Let me tell you a story…


On Christmas morning I woke up groggy after a weekend spent in bed coughing & fighting a cold.  My teenagers slept.  My dog slept.  My husband slept.  My five-year-old danced around the Christmas tree singing, “Wake up, wake up, wake up!” I heard her thump down the stairs to go rouse her tall brother with more singing.  I heard the coffee pot trickle when the hubs got up.  The first thing I did was roll over & check my phone, as usual these last few weeks, on-call, waiting on a baby girl.  All it said was the time.  Which was what it said when I woke with a jolt at 2am & then another jolt at 5am also looking for a message.  Still no text.  It was 7:05am.  Not bad for Christmas Day!


We opened gifts.  My husband got me Chewbacca jumpsuit pajamas complete with a hoodie & I posed for a quick picture in it feeling like Ralphie in his pink bunny suit in A Christmas Story.  Very funny, babe, very funny.


While I was pouring my second cup I heard my phone’s train whistle. I glanced at it & the text preview said, “We’re having a Christmas baby…”  And because I am who I am, a big goofy smile split my face.  I changed out of my Chewbacca pajamas immediately.


More than anything, I think Olivia wanted her baby for Christmas & she was going to get her wish!  By the time she got into her room at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, NJ it was barely after 11am, her water had broken & contractions were intermittent.  She was all smiles when I got there, camera ready.  Bliss.  Zen.  Christmas Joy.  Relief.  It was finally going to be a birth day.


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Her bump got one last quick ultrasound to check amniotic fluids & estimate her birthweight & Olivia grinned the whole time. “Is that her leg?!” There she is, there she is… 


Contractions hadn’t gotten consistent yet so she opted to get out of bed.  I got a few shots of them hauling a 15 minute mall-walk around the L&D floor, getting 4 or 5 loops in before heading back to her room, but mostly I gave them some space.  It could be a long day & I felt they could use some time alone.

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Settled back into bed, drip in place to encourage labor, even uterine squeezes & hand holding made her smile yet.  She says she was smiling because he mentioned food.  When you’re on ice chips & sips of water, truly the way to a girl’s heart: is food.


NicoleDolan.com Photo_0530 Of course, that hand holding got pretty intense, pretty fast.  When the body is ready, its ready.  She jumped in cm leaps & soon there was no time for an epidural; the resident was called, the doctor was called, the room ballooned with anticipation & her birth team.

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I tucked myself into a chair not far from a window streaming cool winter sunlight.  No matter how many mamas invite me in to document this pivotal time in their lives I’m in awe & respectful to keep my distance.  Olivia later said this was her most painful birth & I can say it hurt my heart to hear her voice wavering, doubting herself, as she got ready to bring her daughter into the world.  She dug deep to keep going.


Her baby was born; this little body pink as a rose, her arms flung open wide, every emotion caught on her mama’s face.  Merry Christmas to all!

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The atmosphere in the room lightened with baby Amira snug her mama’s arms.  All inspections & deliberations ensued – how long are her fingernails, exclamations over her hair, time stamps (2:06pm!), bracelets snapped in place & comparisons made to her big brother.  It wasn’t long til Olivia was smiling again. Bliss.Zen.Christmas joy.  Happy birthday, Christmas baby.


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After little baby button had her belly full & nursed like a champ, her Dad took her up into his arms.  He lifted her so gingerly but with old-pro confidence.  They had a quiet moment together. Her first super hero.  I was honored to get a few shots of it.


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It was amazing how the room cleared out.  One attentive, working-on-Christmas-Day, dedicated nurse & me still there.  Olivia looked worn out & uncomfortable.  I could feel her thoughts of food in a telepathic sense.  Her nurse took care of the new baby & then for Olivia, solo.  Baby girl was weighed, measured from end to end, & gently bathed under the warming lights due to a nice healthy, gooey, meconium-fill in her diaper (she’s just full of gifts!).  She even got her first comb-over.  All pink & cleaned & slightly dazed I took photos while Olivia got some attention.  Amira has alert, calm eyes & a sweet puckered little mouth.  She was toasty & relaxed, sighing & flexing her toes a lot, completely content.  A rosy little miracle.


