Natalie Gibbs – Virginia Wedding Photographer » Modern documentary-style wedding and family photography for Roanoke, Charlottesville, Blacksburg, and the New River Valley

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An old classic: this is Sam with Claire, who is now three years old. They stopped for a little cuddling break during our family session, and Lexi (the dog) wanted in on the action. I think a lot of parents can relate to the feeling of having to suddenly split your love between your new baby and your older (furry) one. Except that love doesn’t split, does it? It just grows.

See the whole Moment Collection here.


Katie and Alex traveled all the way from Chicago to Roanoke, Virginia for their wedding. And what a wedding it was! When Katie first told me they were going to be marrying and partying outside, on a mountain ledge, in the evening, in November, I started mentally preparing a checklist: fleece-lined tights, wool socks, insulated coat, fingerless gloves… I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to the cold, and being outdoors in November is not always my cup of tea. But I’m OH so glad they planned their event this way. It turned out to be a beautiful, mild day, and the view from their Rockledge wedding was amazing, especially at night.

Special thanks to Lindsay Swain, who assisted me at this event.


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ReceptionWeb-128_blog.jpgIf you like this wedding and would like to see more like it, or if you’re planning your own event and are looking for a photographer, please sign up for my new wedding photography newsletter. It’s easy and spam-free. Just click here to subscribe.


While I’m all in favor of meeting families in pretty parks, my favorite portrait sessions are more documentarian in nature. A lot of people in the business call this type of photography “lifestyle” portrait photography, becuase it’s a blend of straight photojournalism and more posed portrait work, and it takes place in the client’s natural environment. In this case, I walked with Emmett and his family to a nearby playground and then hung out in their home one evening last fall. When the light looked good, I asked them to cuddle up and smile, and otherwise, they just played. It was relaxed and fun, and I think we got some images that really capture Emmett’s spirit at this stage in his life.

Emmett2014web-99_blog.jpgIf you’d like to see more sessions like this or perhaps even sign up for your own, be sure to subscribe to my new family photography newsletter. It’ll contain photo tips, parenting tidbits, and links to my favorite sessions, along with exclusive promotions and mini session information… and also, it’s free and pretty and definitely not spam. Click here to sign up!


I’ve been counting down the days until this post is ready to go.

Although my main focus right now is weddings, I also really love shooting family photography in a natural, photojournalistic way.

Every so often, my husband and I embark on photographing “a day in the life” with our family.  We did one when Caroline was 9 months old, and another when she was 16 months old, and then we had James and got exhausted.  With all the snow days last week, we had an idea: what if we do it again, but this time, let’s add video and music and, most importantly, some narration?

So, we spent the whole day taking photos.  When I heard Caroline creep out of her room, I leapt from my bed to get the opening shot of her little feet under the door.  We took a lot of breaks… you’ll notice there aren’t any photos of people eating, napping, playing in the snow, or fiddling with their phones… but we mostly shot the whole day long.  When James went down for his nap, we got out a microphone and interviewed Caroline.  Then I put the whole thing together.

And I love it.

Be sure to turn your speakers up, and listen ALL the way to the end.

If you’re looking for something different from the usual happy posed photos in a park, let’s talk about how you can reserve a documentary family photography booking for YOUR family.  I’m only going to offer about 10 of these per year in Virginia/DC/NC, and 2 are already taken for 2015, so if you’re interested, contact me soon!

And if you like this little movie, and want to know more about documentary family photography, sign up for my family newsletter here.

  • Astleigh H - This film is all kinds of precious! Love the way you compiled the day!!

  • Aunt Terryl - Even I got choked up at the end! This is WONDERFUL!

  • Katie - That was so amazing to watch! Well done. I can’t imagine how much work and creative thought went into that, but it definitely paid off.

  • Caroline Lima-Benusa - This is magical!!!!!!

lifestyle portrait toddler with a bike

My last “Mondays for Mamas” post was about Caroline’s favorite iPad apps, so I thought this time I’d go old school and show you some of our favorite books. (Also, the photo above is a sneak preview from Emmett’s documentary family session, which you’ll see posted later this week).

Ok, so onto books.

My husband is an English instructor at Virginia Tech, and I have a bachelor’s degree in English (along with music… neither of which are photography, which just goes to show that YOU NEVER KNOW what will happen after college). As educators and English fans, we are both big believers in the power of reading and books. Our bedtime routine for both Caroline and James includes about 20 minutes of book time, and we try to take them to the library frequently to switch up the repertoire. Of course, our favorites are not always theirs, but we have found a few winners to share with you (and their links for Amazon purchase).


