 365 project this month?  What tips do you have for making it a fun experience?

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How to Make a Wine Cork Photo Stand | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I have a bag of wine corks that has followed my husband and me through three living spaces and two moves. I had every intention of taking it to the nifty wine cork recycle bin at Whole Foods. My husband told me it would never happen and that we should just throw the corks away. Well, he was right. But I got the last word! At least about three of the corks, anyway. :-D

Bag of wine corks by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

I'm always looking for fun ways to display my prints, especially my square prints, which don't lend themselves to framing. So when I came across wine cork displays for wedding seating arrangements on Pinterest, I thought they would be perfect for pictures. 

Here's how I did it:

What you need:

- wine corks

- small pot (steamer optional) and stove

- small hand saw (recommended) or serrated knife

- large binder clip (optional)

- photos

Using hand saw to cut cork by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

What to do:

Cork on table by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Corks steaming for photo project by Alexandria, VA Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Using a hand saw to cut cork by Alexandria, VA Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
  1. Steam your corks. This softens them up a little and prevents the cork from breaking into pieces when you cut it. 15-20 should do the trick. If you don't have a steamer, you can also boil them. This is especially good if you want to remove the any wine stains from the cork.
  2. If you have a binder clip large enough to slide over your cork, use it to help secure the cork while you're sawing. I didn't have one, but my fingers would have felt safer with one. 

    Next, use the hand saw to slice off enough cork to leave a flat bottom for a secure stand. You could also cut the cork in half to make two stands, if you like. While you could use a serrated knife, I recommend a hand saw if you have one. It takes a surprising amount of pressure and sawing to cut through the cork. Or maybe my blade was dull. Either way, just be mindful of your fingers!

  3. Once you have the bottom of the stand shaved to your liking (it may take a bit of adjustment), use the saw to make a slit in the top of the cork. I made mind right in the middle. You may need to make the slit wider or deeper depending on your photos.

  4. Insert your photos and display proudly! Then figure out what crafty things to do with the rest of the corks in your bag. :-)

Close-up of cork photo stand by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez
Photos in cork photo stands by Alexandria, VA Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Do you have any fun photo display hacks? I'd love to hear about them in the comments (and maybe feature them here in another tutorial)!

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Around Our Clocks: 8am | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Mornings have been fun, if a little chaotic, around here lately. Without the pressure (yet) of needing to be at work on time, I'm able to indulge a bit in the fun of trying to capture the messy, sometimes harried business of getting a three year old out of bed, with clean teeth and a somewhat balanced breakfast, to school on time. Pair that with a baby who doesn't have a predictable schedule yet and who's still not sure if he likes car rides all that much and you've got a mama who's ready to pull her hair out by 8am some mornings.  And that's saying nothing of remembering to feed the cats and let the dog outside.

In the midst of the chaos and sometimes constant urging to hurry, though, I'll get the sweetest nuggets of life. A glimpse into my older son's budding personality in the form of an observation that seems beyond his three years. Or in an unexpected, unconditional grin from my two month old, who doesn't hold a grudge even when I leave him fussing to tend to his brother. 

I don't know how I'll keep my sanity when maternity leave is over, though I know it will work out somehow. For now, I'll just keep trying to preserve these little moments of childhood and parenthood for as long as I can.

This post is the first of the "Around Our Clocks" documentary blog circle, which features a group of photographers documenting an entire day over the course of one year. Please continue the circle by visiting Petra Silie's blog to view her "8am" post.

These are real-life moments. Ones that I want to remember and ones that i love preserving for other families too. Learn more about my family documentary sessions here. And sign up for my newsletter below to receive tips for documenting your own family.

Five Tips for Documenting Your Newborn | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I've always been interested in photography, but I finally decided to learn how to use my camera when I wanted to take pretty photos of my first-born son. After he was born, I found myself wishing I had hired a photographer to capture all those cute newborn details and squishy newborn poses. I tried (and failed!) to get the Pinterest-worthy baby pictures (although I have a ton of baby pictures I wouldn't trade for the world). 

I've had a lot of practice since then, and while I did hire a photographer to document our birth and time at the hospital this time around, I couldn't hire a photographer to live with us for the first month, so during my pregnancy, I made note of the ways I could document the newborn phase myself.  

Here are a few tips based on my experience:

1. Details - My photography interests and style have changed from traditional posed portraits to candid, documentary and lifestyle images, but capturing details is still a must.  Who doesn't swoon over baby toes? :-) But details go beyond baby toes and fingers. It's important to give attention to moments when you feel that little pang of sentimentality - when you know you're seeing something you will want to remember. Something that will be brief and forgotten if you don't capture it. Which brings me to my next tip.  

Documenting Newborn Details | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

2.  Pay Attention to Moments - While the images above are indeed of details, the idea of paying attention to detail is important across all the images in this post. Determining which moments are important to you and making note (literally sometimes, in my case - hello, Evernote) if you aren't able to photograph a moment right away, is key to documenting this time in a meaningful way.  I'll talk more about planning for images in a follow-up post on getting in the picture with your baby.

