artist. You may have noticed that my business name is "Denise Van Photography", and not "Denise McMahon Photography". Why? Well, McMahon is my married name, established in Nov 2015. However I identified as a photographer long before I was married and I also wanted to carry a bit of my history and heritage into my passion as I am an American-born Chinese woman (she/her/hers) with Chinese parents who grew up in Vietnam (thus the "Van" last name).

I am authentic to the max, approachable, and fully transparent in both my life and in my images. Clients love working with me because of the effortlessly carefree and joyful way our sessions go. Children enjoy my sessions because I make sure fun and laughter are first and foremost in our time together. I love, love, love to incorporate my passion for photography itself and my whimsical creativity to tell your story, through colorful imagery that hums with life and shows connections. Because what is life without connections?

McMahon Photography". Why? Well, McMahon is my married name, established in Nov 2015. However I have identified as a photographer long before I was married and let's just say that "Denise Van" is easier to remember and easier to spell hehe. I also wanted to carry a bit of my history and heritage into my passion as I am an American-born Chinese woman (she/her/hers) with Chinese parents who grew up in Vietnam (thus the "Van" last name).

If you're looking for a history on how I got a camera (or a paintbrush) in my hands, you won't find it here. I'd love for you to ask me about this yourself. What I can tell you about me is that I am authentic to the max, approachable, and fully transparent in both my life and in my images. Clients love working with me because of the effortlessly carefree and joyful way our sessions flow. Children enjoy my sessions because I make sure fun and laughter are first and foremost in our time together. I love, love, love to incorporate my passion for photography itself and my whimsical creativity to tell your story, through colorful imagery that hums with life and shows connections. Because what is life without connections?

Your new favorite photographer!

Hey guys, I'm Denise

Maternity

y name is Denise McMahon and I am a Northern Virginia-based photographer AND artist. You may have noticed that my business name is "Denise Van Photography", and not "Denise

y name is Denise McMahon and I am a Northern Virginia-based photographer AND

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Have A peek into my life!

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Say hello to my favorite two humans, my son and my husband. These two are my heart and soul.
My husband is my ride or die and the biggest cheerleader I have on my dream team. From day one (we're talking circa 2011 here), he has always encouraged me to cultivate my creative side and knows how much I love photography and art. If I am out on a shoot, know that it's because he's on the flipside taking care of our home, with Wesley.
Wesley is just the most achingly sweet, yet crazy little tornado I could've ever birthed. He inspires me to be better, to have compassion, and to be myself. I am a better person and an even more in-tune photographer having been his mother for the past three years. He also makes me work on my patience daily but that's another story for another time :)

Family

If you'd told fifteen year old me I would be living my thirties as a stay-a-home-mom with a camera and a paintbrush in my hands, I would have laughed in disbelief. You want to know the truth? I didn't grow up thinking I was creative or artistic in any way. I never spent a lot of time sketching or painting. Instead I had my nose in books (still do, see next slide ha). I picked up my first paintbrush in 2017 and life hasn't been the same since. I can draw and I can paint!! And I really enjoy it. Give me watercolors, alcohol inks, marry that with sunset hues over mountaintops and beautiful sunny days on the beach and you have me in one of my happy places.

p.s. the floral art you see scattered throughout this website were all hand-drawn by me, using references I took of dahlias in my garden.

paints, inks, sketchbooks

Photo by Laura Metzler Photography

As I said in the previous slide, I am a bookworm, through and through. Give me a book before bed with Michael watching Netflix next to me and I'm super happy. I started with JRR Tolkien's LOTR and Tamora Pierce's Alanna series back in my middle school days and I have been hooked ever since. The YA fantasy genre will forever always be my favorite but throw in some sci-fi and some non-fiction to round me out. 

In particular, I LOVE Sarah J Maas, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, Pierce Brown, Laini Taylor, Tomi Adeyemi, George R R Martin...these are some of my favorite authors.

