Archive: ‘About Your Lens’

What’s In My Camera Bag?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Have you ever thought that there was something wrong with your big nice expensive SLR camera? Your husband bought it for you for Christmas because you begged him for it…but it doesn’t work! You think  your shots are great only to come home and put them on the computer and see that they are not that good at all! Do you love your camera or is it causing you stress and frustration?

I really enjoy my camera and it makes me happy…now.

I finally feel that I have gotten to a place that I can get my camera to do what I want it to do. But that hasn’t always been the case. I remember the days of frustration trying to figure out what was wrong with my camera because I couldn’t get what I wanted. I even took it to the store to ask the guy behind the counter what was wrong with it.  Have you ever done that?

  • My photos were blurry
  • The color was weird
  • They were too dark

My motivation for this site is to help you overcome that frustration and help you realize that chances are, your camera is fine!

I think the most important tip when buying a digital camera is to be sure you get a SLR, in short that means that you can change the lenses on it. Most pros will tell you that your lenses (or your ‘glass’ as they say) is more important than your camera body. Just like you need the right pan when you are baking a cake, you need the right lens when you want a specific photo. Put your money in your lenses. If you need a point and shoot for  your purse as your  backup camera that is fine, but I recommend investing in a digital SLR for your main camera.

What is in my bag?

I’m a Conon Girl.

Either Canon or Nikon are great choices for sure but I personally feel that the Canon functions are easier for me to intuitively follow…but that is what I am used to. If you are used to Nikon than stick with that brand.  My tip here is to find a ‘photo friend’ who has the same camera as you so you can share pointers and ideas and learn a lot faster together.


My camera body is a Canon 50D.  I started with a Canon Rebel and loved it too but wanted to get a higher ISO for my indoor low light gymnastics  shots so I had to move up.  The ISO (light sensitivity)  is a function of the camera body; the f-stop (blur) is a function of the lens.

Here is my Rebel which I passed down to my very talented  niece, it is a bit smaller than the 50D:


These are my favorite lenses:


far left:  50mm 1.4 (the 50mm 1.8 is a perfectly fine choice and is a little less at only $100) This is a fixed lens meaning that you have to zoom by physically moving further and closer to your subject. It doesn’t zoom but it has an awesome low f-stop (the no-zoom function makes it affordable).


taken with my 50mm

middle: 24-70mm  2.8 (this is my favorite everyday lens) This is not a fixed lens, I have some ability to zoom in and out but it also has a wonderful low f stop.


taken with my 24-70 but I could have used my 50mm fixed

far right: 70-200mm 2.8 This is for my daughter’s gymnastics and is ridiculously expensive…but worth every penny to me as this mom must hide behind this big lens to get good shots and make it through the meets! If you have a child in sports or dance or theatre this is the dream lens for you!


taken with my 70-200

Where to buy? I love buying my cameras from Costco when I can because their return policy is great if there is a problem. I recommend starting there. I use B & H Photo if Costco doesn’t have what I need. Photography is an expensive hobby but worth every penny as I can’t imagine not having a good camera to catch my kids’ priceless memories.

On a budget?  Consider getting a nice used camera body and one great lens.  If you want nice portraits of your kids get the 50mm 1.8 lens.   If you want a good everyday lens, the kit lenses are usually okay but they generally don’t have the lower f stops which make the beautiful blurry backgrounds and allow you to shoot in lower light. If I were going to buy a basic SLR today I would get the Canon Rebel xt2 from Costco or the xt3. It will allow you to do video along with great photos. If I were on a strict budget I would hunt the used camera stores (or ask a nice aunt for a hand-me-down!) for a Rebel body and get the 50mm 1.8 lens to add to it.   My niece shoots beautiful photography with her hand-me-down 6 year old Rebel (see her senior portrait photos on a recent post). It is not necessary to have the newest camera on the market.

Should you get a point and shoot? Purchasing a pocket point-and-shoot camera for a backup is a good idea but if you are going to get serious about your photography, don’t put too much money in a camera that you can’t change the lenses… keep it under $200.  Save your money and get what you really want – – a big girl camera! 

Final thoughts: 

Good photos come from your heart and the passion that you have for your subject.

Great equipment will not make for a great photographer anymore than a fabulous kitchen will make you a fabulous cook, but it will make your job a lot easier!

Don’t wait too long to buy a good camera and photograph the stories of your precious life.  Your kids are growing fast…really fast!


How To Shoot A Cowboy (Before He Shoots you!)

Friday, June 10th, 2011

The decision has been made. The 7th birthday this month will be about Cowboys. Not super heroes or space aliens this year but good ol’ vintage Western Cowboys. So here are a few vintage tips on how to shoot that cowboy (or cowgirl) of yours!


A few tips to begin.

  1. Look for great natural light (turn off that flash). No fancy equipment needed, watch for the catch lights in their eyes to make sure you have enough light on their faces.
  2. Try to get it right straight out of the camera, busy moms don’t have a lot of time for post editing. (None of these shots were touched up at all.)
  3. Tell the story and make it fun. Candid shots are generally my favorites but every camera mom needs to learn how to take good portrait shots of her kids.
  4. The Lens I mostly used my 1.4 50mm fixed lens for close up people shots. Fixed (or Prime) means that it does not zoom or move in and out, you have to physically get closer with your body.  Fixed lenses are much faster than zooms and allow you to shoot at half the ISO at the same shutter speed in low light, so the photos are much sharper. There are fewer moving parts making the glass more accurate. Look into getting this lens, it is inexpensive. A good prime lens is much better than an inexpensive zoom lens. It will instantly make you a better photographer allowing you to get a sharp focus with a wonderful blurry background even on your green box button and other auto settings.

The soft morning light or early evening light is best. These were taken between 8-9am and is the perfect time for kids because they are not tired and it is not too hot yet this time of  year.


These shots are not candid exactly but I did try to get natural looks and smiles (their ‘shooting’ was candid of course!)


Only you (not the pro) knows what those natural looks look like. That is why it is important for you to get the confidence (and the right lens) to do this yourself!

Make it fun and make them laugh…


Red bandanas are good for photos.


Ask for mean cowboy faces…


Watch for those sweet hands…


then ask for one….


then for another.


Props are good… (notice the great catch lights in his eyes? With hats on it is good to ask them to raise their chin a bit to keep the shadow from the hat off their eyes).


Or you can move the hat up a bit.


No need for eye contact all the time.


Keep shooting even when they are not paying attention to you….


Let them change positions often to keep it fresh.


Serious is good…



but serious is hard when you are almost 7…







Sepia is good color for Cowboys.


Finally, don’t take too long,  Cowboys are busy and on the go (with horses to round up and bad guys to get) …..


…so make your ‘photo time’ with them short and sweet!

Happy Trails!

Most shots were taken with the following settings:

ISO 100 F Stop 2.8 for single cowboy at least 4 for both. If you use a low f stop on more than one person chances are that one of the people will be out of focus. Shutter Speed 1/200 or higher (possible with the lower f stop).


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