March 2014

What I use and a few recommendations…

Your camera takes really nice pictures! What kind do you have???

I get asked this question ALL the time… To be completely honest, I take it as a huge compliment! My images are good enough that they want to figure out what I am  using so they can try to get the same result.  Here’s the problem. A camera is just a tool, kind of like a paint brush. If you don’t know how to use it you won’t like the results. The automatic setting on cameras is kind of like doing a paint by numbers painting. It turned out OK but in the end, many times it just won’t do your memories justice.

With that said, I am going to share what gear I have used and what I LOVE :-)


Where should I buy camera equipment?

I personally love the idea of buying used equipment!  I am also very cautious of it, epically since I use it professionally for my business…  There are 2 main outlets for buying used equipment, Ebay and Craig’s List.  The reason I am SO cautious is because I am constantly seeing cameras listed with “camera body, 1 lens, 1 battery”.  What is missing???  The charger, the box, the manual and any other accessories that normally come with a camera!  What this tells me is that the camera was probably stolen and they are trying to make some fast cash.  Be VERY careful if you are looking at buying used equipment!!!

On the other hand, my first camera was a used one that I bought from a friend who upgraded.  If you don’t have money for a new one ABSOLUTELY consider buying used :-)

One of the best places to buy new and used camera equipment (and I have had a hard time finding somewhere whose prices are less expensive) is Adorama.  I have purchased a number of things through them and their products and service have been top notch!  They also offer refurbished units that come with a warranty as well.


What camera should I buy?

I started with a Nikon D40.  I upgraded to a Nikon D5100 and now I shoot with a Nikon 7100!  Are there “better” cameras out there?  Yup!  Do you need the most expensive camera to take great photos?  No!  Ken Rockwell explains it much better than I do so HERE is the link :-)

With that said, I shoot with Nikon equipment.  Not because it is “better” than Cannon but because that is what I started with and Cannon hasn’t come out with anything that has compelled me to switch.  Something I found out early on is that your camera body with need updating but your lenses are forever…  Once I started investing in better lenses I realized that I will probably just stay with Nikon because the lenses are not compatible with Cannon equipment and I LOVE my lenses!!!


My recommendations…

If you are a beginner and have NO money look for a used Nikon D40.  It is a great camera and it was perfect for learning on!DSC_0116  This is one of my favorite images and it was taken with my D40 :-)

If you have a little more to spend and are still looking at an entry level camera, in my opinion there isn’t much out there that is a better deal with better quality better features than the Nikon 3100/3200, or the Nikon 5100/5200.  The 3200 and the 5200 only have more megapixels than their earlier versions and are more expensive.  Unless you are planning on printing poster sized prints you don’t need the extra megapixels.  All it will do is fill up your hard drive faster with the bigger files…  With that said, these are awesome cameras and if used correctly take beautiful images!

If you have some money burning a hole in your pocket I HIGHLY recommend the Nikon 7100!  However, it is more “complicated” and I would not recommend it unless you are already familiar with shooting in manual.  This camera is a “semi-pro” camera and has a lot of the pro features but still has a crop sensor.

If you are SERIOUS about photography and are looking for a Pro camera I am guessing you aren’t reading this post ;-)  BUT just in case you are, or just curious THIS is a great article highlighting the higher end professional cameras!


What lens should I buy?

To answer this question you need to know what type of photos you want to take.  I shoot almost exclusively with prime lenses (that means they have a fixed focal length and will not “zoom”).  One of the best things I read somewhere when I was getting started was “MOVE YOUR FEET”.  That piece of advice and my “nifty 50” changed my images and were the pieces I needed to fall in love with the art of photography :-)


The kit lenses that come with the camera body are OK, but for me, having a lens that has a low aperture is VITAL!  The main reason I bought my first camera was to take pictures of my kids.  A lot of the things I wanted to take photos of were indoors with low or poor lig

hting.  A low aperture allows me to let TONS of light in so I can still get the shot!  This photo was taken in REALLY low light and you would never even know it!

The other piece that you need to look at when choosing your lens is the focal length (mm).  A 50mm is going to be close to what you see with your naked eye beyond that, the lower the number the more you will see through the view finder, the higher the number, the more zoomed in you will be.

My favorite lenses are my “nifty 50” (50mm 1.4) and my 35mm 1.8  These two lenses rarely leave my camera body and NEVER leave my camera bag!  On my wish list is the 28-70 zoom with a fixed 2.8 but for right now, I love what I have and I will just continue to “move my feet” ;-)


What is the best camera bag?