Books, books, books

Have I ever told you I make a mean shrimp etouffee? Or that I can make dumplings, scallion pancakes and pineapple buns (pictured here) from scratch (dim sum dishes)? And that it's Michael's fault I now have such a sweet tooth? I never ate sweets much when I was younger...but he always encouraged ordering dessert when he took me out on dates. *cough* so now I have a weakness for anything cream cheese frosted, browned butter chocolate chip cookies, macarons, and tiramisu. I want to try my hand at making my own ramen, charsiu, and pulled noodles one day.

cooking & baking & eating food

There is just something about flying that grabs my attention and speeds up my heart rate. The more I traveled in my twenties, the more I looked forward to the spontaneity and the unknown of exploring a new country. I'm, by no means a 'jetsetter', but I have been to Italy, Belize, Jamaica, Ireland, United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, the Bahamas, and Germany. Okay, also Guatemala for a day trip if that counts too. And one of my lifetime goals is to go to every single national park in the USA- preferably to shoot a client too!!

It kills me to say we haven't traveled much since 2019 (ty pandemic) but I would absolutely love to travel again and I feel the itch! It's one of the things I hope we are privileged enough to pass onto Wesley, a love for travel and going out of our comfort zones. 

Traveling

My Favorite Things

is committed to diversity & inclusion and giving back to the community.

Denise Van Photography

To know me is to know that I take deep pride in editing true-to-color for skin tones and ensuring that your beautiful skin is represented accurately. My son is biracial with a Chinese mother and a Caucasian father and I want him to grow up proud of his skin, his features, his personality, and his big heart. All of the things that make him uniquely him. I want the same for all of my clients.

To know me is to know I am a firm believer that ALL love deserves to be captured and treasured in your photographs for years to come. I have always told my clients to come as you are, be authentically you, and I mean it. There are many different kinds of families and couples and friendships and they are all so incredibly important. They define us. Love is love and it is all beautiful to me. I welcome you with open arms.

To know me is to know that, for the longest time I worked in the IT field, making good money and gaining a bit of apathy along the way because I could never figure out...to what purpose does this serve to be another cog in the machine? To do things that don't make me feel like I'm making a difference or enjoying it. Fast forward to creating this beautiful business with my own two hands and putting my hard-earned self-employed money towards local, national, and even international causes I believe in every month. A portion of my income will always go towards vetted 501(c)3 charities every month. To date, I have donated to broad-reaching organizations such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice, The Loveland Foundation, International Rescue Committee, The Trevor Project, World Central Kitchen, National Abortion Funds, and local charities such as Women Giving Back and Legacy Farms. Know that investing in my artwork ensures I can also continue giving back to our community.

I had the pleasure of working with Denise for a family photo shoot to celebrate my baby's 1st birthday, and I cannot recommend their services enough. From start to finish, Denise was professional, friendly, and accommodating, making the whole experience a joy.

During the shoot, Denise was able to capture some truly magical moments, and I was pleased with the quality of the photos. She managed to capture not just the beauty of my baby, but also the love and connection between our family. The final product was stunning, and I am so grateful to have these precious memories captured forever.

Family

Nicole & Brian

Over a year later and these are still photos I frequently look back on and use for time piece materials. Denise has a knack for finding beauty in really normal and every day happenings and these photos document through this lens. It makes me remember the newborn stage and that transition very fondly. She was great at using our space on the fly to complement our family, and at conveying what she sees into a great story and work of art. She put all of our family members at ease and it was easy to just act normal and have her snap photos while following us around the house. Denise is a professional with quick turn around time and great communication. Thank you Denise for documenting this time for us. We look forward to working with you again!

