Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Every Mom Should Own a Sort-of-Fancy Camera

Buying a $400 camera in 2008 was the best purchase I ever made. Babies don't keep. They grow up and become high school seniors, and get accepted to colleges like my son did this very week.

I am not a professional photographer. I am a hobbyist, a housewife, completely self taught and I have loved watching my kids grow up behind my camera lens. You can click on any of the photos in this post to see them full size.
Nikon D7000, ISO 200, 18-200mm lens at 75mm, f/5, 1/1000 second
Ilene on the Big Island of Hawaii playing her beloved ukulele.
I am strongly encouraging all the other moms and dads, especially of little ones, although it is never too late, to buy a nicer camera, learn a few basic photography skills, and capture your kids playing on a sandy beach at sunset in a bit-of-a-nicer way than your camera phone can (sorry it's true) before the kids are grown and gone.
Nikon D7000, ISO 320, F/5, 18-200mm lens at 40mm,1/6400 sec
Building sandcastles in 2013 on the Big Island of Hawaii.

If you want to start capturing your kids' childhood, I have just three tips to help you get on your way in the photography world:

Advice tip #1 You don't have to spend a fortune on the camera.
Nikon D40, ISO 200, 35mm lens, f/1.8, 1/3200
A broken stick becomes a Harry Potter wand
This is my first camera pictured with yours truly in 2008, the year I bought it. It is the Nikon D40 and I paid around $475 for it with the kit lens. It's not even made anymore but used they run around $140. A great starter camera. I still own it as a back up.

The camera below is my 2nd camera I bought in 2013. It is the Nikon D7000. I just sold it last week.  Here it is with the Nikon 35mm 1.8 lens attached in this photo. Best lens for your bucks!

Below is my 3rd and newest camera as of December 2015. It is the Nikon D750. After eight years of a photography hobby, this is where I am at now. A high-end, full frame dSLR. Giddyap!

I mention the above cameras only to illustrate that you can great photos no matter your budget. Whether you have $200 to spend on a used camera or $3,000 to spend. Knowledge is first, camera is second.
This is a basic kit lens that allows you to zoom in on kids and get great candid shots.

The above picture is a kit lens. You can get great photos with a kit lens. A kit lens is usually a basic (cheap) lens that comes with your dSLR camera. The above lens didn't come with the camera but the camera store had it on sale for $50 if I bought the camera. I just sold it for $75. I would say I got my money's worth.

A used camera with used lenses is a fantastic option.  I have sold camera equipment whenever I upgrade to fancier stuff. A basic dSLR camera is all I could afford 8 years ago. We were in a new house and money was tight. At the time, in fact, my Nikon D40 was all I needed as I didn't know a single photography term back then. I didn't know Aperture from Auto-Focus but I was willing to learn.

Nikon D40, 55-200mm lens at 78mm, ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/320 second, edited in Adobe Lightroom
You don't need a fancy location, your backyard will do just fine.
Advice tip #2 You can learn all you need to know on YouTube and blogs.  The above photo is not perfect, but to me it is priceless despite the basic 6-megapexel camera. Look at those faces eight years ago and you'll know the definition of priceless. I took that shot five months after I bought the camera. At that point I had learned enough about photography from You Tube tutorials and blogs to know that my skills mattered more than the camera. I knew that photographing children down on their level always makes a better photo.  So I took that photo laying on my elbows in the grass, in our backyard, just like the kids were doing.

I love Fro Knows Photo, especially his quick tips. He is hilarious. And I do recommend his Beginner's Guide to Getting Out of Auto, which costs around $60. His Quick Tip videos contain some of the same content. I also love Chelsea and Tony Northrup, maybe even more than Fro.

When I was just starting out I also loved the blog tutorials at I Heart Faces and Pioneer Woman. Read, read, read and you'll learn, learn, learn.

Nikon D40, ISO 200, 55-200mm lens @60mm, f/4.5
Hallie, age 5, admiring blossoms in Pennsylvania

Below is another shot from a few years later in 2013 (in our backyard again) where I also used the same rule--getting down on their level. I also made sure I blurred the background by using a low aperture. Once I bought my Nikon 35mm 1.8 lens I hardly used the others anymore. I love LOVED it that much--for portraits of my kids, photographing products for my website, and low-light indoor photography.

Four years have past between the above photo and this one below. See what I mean by priceless? My kids will never be that age again. I am so glad I took the time to learn how to take pretty good photos while they were still little.
Nikon D7000, Aperture Priority, ISO 250, 35mm lens, f/1.8, 1/2000 sec, edited in Adobe Lightroom
I love how a breeze was blowing hair across Hallie's face. 
I took the photo below using the 'rule of thirds'.  I could have taken it with Ilene centered, but it wouldn't have been as interesting. 

Composition will change everything when you are a beginner. If you are too scared to get out of Auto mode yet, at least focus on composition for a while. Composition is way more important than your camera or your lens. As Fro says in this quick rant, "a crappy photo, is a crappy photo, is a crappy photo."
Nikon D40, ISO 200, 55-200mm lens at 66mm, f/4.2, Manual mode, edited in Adobe Lightroom
Photos during golden hour (one hour before sunset) are the best for glowy lighting.

Advice Tip #3 You have to edit your photos. For the love of all that's holy and decent in this world, Please. Edit. Your. Photos. I prefer to shoot in RAW but even if you choose to shoot in JPG, you have to edit the photos. It's the difference between blah and Rah!

Nikon D750, ISO 800, Tamron 24-70mm lens at 70mm, 1/1000, f/2.8, edited in Adobe Lightroom
Ilene in 2015 looking very grown up. And cold as daylight is almost gone in December.
I started out using Photoshop Elements for editing and then three years ago made the best decision ever to switch to Adobe Lightroom for editing. Lightroom is easier and faster. And it keeps track of every edit you ever make to your photos so it is easy to go back and re-edit old photos as you learn new editing skills. Many of the old photos in this post were re-edited because my skills back then were seriously lacking. Get Lightroom! I just bought Lightroom 6 for $150 but you can do the online version for $10/month. I like these tutorials for Lightroom.

Wrapping it up.........

My main goal has been to capture great photos of my kids because let's face it, babies don't keep. They go from littles playing football.........
Nikon D40, ISO 200, 55-200mm at 95mm, f/5.0, 1/400 sec, edited in Photoshop Elements
Nathan age 10 camping and playing catch with Dad
To taking beautiful girls to Prom in just a handful of years. Eight years to be exact from the photo above (2008) to the one below. (2015)
Nikon D7000, ISO 500, 18-200mm at40mm, f/5.6, 1/100 sec, edited in Adobe Lightroom
Nathan age 17 heading to Provo High Prom
I hope this has inspired you to get a new/used camera, or get the one you already have that you may not use, learn a few skills, and capture the fragile moments in life. I am happy to answer any questions in the comments section. Happy shooting!
Nikon D7000, ISO 200, 18-300mm lens @ 27mm, f/5.6, 1/20 second, edited in Lightroom
Me and my girls at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, California 2015

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