Monday, February 7, 2011

33 February Challenge: Project Photography {camera}

I worked on purging pictures this weekend, but more importantly, when I placed new pictures on our computer, I actually went through and deleted them and got them in their correct folders {right away!}  It felt so good to do the right thing with them and know that I finally had some sort of good system that was easy to manage!  YIPPEE!  Now, I just need to keep scheduling time and plucking away at the backlog....  Hopefully the rest of you working on the project are finding some good benefits and making some progress!  Thank you to you all for leaving so many helpful tips and comments!

Today I am finally going to post about something SO long overdue.  Like barely a day goes by where I don't get the following question:

"Can you tell me what kind of camera you use?"

Seriously, what took me so long to write up this post?

I actually used to use a Canon Powershot SX130 IS.  Loved that camera!  Many of the photos towards the beginning of the blog were with that camera.  All the way up through sometime in June 2010 when something awful happened...

I was holding my camera outside in our backyard when my two dogs got a little excited and were playing around right by my feet while I was trying to shoot a photo.  I tripped on the dogs, and the camera went flying.... and landed face down into the ground.  Gonzo.  Done.  Farewell.  It was full of mud, dirt and grass... it wouldn't turn on.  The lens was grinding.  I had tears.  Lots and lots of tears.

I knew I had wanted a DSLR for awhile, but we were waiting a year or two to take the plunge since they are much more expensive, and my previous camera could take a pretty good picture!  But now we were faced with a choice.  Invest another $250 or $300 into a replacement digital, or upgrade.  Knowing my long term goals and my passion for taking pictures... a DSLR is what made the most sense.

As much as I cried over the loss of my old camera, for me personally, it was a blessing in disguise.  My life would never be the same again....

I was really getting into blogs around that time, and I noticed I was really drawn to those with good photography.  I would look at their photos and long to be able to create similar versions.  So now that it was time to be in the DSLR market, I stalked my favorite blogs and found out the camera that they were using.  And it was oddly consistent that most were using the same one.  The Canon Rebel XSi.

I was already almost sold, because the best part of finding one via blog writers, is that they are basically reviewers and testimonials of the camera each and every day they post pictures from that camera.  I can see for myself the quality of images that can be created from the camera.

I was actually a little surprised and really glad that's how I determined my camera, because I automatically assumed a Nikon was the way to go.  I had only been looking at Nikon's til that point, but before making my purchase, I did a lot of research and side by side comparisons and ended up realizing that the Canon was actually the best fit for me.  I say, "for me" because we are all different looking for different things in our photography, and I am sure that Nikon was first in my brain for a reason...

Of course I stalked the UPS man and sat at my window until my new appendage arrived.  And once it didn't, it took .3 seconds to rip open the box and start shooting.

Here is a copy of the very first picture I took with my camera...

This was straight out of the camera, no editing, no messing with settings....  Sure colors could be enhanced and he is a little washed out, but the point of the story is that as nervous as I was about all the learning that was about to come with a DSLR, it was very good to me right away, straight out of the box.  I was able to take DECENT pictures and take my time learning how to take GOOD pictures and hopefully someday they will be GREAT pictures...

One of the first things I learned is that it's not always just about the camera body, as it is also about the lens you attach to it.  Mine came with a standard 18-55mm "kit" lens, meaning the lens was bundled with my camera when I purchased it.

This lens has actually been very good to me.  It is probably what 95% of my blog photos have been taken with.  A great starter lens for someone who knew nothing about DSLR cameras {and really still doesn't}.  Here are a couple of my favorite shots from this lens:

However, I wanted something that would be even better for portraits since I am SO in love with my boys and taking their pictures {you almost have to feel sorry for them!}...

A very consistent recommendation from others with the same camera {friends, blog writers, etc...}, was the Canon 50mm 1.8.  Little did I know that not only was it great for portraits, it offers great bokeh {blurry background}, so I use it for all sorts of things!  And the lens itself was around $100, so it was a fun investment.  The only thing hard to get used to is that it's a fixed lens.  Here are my some favs:

And last but not least.  My most recent indulgence.   I really wanted to upgrade my 18-55mm.  So I chatted with a friend who is an INCREDIBLE photographer {you know who you are}, and she mentioned she uses the Tamron 28-75 mm.  I have seen her work, so I already knew what the lens was capable of, but it was also more than I had ever spent on a lens.  So I invested $8 in a monthly subscription to clickinmoms, in which you can dabble in oodles of forums with loads of photography professionals.  I started up a thread asking about lenses.  What I had, what I was contemplating {between the Tamron, another and asking if there were some I hadn't considered}.  It was clear from the response, that the Tamron was going to be the winner, as one photographer said, "Once you receive that Tamron, you will want to toss your 18-55mm to the curb".  Alrighty then, that's what I needed to hear...