In-home Newborn

Steph & George

My family worked with Denise to capture our first family memories with our newborn daughter. She was flexible, kind, knowledgeable, and patient throughout the process. The pictures she takes are impeccable and really captured the joy and love at such a big milestone in our lives. I would recommend her without reservation to anyone that wants any photography work done going forward. She is truly a unique photographer who brings her passion and personality to her work :)

In-home Newborn

Baby J

We loved our maternity photo experience with Denise Van Photography! Neither of us had been involved in a photo shoot before, and Denise did a great job making us feel comfortable and natural. We had a great time on the day of the shoot, and were excited to have access to the finished album within a few days! Looking forward to framing several of our favorite pictures 🙂. Would definitely recommend Denise Van Photography!

Maternity session

Sarah & Chris

We had a fun time with Denise for our family portrait session. She was patient and kind with my 3 year old who didn’t nap beforehand. She gave us poses and instructions that felt natural to us. She captured awesome moments and the pictures came out beautifully! Highly recommend!

Family

Vania & Nate

Denise is fantastic! She’s communicative, professional, flexible, and so talented. We scrambled last minute to schedule a shoot before a storm wiped out the cherry blossoms, and I could not be more grateful that she was able and willing to make such an effort. We got priceless photos that’ll last a lifetime. We will certainly be using Denise for any and all future photography needs!

Family

Delaney & Evan

We did our first ever family photos with Denise last month, and were we in for a surprise! We felt very comfortable and welcomed during the entire session, and she did SO well with my two little ones. She captured the sweetest moments that really embraced the essence of each of us. We are so pleased with her beautiful work! Thank you, Denise! 

Family

Winnie & Coby

Denise has been photographing my family for years as we’ve changed and grown and I love getting to display her work! She connects so well with all of her clients, especially the kids, and my daughter loves looking at all of “Ms. Denise’s pictures.”

Our house is full of love and laughter and Denise has perfectly captured those memories in her photographs. These young years fly by too fast and I will forever be grateful to Denise for helping us freeze these little moments in time!

In-home Newborn

Nicole & Brian

I recently had the pleasure of working with Denise for a family photo shoot. From start to finish, the experience was fantastic. Denise was professional, personable, and made us all feel at ease in front of the camera.

I highly recommend Denise to anyone looking for a talented, reliable, and enjoyable photographer. Thank you for the wonderful experience, Denise!

Bump-to-newborn, Family

Heidi & James

Denise spent the day with us, well not the whole day because that would be ridiculous, but the time of our session capturing some of our favorite photos of ourselves ever. Communication between us was seamless and our meeting for planning the session definitely added to the value of the experience. At the shoot, she preached for us to act natural and do what felt right at the moment. What came out were pictures that we will share with family and friends for years. Neither of us considers ourselves very photogenic, but Denise worked some magic and figured out how to trick the camera into making us look even more in love than we are. I’d recommend Denise to anyone wanting a positive professional experience, open communication, and someone that truly cares about her craft. Thanks again Denise!

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Kelsey & Erik

Denise made our newborn photo shoot feel easy! We absolutely love how she captured our whole family (including our pup!) during a really special time. She has a great eye for how to make even a basic space on a cloudy day look special and beautiful.

In-home newborn

Becca & Paul

When we started planning our wedding and keeping it simple, I thought I had my bases covered with a checklist to make the day go as planned. Little did I know in this planning stage that one of the most important people for our wedding day would be our photographer! You took all of my general sketched out plans and helped us make beautiful memories with each other and our families. I cannot tell you how amazing it has been to work with you and spend our special day with you! I think I can safely say you made our day extremely special and you captured it perfectly! I know that my recommendation to friends and family getting married in the future is 1. have Denise as your photographer if you're in the area, or if you're not lucky enough to be nearby, 2. find a photographer you trust and enjoy. Denise, you have such talent in building trust, hyping the couple up, and capturing joy and love.

Elopement

Melissa & Connor

I recently had the pleasure of working with Denise for a family photo shoot. From start to finish, the experience was fantastic. Denise was professional, personable, and made us all feel at ease in front of the camera. 
One thing that really impressed me about Denise's work was her ability to capture great action shots. She was able to capture my son's energetic personality and the photos turned out beautifully. The end result of the photo shoot was stunning. Denise captured all of our personalities perfectly, and the memories that these photos represent will be treasured forever.
I highly recommend Denise to anyone looking for a talented, reliable, and enjoyable photographer. Thank you for the wonderful experience, Denise!