That TOTALY depends on how you will be using in and where you will be taking it, and how much gear you have, and…  You get the idea.  When I went looking for a camera bag I had a pretty specific idea in mind and Case Logic SLRC-205 SLR Camera Sling hit it out of the park

for me.  I decided to go with the sling style (because I deal with kids a lot the last thing I need was a camera bag falling off my shoulder) and I needed it to stay out of the way when I didn’t need to be getting in to it.  There are LOTS of other styles of bags but in my opinion, if it isn’t broken it doesn’t need fixin…


What software do I use?

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop :-)


What are some good ways to start learning how to shoot in manual?TS3

I took a college class back in the “film” days and learned the basics.  I spent the next 10 years dabbling in it but about 2 years ago I spent just about every free moment I had for 3 months reading and obsessing over becoming “good” at it!  I had a good foundation already but until you just play and pursue it it won’t “click” for most people…  The second thing that immensely helped was TIME.  It takes time, that is the bottom line…  The third is to take a workshop :-)  From my own personal experience, Tammy Smith Photography Workshops are pretty awesome!  (she is offering them all over the USA this year)  The morning sessions are for beginners, the afternoon session is for pursuing the business side of photography and the evening session is about how She uses Lightroom in her editing.  If you are interested in attending one of her workshops I highly recommend it!  It is worth every penny!!! (Image provided by Lauren Benson with GraceLight Photography)


What I don’t use and why…

A tripod – I have one but it just isn’t my “style”…  I rarely use it and it is really hard to “move your feet” if the camera is attached to something big like that. (although, I did bust it out for this photo because if I don’t then I never end up getting pictures WITH my kids!)_DSC0046

A white balance cards or filters – Any tweaks I need to make I do in post processing.  I have a nice camera that gets it pretty close but due to the changing environment that comes with shooting outdoors it just isn’t worth the extra time IMO ;-)

A flash – This is one that is actually on my “someday” list, but honestly I am just in LOVE with natural light!


I am sure I will add to this post over time but for now, this is pretty much what I think and what I use when it comes to camera gear :-)   I hope this is helpful!  If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will come back and try to answer them!

Happy Shooting ;-)


Nathan Turns 8! – Creekwood Park Madison Alabama

I have been working with Nathan’s mom for a bit now and after they had their annual family pictures (it was a gorgeous session on Madison Nature Trail) she decided she wanted to do something special around each of her kids birthdays.  She wanted to do a mini session that was all about them, in an environment that would showcase their uniqueness and individuality.  We did her oldest daughters session at the Huntsville Library and it was awesome to watch her come alive with a book in one hand and her American Girl doll in the other!  Last week it was Nathans turn…  This is truly the perfect environment for his personality to shine through!  We met at Creekwood Park in Madison AL and I simply loved how comfortable he was the whole time.  It’s amazing how when a child is having fun you don’t ever have to tell them to smile :-)  I can’t wait for it to be time for her youngest to get her own mini session!  We have some really fun things planned!!!

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Freckles, Garbage Disposals and a Lot of Crying…

The Perception: I get “super mom” comments ALL the time.  Well meaning women who praise me for all the things I do.  Don’t get me wrong, I am BUSY!  I have been blessed with the ability to be a stay at home mom and I have 3 awesome kids that keep me on my toes (especially the middle one! Yikes!!!) and have a lot of balls in the air ALL THE TIME!  The thing is, my strengths lie in some pretty easy to see areas.  I was browsing Facebook a while back and stumbled across this quote “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steve Furtick

The Problem:  I decided a while back that I was going to be intentional about focusing on the sweet and beautiful moments that make me fall in love with being a mom over and over again.  As that “intentionality” has played out on Facebook over the past few years, I started to realize that what I portray online isn’t painting an accurate or “real” picture of my life…

The Plan:  Project Choose Your Moment is to write about the “behind the scenes” footage.  I am not in the habit of posting pictures of my house when it looks like a bomb went off, or videos of my children on their “challenging” days…  I love my kids but some days they make me CRAZY but being a mom isn’t ALL about about the crazy, it is also about the sweetness, the relationships, the quiet moments, the beauty…  The moments that I want to remember for always. It is time to pull the curtain of Facebook away though and talk about what life really looks like…


Freckles, Garbage Disposals and a Lot of Crying…

Here’s the thing, life is messy and imperfect and crazy and busy and monotonous, and exhausting and… Well, let’s just say my house doesn’t look like a magazine. With 3 kids under 5 and a 4th on the way there is rarely a dull moment around here… On top of that, we homeschool, try to eat “clean” as much as possible and I have my own photography business. Sometimes I find myself thinking “What was I thinking taking all of this on!!!” But the bottom line is that It is worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing…

With that said, yesterday was a doozie. It started out calm and beautifully average. It was Saturday, my husband made oatmeal for breakfast, I got to take an uninterrupted shower while Michael took all of the kids outside to work in the backyard. After I was done I walked outside to see what was going on and was struck by how gorgeous it was outside and then while talking to my daughter realized her freckles have gotten darker. I ran in to the house, grabbed my “nice” camera and started clicking away.