James’ favorite books (age just-past 1):

Honk, Honk, Baa, Baa by Petr Horacek
This book is incredibly simple. It’s just a bunch of animals and what they say. It’s not even poetically written. But for some reason, James really, really loves it. Perhaps it’s because the pages are cut like lift-the-flap pages, which makes it easy for little fingers to turn them. Also, the art is very colorful. James gives this book one enthusiastic thumb up (and the other thumb in his mouth, because teething is the worst).

Moo by Matthew Van Fleet:
This is another animal book that James would like to read 100 times in a row. It’s got lift-the-flaps, pop-ups, pull tabs, and touch & feel material as well as a little poem about the animals and their families on each spread.

Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry:
More animal sounds, but this time there are talking vehicles as well. 100% James-approved, and I approve of all books written in tightly-metered rhyme like this one, because it helps develop rhythm.


Caroline’s favorites (age almost 4):

The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne:
My husband has been reading these to Caroline, and although they are chapter books and she’s only 3, she loves them. They tell the story of Jack and Annie, who visit new and exciting worlds through their magic spinning tree house (and the help of their books).  Caroline is really imaginative, and she really enjoys these stories despite there being only one picture per chapter.

Muddle and Match for Girls by Holly Brook Piper:
This book is a fun way to begin stories each night (my husband prefers regular reading, but I love our make believe story time). Each page is cut into thirds and shows a picture of a girl hero (a ballerina, a mermaid, a space traveler, a cowgirl, etc) and an alliterated sentence about her. You flip the pages to mix and match characters and descriptions. Caroline has requested the boy version for her birthday, and I just saw there is an animal one as well (adding to the wishlist!).

Boo and Baa Have Company by Olaf Landstrom:
This was a random library find that we all loved. Boo and Baa are two sheep, and while theyr’e busy raking leaves, a cat sneaks into their yard and gets stuck in a tree. It’s very simple, but incredibly cute. Like, OK, one sheep has to have five sandwiches while he’s stuck in a tree trying to get the cat. That’s my favorite part. It’s actually a series of books and it seems to be out of print, but there are used versions on Amazon.

The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak:

This book is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s a book with no pictures.  Instead, it is full of silly words and sentences that you, the parent, must read aloud.  Caroline finds it hilarious and so we do.


And they BOTH love:

Tip Top Cat by Roger Mader:
This is the story, told mostly through pictures, of a cat who likes to go on the roof. Spoiler alert: he falls down (but he gets back up again). They both requested it repeatedly the week we got it from the library.

Bailey by Harry Bliss:
My school library media specialist picked this out for Caroline to take home one day, and they both wanted to read it over and over and over and over again. It’s about a dog, Bailey, who gets up in the morning and goes to school. He does all the things the school kids do, but of course, he does dog things too. It’s cute and funny. Caroline loved the speech bubbles in the pictures (which we had to read aloud, every time, much to my dismay) and James liked the dog. They both love the school bus. We’ll probably be adding this to our home collection soon.

Baby Einstein, My First Words:
This is one of those books that we got as a gift and tried to hide from the kids. It’s bright, a bit garish, has a plasticky cover, and is totally not our style of artwork. There is no story, just collections of themed pictures (toys, food, animals, etc). And yet, both our kids have enjoyed it. James loves to point to pictures and hear the words. He even points to the sailboat and then signs “more” to get us to sing his favorite sailboat song. Caroline has reengaged with this book because she can “read” it to her brother.  I therefore buy it for pregnant people whenever I can, with the full knowledge that they’ll likely hide it on the back of a shelf but their kids will find it and love it.

The Pull-Back Busy Train Book by Fiona Watt: I am adding this because I had to defuse a big sibling argument today about who got to do this book and for how long.  It comes with a little plastic train that actually drives across grooved tracks on the pages as you read.  It’s innovative and really fun, and I think you need to buy it for anyone under the age of… I dunno… 39?  It’s a great gift book, anyway.

So, what books do your kids like?

Oh! And if you’d like to see more updates like this one, be sure to sign up for my new family photography newsletter. It’ll contain parenting tidbits like this, as well as links to family photo session posts, tips for getting great family pictures, and exclusive discounts and mini session information. Click here to subscribe!

  • Nessa - I love these posts! I get most of my book recommendations for my nephew from Love Taza’s blog (it’s really pretty cool if you haven’t seen it! –

    I never know what to buy for age groups, so I’m so thankful of the internet to show me what books kids might be into at different ages. :)

    I hope you’re having a good winter!