I want to learn

Dark kitchens and crappy light…


It has been WAY TOO LONG since my last personal post.  I am sure the 5 kids, homeschooling, busy season, the holidays, an autoimmune diagnosis and a teething baby have something to do with it… lol

It is what it is, and I will try and do better. (but no promises) ;-)

So I joined a “Project 52” this year.  There aren’t any weekly themes and the only rules are that you submit 2 images each week that were taken that same week of your own personal life.  I decided to join as a way to stay accountable.  My own family’s photos sadly, fell through the cracks this past year.  We had our last baby this past year (who is now ALREADY 7 months old!) and we will be moving out of our home and in to a rental soon, to get ready to build on our 17 acres of land.  So many changes and adventures are coming our way, and I desperately want to document it.  This is our story, with our completed family, and the first step towards so many of our dreams will be happening this year.

The last time I participated in a 52 week project, I lasted until week 22 and then fizzled miserably.  Since then I have thought “if I’m not going to finish, whats the point?”, until I was going through personal photos a couple months ago…  You know what?  Some of those shots I took in the first 22 weeks are some of my FAVORITES!  Who cares that I didn’t finish!?!  I got some precious shots I would never have otherwise been motivated to take, that represented us, and perfectly documented them.  This year, I will need all the accountability I can get. lol.

One of the reasons I am so excited for our future home (which isn’t built yet) is that it will have LIGHT!  Currently, our home has the kitchen and living area in the middle of the house.  There is very little natural light, and as you know, I love light!  I can’t help but pick up my camera when the light is beautiful, but on the other hand, it is really hard for me to get inspired when the light is crappy.  Add in 5 kids worth of messes, and my house is just about the least inspiring place for me to take photos in the entire world. lol

The problem though, is that we live our entire life in the kitchen and living room!

Last week I was scrolling Instagram (Are you following Jenni M Photography, Jenni M Designs, and my personal account?) and had the thought “I can’t wait to take sink bath photos in our new house!”  Just as quickly as the thought came, I realized, “I won’t have a baby by the time we finally get the house built!” :-(  Time never slows down…  As close as we are to my dream of a light filled, more minimalist inspired home, my baby just won’t wait that long.

I have to document our “now” right NOW or else it will be lost.  I can’t document her rubber band wrists, the fascination of dripping water, her back rolls and the way she kept licking the water off her lips like it was a special treat in a year, because it will be gone.  forever.

So the light…  I had to figure something out…  I loaded the dishwasher (because I ALWAYS have dishes in my sink) cleaned the sink, filled the sink and got my camera ready.

I knew our crappy florescent bubble light on the kitchen ceiling wasn’t going to cut it.

I then turned it off to see if that would work.  Nope.  Too dark.

Then I tried the LED light by itself.  Nope. Too harsh.

Then I grabbed the milk jug, put it in front of the LED light and turned on the overhead light as well.  Yup, that will do.

My house wasn’t picked up, my other 4 kids kept trying to “help” and the rest of my kitchen still needed to be cleaned, but I kept telling myself “If they don’t turn out, I don’t have to share them anywhere.  They are about her, nothing else.”

And you know what happened?  I freaking love them!  I can’t even tell you how much my heart hurts at the thought that I was just going to not take them because I didn’t have a beautiful sink with a window behind it.  They aren’t perfect, but they are our “right now” and that is priceless to me.

So if you are still hanging in there and have read this far…

Stop waiting until your life looks perfect.  Stop waiting until your house looks better, walls are painted, clothes are clean, kids are easier, floors are clear, weight is lost…

Because as much as I believe professional photography is worth every penny, I also believe your every day moments need to be documented too.  Who cares if they are crappy cell phone photos!  If you take 20 and only 1 “turns out”, THAT’S OK!  Photos are about remembering.  We love them so much because they bring back memories.  If you want to learn how to better use your cell phone for every day moments, I can’t recommend the Every Day Artistry guide enough.  It’s beautifully written, and has so many great tips on how to get better images from your camera phone.

So what does my life look like?  I am truly excited to share some peeks and highlights with you over the course of this year.  You are welcome to join me in the Project 52 as well (hosted by the same photographer that wrote the guide I linked above)!  You don’t have to be a “pro photographer” to be a part of it.  Come document your life with me. <3

Learn your camera class – Madison Alabama

Hey Y’all!!!


I have a pretty exciting thing to share. I get lots of questions about how to take better photos of kids and how to use a “nice camera”.