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It was full dark out the windows as Olivia walked the quiet hall down to her recovery room, a nurse pushing the bassinet & me trailing behind her. In her room, Amira was in classic burrito shape & sound asleep after a busy day of being a gift.  Olivia ordered dinner & tried to hide the urgency in her eyes when the hospital aide left to get her food.  I wonder if in our collective caveman paleo days women were just handed whole sides of meat not long after giving birth, that’s how real the hunger is.  I hunted for some goodies I tossed in my camera bag before I left that morning & handed a small package to Olivia.  Around a mouthful of oatmeal crackers, she says, heart full, “Nothing could ever top this Christmas.  Best Christmas ever.”


Big brother & the newly minted big sister arrived right after Olivia’s dinner was served.  They were stunned.  They stood in shock, sometimes stretching out a hand to touch her but mostly in adorable shock.  One time they leaned in & crowded her face (get used to that, baby girl) & then sat back & looked at each other in astonishment.  The best was his young voice, full of questions only his mom & dad could answer, in full stream of conscious, no breaths in between: This is my baby sister? She’s going to come home with us? She can play with us? She has to get bigger? She was in your tummy? And now she’s not anymore? This is my baby sister?


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Thank you so much to Olivia & Kyle for inviting me in to such a tender time in your life.  I hope all of your photos become memories you’re glad to have shared together as you celebrate your daughter each Christmas!



                                                 Happy to be so,


Nicole Dolan Photographer

2017 Mini Sessions


Includes 30 minute session, at least 5 edited images, your own private web link for your photos & a full print release.

The Fir Farm in Colts Neck, NJ


Featuring the rusty handsome fellow pictured above, some buffalo plaid blankets & you!

Sat 11/11 & Sun 11/12

*some time slots already filled*

*openings available*

Email me at nsdolan@yahoo.com

or call/text me at 732.859.6183

Not MY backyard actually – their backyard!  But I’ve been thinking about this concept for a while now & this session was like the last piece of the puzzle.  I will make an announcement about these special sessions soon!


I was invited to come photograph the whole awesome family as a Mother’s Day gift.  Elyse is a treasured friend that I’ve kept in touch with in spite of moving hours & hours away & big job changes for both of us, so when she contacted me for this shoot the 1st thing I responded was something like: “You mean see you in person & give you a big hug????  Hell yes!”  And when it came down to choosing a location near Lacey, NJ they chose their Mom’s backyard.  Kinda perfect.


A mix of lifestyle photography & posing is what I usually bring to my sessions but even with direction from me the vibe at this backyard session is casual & relaxed in these images.

Nicole Dolan Photo_0079I think his girls are the apple of his eye…

Nicole Dolan Photo_0072And I think her girls are tender on mom …
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Sisters, aunties, & a joyful young mom.  I love her expression at her littlest (especially because that little one crinkles her nose with big smiles too!)
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Sometimes when the camera is focused on you it helps to just laugh & hold hands… & laugh!Nicole Dolan Photo_0074

Not only do babies grow up fast but once they learn to walk they run too! Slow down, love.Nicole Dolan Photo_0067


This was Take Two of just the the two of them.  Which was happily interrupted by ….

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… their favorite grandkids.  Nicole Dolan Photo_0083


Crinkly noses make room for the biggest smiles. :)

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This big sister was awesome during pictures as long as she was near her loved ones.  But when I asked if I could take some of just her she shook her head No.  Then when we were pretty much all done I got a gentle tap on my shoulder & her aunt told me she was ready for “her turn.” I gained her trust & was rewarded with this sweet expression:Nicole Dolan Photo_0068

Thank you to the Baumer family for inviting me with such open arms.  Big hugs all around!


Happy to be so,



Bonus: Take One.  When your whole beautiful family is gathered for pictures just for you, your emotions can run high.  Happy tears flooded in when she looked into her man’s eyes.

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I have a soft spot for sisters.

Ever since my own daughter became a big sister I’ve been sensitive to the tenderness between oldest & littlest, especially with an age gap wide enough to stall squabbles. (For now, true true. haha)  I’m the baby in my own family, lucky to have big sisters I can lean on, so I get it.  I think for a long time I did not, but I do now.  And in these two, I see it.


This big sister is the calm in the storm.  Her baby sister may be the storm itself but look who’s got her back.  Together they look quite unstoppable.
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Yes, and insanely beautiful, too.
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ANOTHER soft spot: Mom in the picture.  