3. Go with the baby flow - Figuring out your baby is one of the earliest tasks of parenting and it isn't suspended while you're trying to get through your own personal photo shoot.  If your baby (or you!) just isn't feeling it, try again later.  It's helpful to make note of good areas of light in your house and when to find the best light in each area.  That way when you and baby are ready, you know where to go.

4. Happy and not - Not every moment is an easy one.  It wouldn't be parenthood without some stressful moments.  Own it.  Someday you'll look back on those moments and feel strength for having come through them.  It's part of the beauty of motherhood, so try to capture that in your images.

Crying, unhappy baby | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

5. Remember family (but don't stress about it) - We were lucky to have many grandparents come to meet our new son and I knew I wanted to capture those special moments of them with our son. Especially in those early days, it was hard to balance caring for a new baby, engaging with family, and photographing it all at the same time.  So I made peace with the realization that I could not capture everything.  It's more important to just be present and take some down time to rest while others are there to help.  So put the camera down sometimes (or hand it over to someone else!) and don't feel bad about not capturing every moment.  

Newborn with Grandparents | Northern Virginia Documentary Photographer

Another note on the family front, I found it so hard to document moments of my 3 year old and newborn together. For one, 3 year olds move fast.  And while newborns do not move so fast, when you're behind the camera your reflexes aren't so great. So it was hard to think about all the usual composition aspects and camera settings while simultaneously protecting my newborn from his big brother's love. I didn't get many of these, but that's one benefit to the newborn phase - they grow quickly and become less fragile. :-)

Newborn with brother | Northern Virginia Lifestyle Photographer

Finally, I can't leave off without saying it: get in the frame. I'll share more tips in a later post about how to get in the picture with your baby, but for now, here's one of my favorites from the early days. 

Self-portrait with baby | Northern Virginia Lifestyle Photographer

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A Fun Day with Mama | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

One of my favorite things about shooting family sessions is getting to connect with other parents, especially mothers. When I became a mom, I was pleasantly surprised to learn I'd unknowingly joined a special community of women that had always existed, but was invisible to me before I became a mother.  A community that brings an abundance of support, advice, and humor to one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs there is.  It was such a pleasure to get to know Sy and watch and learn from her with her two little ones, especially since I was due with my second soon after our session. :-)

In home documentary family session | Northern Virginia Photographer

There was also the added bonus that Sy is a small business owner herself, based in Northern Virginia. Like many parents, she finds inspiration in her children and family and channels that into koko's nest, which features beautiful blankets and accessories for nesting families. (You'll find one of her adorable blankets featured in my Instagram feed from time to time. :-) 

Old Town Alexandria Playground | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I hope you enjoy these photos from our session.  We spent a fun morning in home (with muffins!) and a trip to a neighborhood park in Old Town Alexandria. I have a special love for photographing moms with their children. So often, we're behind the camera making sure family adventures get documented and we often miss out on being in the picture.  It's so special to be able to provide moms with sweet moments like these that demonstrate their love and dedication and how important they are to their family.

Check out more from Sy and koko's nest on Facebook and Instagram.

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Print Your Photos - Gallery Wall | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I've had grand visions for several years of beautiful gallery walls of pictures throughout my house. Pinterest-worthy galleries with various vintagey frames found in random mom-and-pop stores. Frames that, when asked, I could say, "Oh that one? I found it at the cutest little thrift store for $5." In my grandest of visions, these thrift store finds were made in some quaint beach town while on vacation...

In reality? I'm lazy. Gallery walls take time and lots of effort to look effortlessly put together. And while I adore beach vacations, vintage frame shopping with little ones is not something I've mastered. Heck, I'm still working on getting grocery shopping down. So when I came across gallery walls in-a-box, I thought, "Woohoo! A lazy lady's answer to home decor!"

While not quite effortless, for the price and time spent, these gallery in a box sets are perfect for our family. Here's how I put together our latest wall. Nevermind that it took me a year to get these pictures printed...

I'll note that I took each of these behind-the-scenes pictures on a different day, so this was not a done-in-one-afternoon job.  The gallery wall kit takes some of the guess-work out of how to place frames, but it's not foolproof.  I always end up cutting up the suggested templates to make my own to better fit the pictures I choose to print.  And in the ones I've purchased, the hardware for hanging the frame doesn't allow you to adjust them for leveling once you've placed the screw/nail (although they thankfully seem to have changed this in their latest frame sets).

So, it's still not as easy as I'd wish it to be, but it's easy enough that I'll actually get it done.  And I love walking by these pictures in my hallway every day.  

I still have two sets left to hang before maternity leave is up.  I remain optimistic, but I count getting this one up as a big win. :-)  How do you display your prints?  Any framing tips?

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