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 ;-)