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Could also be phrased: Mom who glows in the picture.
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We met up for this shoot before dinner on Father’s Day in between family get-togethers.  I think it capped off a pretty good day for this Dad of two girls.  I hope every kid remembers being carried by their dad like this…

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At first, she hid from me.  Through some family photos & while I took pictures of her cool-as-a-cucumber sister, she gently avoided me.  And then while I pointed the lens at her parents she twirled & ran around in the sea breeze, non stop.  At 3 & 1/2, I expect nothing less & loved watching her.  I happened to be on my knees in the sand when she plopped herself down in front of me in the warmest light & gave me 4 seconds to take her picture, no more hiding. Nicole Dolan Photo_0159


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Big thanks to this family for laughing at & with me during our time together.  This was a really fun shoot, thank you for enjoying the moment with me!



Happy to be so,




How do you handle big changes?


I’ve had some doozies in the last 5 or so years.  My quick answer would be to say I roll with it, because I do.  Any other option is just torturing yourself, right?  Resist all you like with mule braying & pouting, or better yet with minute planning & exacting details (laugh & laugh & laugh), but things change anyway.

When I roll, I put myself to work.  If I’m not careful I’m a bit of a hurricane, but usually its a storm of intentions all put in motion to get it all done.   A big out-of-state move? Donate, sort, pack, clean, pull up roots, set down new ones.  Job loss, career change?  Learn a whole shiny new thing with all my heart, all of it; like hosting my own website, like WordPress, like blogging.  How about big plans that fall apart?  Or the bittersweet, like selling a house you loved?  And joyful big changes like taking a cool vacation or crushing 26.2 miles in a marathon you trained for months for or even birthdays where your little ones are less & less so little or, gasp, a new baby?  Its exhausting, mostly good, work & I dive head long into it.

And then, for me, the storm settles & I find there is still so much to adjust to, so much so that I can be left overwhelmed.  I may find a minute alone & weep because sometimes I’m a big baby, though I’m always a sap.  Its permission to myself to go ahead & grieve the change, even the sweetest ones.  Then take that deep breath, dry my eyes & survey the landscape of this newest new beginning.  I have a long beautiful history with journaling that lets me spill my guts & when I’ve emptied my heart there I turn to my camera to regroup.  Thank God for the camera.  When I am the most abuzz, sometimes my hands even shaking with it, I quietly pick up my tool & let it help me focus.  I suppose its meditative.  Zeroes things down for me by 20 notches.  Quiets me.  Instead of feeling crowded out by own thoughts I think about light & exposure, about this moment, about right now.

We made another big move within the very big state of Pennsylvania last Fall.  When it was all said & done we flattened & stacked all the cardboard boxes, hoisted them up into the attic & started figuring out how to live in this new house we’re calling home, for now.  My husband landed his dream job & it plopped us square in the middle of Bucks County.  We’re in the exploratory phase where everyday we’re basically tourists.  All the woodsy parks & covered bridges, the wide fields of farmland & grazing horses, & all the places to shop & eat alongside old stone mills turned into restaurants are new to us.  We “found” this garden center in Furlong that hosts pumpkin picking & whatnot thanks to meeting our neighbor.  And since my wee littlest baby girl turned a big fat whopping TWO years old in the midst of our moving madness this was the closest she got to birthday pictures.  I admit, even just on the drive up York Rd to get there I was humming with what still needed to get done.  But then we parked in a grassy field & spied this milk truck left to retire & I half hid behind behind my camera… focus.


Oh hello, happy and oh-so 2 years old.  Tah-dah!

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See.  Straight up tourists.  Pony rides and everything.  Even my big girl.Nicole Dolan Photo_0012Her little hands, as if she’s an old pro at this.Nicole Dolan Photo_0011

My son, going on 6 feet tall here, was hard to keep up with.Nicole Dolan Photo_0015Who knew the colors in the jump tent are just as playful?  Nicole Dolan Photo_0014Nicole Dolan Photo_0013Dirt on her nose & something that is NOT food in her mouth.  Typical Two.Nicole Dolan Photo_0016We later used a series of these pictures that afternoon to help my husband find his glasses in the pumpkin patch.  He had them tucked into the throat of his shirt, but not in these shots.  Narrowed down the search & he found them!
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I am so grateful Norah has such loving older siblings.  Nicole Dolan Photo_0018Nicole Dolan Photo_0020


We got back to our new home after a long day of sightseeing & all the noise from the big new change in our life was still there, still needed tackling.  A lot quieter though.  And this new-to-me place is terribly photogenic.  I could get used to this.