I actually just got the lens on Friday, so I can't speak to it much, but so far I am liking it.  I just need to play around with it to really see what it can do, and there just wasn't enough time for that this weekend... {enter frown here}...

I did make sure to snap a couple of on Saturday morning with it... here is what I ended up with...

I noticed it offers a lot more blurring of the background than my 18-55mm, which is exactly what I was going for...

I also wanted to mention quick that I always snag a lens hood or two, for my lenses....

I use hoods for two reasons.... 1: They stop stray light from getting in which reduces/eliminates flare and 2: They help protect my lens.

So there you have it!  That's my camera in a nutshell of a post! 

Many of you have asked about good cameras to invest in {DSLR and not}.  My advice is to just do your research, ask friends and family and ask to see the photos that their cameras produce.  I used Google a lot.  And again, the advice of other photographers and bloggers.  What cameras and lenses are you loving at the moment?

Wanna see more pics, you can always check out my photography blog here.


  1. I recently got a Nikon d3100 but have yet to have much time to learn how to use it! After much debate between the 50mm and 35mm I decided to get the 35 mm (which I love), but it's the only lens I have purchased. My oldest is 3 and just started gymnastics (we have another due to arrive in about 6 weeks) so one of the next lenses I purchase I'd like to be something with great zoom and that does well in low light for gym, soccer games, etc. I'm not sure what but I'm sure it will be pricey!

  2. Awesome pics. I've started organizing my picture backlog (thanks to your challenge). I started with about 4000 that needed to be organized. Now I'm down to 3500. yay me! Still got lots to go. thanks for the push.

  3. If you shoot in two formats how do you organize That?

    and that is a fabulous camera.

  4. Thank you for this - I've asked a lot of people about camera's (like you - I asked on blogs!) and came up with two responses either the camera you have or a Nikon . . .I was sold on the Canon and am even more so now. AND you answered more questions for me about lenses and what is best to buy when. Thanks for posting this!

  5. Thanks for all the info about lenses and your camera Jen! I'm in the market and I really think the canon rebel is my favorite so far =)

    I have this post bookmarked so I can show the hubs and drop a not so subtle hint for my birthday =) hehe thanks girl!

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  6. Very inspiring! What photo editing program do you use? Love the pictures!!

  7. Jen I have the same camera and I love it. I still have lots to learn with it as well, but it really does take great pictures. I have all the same lenses as you and I love the Tamron 18-270mm. My hubby got that one for me for my birthday last year and I just got the Tamron Macro for Christmas. I also have three other Canon lenses. But my favorite is the Tamron 18-270mm. You can take almost any picture with it and you don't have to change out the lense which is really great. I need to get a hood now. That will be next on my "can I please have this hubby." ;) Most of my new pictures are from my Rebel. Love it!!!

  8. It's so funny but our photo "lives" are so similar! I LOVED my Sony Cybershot(took amazing pics for a P&S!) but then it got ruined also... we finally upgraded to a Canon T1i and I only have the two other lenses you do! LOVE them! The 50mm is an AMAZING lens for the price. What other lenses have you been thinking of getting? I am eyeing a macro lens or a longer telephoto lens for zoom shots.

  9. In my original post I meant to say what gorgeous pictures you take. I love that one with the trees and leaves. Were you laying on the ground for that picture? GORGEOUS!!!

    And I also wanted to give you this link. Not sure if you already read Kevin & blog, but she takes gorgeous pictures and has some tutorials on how to take pictures. Her blog is mostly about delicious foods and great places to go for them, but she also takes gorgeous pictures of all of it. Food & Photography in one....gotta love that. :D

    This is a great tutorial for Bokeh. She also uses a Canon.

  10. What an awesome post!! I have been wanting a DSLR for some time now, but money is tight and I'm saving my pennies!! I fell in love with your blog because of your organization and then I fell in love with your pictures! You have a true talent, my friend! This makes me want to save as much as possible to get one ASAP!! Thanks for the advice!!

  11. Thanks for posting all of this info! So helpful. I also want to know what photo editing program you use? That's the part that is still intimidating to me even with my simple little point and shoot!

  12. What a great post! I have only recently found your website and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!! I have shared it with several people and one friends husband told her to "read every word and run with it"! Ha! I have always said if I have to get a job (I"m currently a SAHM) I would love to help people's addicting and so gratifying to see the turnout.
    I saw the comment above, but I would also love to know what editing software you use. We have the Nikon d90 and I really want to give my pictures some punch and know so many people that use Photoshop and Lightroom both. Thanks for all your helpful info on here!