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I am so very pleased with how they turned out. (Full blog post link HERE) Why I don’t do it more often with my kids? I don’t know… (although it is hard for me to think creatively when I am in “trying to get caught up” mode) and I am NEVER caught up!

My in laws showed up (I was going to take my MIL to the airport and my FIL was going to help my husband install my new garbage disposal!!!). Michael and my FIL started work in the kitchen. And I started to make lunch.

Then it was 1:00

Michael, my FIL and my oldest went to pick up something 1.5 hours away and my MIL, two youngest and I headed to the airport.

After we got home the relaxed tone had vanished. My youngest was out of sorts, my middle one was needy and it got old really fast. I tried TV, food, music, Motrin, and cuddling. Nothing was working…

It seemed like things were finally calming down when I heard glass breaking in the kitchen. In our rush to leave the house, and my focus on the kids since we got home the mess on the floor (everything from under the kitchen sink) had been overlooked. The glass container that I keep our dish washer detergent in (I had just made a brand new batch) was shattered on the floor and My youngest was standing in the middle of it. After “extracting” him and checking him over for glass and cuts he started crying again. And kept trying to come in the kitchen as I was trying to clean up the mess. I am ashamed to say I yelled at my 1.5 year old as I was attempting to keep him out of the kitchen which in turn made him cry even more. :-(

The next 3 hours didn’t get any better. More crying, more frustration, more clinginess. I was at my limit and when I checked in with Michael (because I thought they should be home soon) found that they were only just leaving from their errand. They had another 1.5-2 hours on the road before they would be home.

More crying (I still don’t know what was wrong with Noah) and when I got the text from Michael saying they were going to swing by Lowes to get a part they needed to finish the garbage disposal installation I started to cry.

It is embarrassing to me to even admit it. I am not a crier… Pregnancy makes my threshold lower but I don’t even like crying in front of my husband. For me, crying is a very “unattractive” emotion. For some crying is a way of “cleansing”. Not for me, after I cry, even for just a minute I feel drained and tired. I get all splotchy and normally end up with a raging sinus headache for the following 24 hours as well.

Then I started “pep talking” myself. “What are you so upset about! Why can’t you keep it together? Are you going to let a 1 yr and 3 yr old kick your but?” And all I could come up with was “Everything, I’m tired and Yes…”

Once the guys got back we ate dinner, I couldn’t pull it together enough to act like nothing was wrong and I am certain my FIL knew about my little break down. Another jar was dropped and glass was everywhere in the kitchen for the second time that day. I decided bed was the best place to be so while the guys cleaned up the mess and finished installing the garbage disposal I started on baths and brushing teeth. While I was getting the 2 oldest in bed Noah pulled a bowl of rice and fish off of the table and I walked out to find him eating it (his teeth were already brushed).


I chased him off and was cleaning that up when I realized I didn’t know where he was. I found him in the bathroom playing with the toilet plunger. He had effectively negated the last 45 min of work I had done (bath and teeth brushing) in less than 5 minutes!!! All I could come up with was a big fat sarcastic “FANTASTIC”!  I took a couple deep breaths, wet wiped him down, decided to forgo brushing his teeth again and headed to bed. (9:00 pm)

I think my FIL left around 9:30 and my husband unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned up the tools in the kitchen before he came to bed around 10:30 (which I don’t remember because I was sleeping)

I woke up this morning feeling tired still, with a headache and completely embarrassed.

It is going to take a lot for me to choose the morning moments and not dwell on the rest, but I guess it could have been worse right?

For now, it is good enough that the new day offers a new “tone” and a new set of moments to choose from…

I love my life but that doesn’t mean it is perfect or easy. It just means that the “mornings” make the “afternoons” worth it, and some days it is harder to “choose your moment” than others.

My Muse – Madison Alabama

I continually am blown away by this little peanut.  She has been sprouting some freckles over the past year and I absolutely LOVE them!!!  They never seem to show up in photos though so today while she was playing outside I saw them and wanted to see what I could do about actually getting them to show up in a photo.  I am incredibly biased but I think she is absolutely beautiful <3  It only took less than 5 minutes to get all of these.  It makes me wonder why I don’t force myself to take more “nice” photos of my kids…


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