First off, I love it when I get questions because it is a huge compliment. The part I struggle with though is that a 5 minute conversation just isn’t enough time to really do the topic justice.

I totally get it! Those beautiful “Mom and Dad moments” that no one else is around for (especially not a pro photographer) slip away. The reason I started this photographic journey was because I wanted to make my children’s childhoods tangible and have images that reminded me of those sacred times.

I want to help you capture your own moments and make them beautiful!I I am sure that about half of you out there got new “fancy” cameras for Christmas. Come learn how to use it and do your memories justice.

The top image was taken in Automatic and the bottom was taken in Manual Mode.

I have invested a LOT of money in to camera equipment but the truth is that it doesn’t make any difference if I leave it on automatic… A better camera wont take better pictures if you don’t know how to use it.


JMP Learn Your Camera Class

Jenni M Photograpy 7I have put together 2 classes that will focus on learning how to really use that new camera AND how to edit those photos to make them a tangible memory to keep forever.  Both classes are scheduled for March 5th in Madison Alabama and will be limited to 10 seats.

***The morning session will be all about teaching you how to get off of automatic and start shooting in manual mode!!!

***The afternoon will be dedicated to teaching you how to take your images to the next level through editing.

You don’t have to come to both sessions but there is a discount if you decide to come for the whole day.

For more information shoot me a message or click on the link.
Hope to see you there!!!

Sign Up Now


Jenni M Photograpy 6

Jenni M Photograpy 2

Jenni M Photograpy 3

Jenni M Photograpy 1

Jenni M Photograpy 4

Jenni M Photograpy 5


More information can be found here http://jennimphotography.bigcartel.com/

and of course, if you have any questions, shoot me a message,

email (jennimphotography@gmail.com)

or give me a call (907-942-2358) :-)

Phone Cameras and Kids – How to take better photos with what you have

5 Ways to Take Better Photos of Your Kids With Your Camera Phone

Let’s be honest, we want to carry our “nice” camera around with us but it just doesn’t happen. You see, my “day job” is a SAHM to my 4 kids, my “overtime job” is a Professional Family and Children Photographer. Granted, my “nice camera” is a little larger than the average, but not bringing my “nice camera” along with me was a problem I had even before I went pro. Here I am taking beautiful photos of everyone else’s kids and all I had to show for my family were phone photos… The solution? I finally decided to just embrace it and learn how to take better photos of my kids with what I did have with me, my camera phone!


LaurenThe reason people say “say cheese” is because that the “eese” sound makes it look like we are smiling (kind of) but it is a sad substitution for a real smile. Ask your kids to talk about something they really like, their favorite thing. Watch how their eyes sparkle. THAT is what you want in your photos! Ditch the cheese and get them talking or playing with something they actually love. When you are really stuck, depending on the age of the child just be silly (or gross), it works like a charm!


Keep in mind the time of day. Is it nap time? If so sometimes I just don’t even try. Is it noon and you are outside with no shade in sight? The shadows at that time of day are harsh and difficult for even a seasoned photographer to wrangle. Keep in mind the timing.


EthanLighting is HUGE when you are using a phone camera! There is only so much light that can seep in to that tiny little lens so you need to compensate if there isn’t enough. If your kids are moving (mine are always moving unless they are sleeping) then you MUST have some good light. Not enough light? Move closer to a window or go outside. Harsh shadows? Turn away from the light source. Oh, and one more thing, turn your flash off! The flashes on camera phones not only seem to wash out everything in its reach but it also causes red eye and that never looks good in a photo.


There is a phrase that pro child photographers sometimes use. “Spray and Pray” Ha! I can’t say I haven’t thought it (and done it a time or two) with rambunctious kids. Sometimes you just need to take a LOT of photos to get a few you are in love with!



Get down low! I see this a lot. The mommy shot. Shoot! I even used to do it. We hold out our arm and take a photo from our own perspective with the little one craning their neck upward to look at the camera. Sure

it is ok, but look at what happens when you get down low! Get down on their level, on their height and see what happens. All of the sudden you enter their world, see things the way they see them. Their height and perspective is a big part of who they are right now, so meet them on their level and see how it changes your photos for the better. If anything it is a great leg work out doing all those squats!


Well, that is about it. Grab your phone and go play with your kids. It takes a little practice but I promise, your memories are worth it!

Just remember…

The best camera

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 ;-)