Happy to be so,





Time flies.

I feel pretty lucky every time I schedule a family session.

Its so obvious & fun to get pictures of the children, capturing how they are growing up, the gummy smiles, their big exaggerated tears, all the overall sentimental cuteness.  Its easy to forget as parents to get in the picture because we’re all, um… grown up.

But really, what a blur life can be with three small kids under your belt.  Twins boys!  And a baby brother! And yet I had the privilege to capture this moment in their lives.




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Because it all starts with Mom&Dad…

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Familiar faces? I been taking pictures of these two since they were tiny newborn babes.

Look how big the “little dudes” are…

Nicole Dolan PhotographerNicole Dolan PhotographerNicole Dolan PhotographerBright eyed & red headed.  Good lawd.  Pretty sure mom can’t run a single errand without the ladies stopping her to ooooh & ahhhh over her baby.

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I can’t stop smiling as I finish adding photos to this post.  This is them.  All full of playfulness & hugs.  The days are fast & crazy when everyone is so little, I’m so glad to slow things down just a heartbeat.

Thank you again, John & Renee, for gathering up your boys like this & letting me capture your togetherness.



                                                        Happy to be so,


My family is getting ready to move!

The husband landed his dream job & we will be relocating to the Trenton/Philly area.  We just signed a lease on a cute house with a big back yard & finally have a move-in date. -Whew-

But I will still be here in the Williamsport area til early August 2015.

Til then all portrait SESSION FEES are $75

That’s more than half off :)

I hope we can squeeze in some time together

Let me know!







Stuff like using flash or not, informing your doctor or midwife about me, when to call or text me to come over, when you’ll get your images or album, whether I’m allowed to use YOUR images online will all be discussed long before your highly anticipated labor finally begins.

But what do I do while you’re in the baby-birthing zone?


Well.  It’s not about me.  Its about you.


As you wish, I will:

blend into the walls …

(make you laugh when the automatic hand sanitizer on the wall dispenses alcoholic foam on my shoulder AGAIN …)

leave the room …

sit & talk & hold your hand if you like while your support takes a quick break …

stay out of your birth professionals way …

be completely silent so you never know I’m even there …

whisper as necessary …

go into the OR if I’m allowed or lend an OR nurse my back-up camera, if need be …

use my sensitive momma-radar to sense when you might be at a low point & not take photographs …

zoom in on details like beautiful hands held strong together in labor, tiny toes stretching, arms full…

take photos of the moment you SEE that face & your world becomes that much bigger (& that much smaller <3) …

take photos you’ll probably want to show your father-in-law & not worry about any bashfulness…

always ask permission of anyone present – staff, birth professionals, family – before I include them in any photos…



I don’t:

take medical photos of baby crowning…



Beautifully simple.

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Nicole Dolan Photographer


                              Happy to be so,




P.S Check out packages HERE http://nicoledolan.com/birth-story-packages/






It felt warm & sunny.  

On this in between-seasons kind of day, we headed for a park with a graceful weeping willow, a wet creek for rock throwing & left our jackets at home.

Later, we gave the family baby a pumpkin to hold just to remind us, yes, yes it is Fall.
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There’s a secret going on in this shot that’s really REALLY funny.  (And all my fault.)  But I won’t tell.
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She is so warm & observant.  I love that you can see it here.

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This child is sassy & quick on her feet.  Even sitting still you can feel her exhuberance.Nicole Dolan Photographer

This little boy thought he was NOT going to let me get a shot all full of his big eyes & natural curiosity ….Nicole Dolan PhotographerNicole Dolan Photographer


But I did.Nicole Dolan PhotographerNicole Dolan PhotographerNicole Dolan Photographer

And this one is my favorite.  All heart, no holding back, pure delight.Nicole Dolan PhotographerNicole Dolan Photographer


Thank YOU, Bowman family.  I love how you encourage your kids to be themselves & live whole-heartedly.


Happy to be so,




When I opened the box (to sign the back, of course) I let out a long, appreciative exhale.  Beautiful.  Check out http://www.woodsnap.com/  for more inspiration.
Nicole Dolan Photographer