Family

Kelly & Shane

Amazing photography AND Denise is wonderful with kids. My son was initially a bit hesitant about the session, and she got him to open up while capturing the true heart of our family. We loved all of the photos and couldn't choose just 12 that came with the mini-session; it was easy to go ahead and buy the rest! Getting family presents this year was a snap with all of the great photos to choose from. Will definitely be using Denise Van Photography again!

Family

Erin & Nayden

Can you love your photographer as much as I love mine? Probably not.

I love her because 1. She makes me look amazing and 2. She has this way of capturing personalities in her photography. My son (pre-teen to the max) hates photos taken but she did absolutely amazing with him. She allowed him to be himself and was able to translate that into her photos. So much better than me saying, "smile right for the camera" and getting that "I don't wanna be here" child smile.

I appreciate her talents and knowledge and her fast turn around service. She made my whole month with those photos! Definitely recommend!

Motherhood

Corrie & A.

Denise does beautiful work and is a true artist! We love the tulip field photos that she took of our family. It was awful weather at the time of our session, but nonetheless she worked fast and made the best out of a difficult situation. Thank you so much, Denise! We are really looking forward to using your services for branding photos for our small business.

Family

Chrissy & Manny

I hired Denise to take pictures of our soups and broths at 100 Bowls of Soup, including a full catalog of our entire menu. The project involved taking over 100 photographs and ensuring consistency across all shots. She also took ingredient and mood shots which we are using to update our website, using creative staging and props to help us tell our story. The quality of the photographs are outstanding, capturing the unique qualities of each soup and the love that goes into them. Denise was a pleasure to work with from start to finish, detail oriented, responsive, proactive and professional. I cannot recommend Denise Van Photography more highly.

WEbsite Refresh

Katharine, 100 Bowls of Soup

I LOVED , LOVED , LOVED my branding shoot with Denise. Doing a business branding shoot involves a lot more than a portrait session. As a jewelry designer, I also needed process shots, head shots, in studio shots, etc. There were a lot of pre-shoot preparation and communication in order to have a successful and productive shoot. Denise is very detail orientated and understood what I wanted and how I wanted these photos to represent my brand. We both were well prepared the day of the shoot. I got images I love and can be used in various media outlets. Denise went above and beyond my expectations. It was the best investment I made last year. If you are considering a branding shoot, definitely check out and talk with Denise.

Brand session

Irene, Black Sand Designs

Denise is one of the most talented and creative people I know. She is meticulous but also knows how to let things flow on a session, and that’s how she captures the magic. She and I have worked together on branding photos and she made the experience so easy and comfortable. When I saw the end result, I was floored that she captured me perfectly, but with a glow!

Brand session

Crystal, Temple Honey Healing

Denise was the perfect professional. She directed us all with ease, helped our team of very shy guys feel more at home for their photos, and even got adorable shots of our family with our company truck - these are some of my favorite. She is an incredible artist with an outstanding eye, and she brought my vision for our business to life. Her photos are now on display for all of our clients and supporters to see, and we couldn't be prouder of their professional quality - they are much better than the photos of some of our closest competitors, and truly capture the essence of our business - approachable, friendly and family-oriented, while still providing top quality and service. If you are considering hiring Denise for your branding photos, you will not regret it. The investment is 1000% worth it for the reputation of your business.

Brand session/WEbsite Refresh

Chrissy, Handy Manny's Painting

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I want you to remember these moments

Life is fleeting as it is, especially in this time and age. Time spent with your loved ones as they grow is equally fleeting and precious. Document it. Live these little moments now and then...come back to them years later in your photographs.

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because they are your ‘why’.