  13. First off, I have read your blog almost to the beginning. Organizing junkie here!! Secondly, thanks for the push to finally address the oodles and oodles of photos I'd uploaded and just left "floating around". Not the funnest thing in the world to do, but once I got started..I couldn't stop!
    And last, I also use an DSLR for most of my photos, especially important ones. But I also keep a point and shoot in my purse for capturing things on the run (unexpected events, playdates, dinners out, etc..). Oddly enough though, it's my iPhone I find that I am using more and more these days! The editing apps are phenomenal and I can share instantly via text, email, Facebook, Twitter, you name it. I actually heart my iPhone camera;)
    And I totally heart your blog! Thanks for all the great inspiration-keep it coming!! xo

  14. Hi Friends!

    I actually just use Picnik at the moment for editing... but I also just picked up a GIANT photoshop book so I can work on my skillz... wish me luck!


  15. I have a Pentax K-7 and I loooooooove it. My first DSLR was a Pentax k200, which is an entry level DSLR. I shot a lot of great pictures with that camera, and when my boyfriend mentioned wanting a DSLR of his own I slyly said "Here, honey, you can start on my k200, and you can get me a K-7 for my birthday!"... which he did! :) I have the 18-50mm lens that came in the k200 kit, and I have a 100mm Macro lens that I use all. the. time. I know most people only look at Nikon and Canon (which are great cameras), but I have nothing but love love love for my Pentax!
    You can see my shots at

  16. My story is similar. Bought the XSi with 18-55mm. Then bought the 50mm to take better pictures of my kids and love it but now want a more versatile lens so I don't have to switch them out as much. I am saving up for the Tamron 28-75 mm. Can't wait.

    Oh and I have to tell you that that bunny's name is Foo Foo in our house and I have taken a good amount of photos of Foo Foo. :)

  17. great post! i actually JUST got home from my photography class :) i got a sony alpha 330 in october and i LOVE it! i am looking at different lenses right've got me thinking now...thanks for all the great info!

  18. Your kiddos have stunning eyes! Adorable!

  19. Love your post. I use a similar camera but I find that it's really the lens that truly matters. My favorite lenses that stay on my camera are the 50 mm 1.4f and the 24-70L series. Both are canon. They are both great high quality lens. Keep up the good work!


  20. I have the Canon Rebel xTi and I love it. (I had a old Rebel film so I knew I would, but boy, converting to digital is HARD. So many new settings.) Im still learning (to remember) to set my WB (I don't always like auto) and maybe adjust the iso. I also have th 1.8 50mm - it's the lens I use almost exclusively. I got mine used so it didn't come with the stock lens, but instead a Tamron 28-80 which I hate. You can't get the iso past 5.6 most of the time and so it's horrible for lower light pics and hardly any bokeh. The stock lens is way better. Your new lens got much better reviews, too.

  21. Oh, but what I really need help with? PS Elements. I haven't a clue how to use it. Can't believe it came with NO instructions whatsoever. Ugh. And when I mean I don't have a clue, I mean I can't ebven figure how to get a pic up half the time. SO if you learn any trick, let us know. Or maybe I should go buy a HUGE book too. THough with 5 kids I wouldn't have time to read it. sigh. :D

  22. Hey!
    I awarded you with the stylish blogger award today. Check it out here:

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. Hello!!

    I have another tip about camera gear. I'm a portrait & wedding photographer and when I'm about to make a big investment in gear I rent them first to make sure they are the right fit. I have rented from BORROWLENSES.COM and LENSRENTALS.COM with great success. It's a great way to play with something new to make sure it fits your style before you toss money around.

    Also, always remember to back up your image files off of your computer as well so you don't loose them due to a hard drive crash. SHUTTERFLY.COM is great for this, free and they never delete your images.

  25. I love your pictures!! Do you think you could share what all you do to enhance your pictures on Picnik?? I have played around with it before but my pictures didnt turn out as great as yours! Do you pay for the Picnik Premium??

  26. Hi Heidi!

    I do pay for the Premium version, I love to use the curves and the touch ups along with the vibrancy option.... you can also change the white balance through the temp gauge...

    Hope that helps a little, I will add a tutorial to my growing blog idea list! :)


  27. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am in the market for a camera...and this just helped me pick the one!!

  28. Curious to know how you like your new lens a year later! I'm in the new-lens-market and this is one I'm considering! I'd love to know your thoughts.

  29. I really like it. Majority of the photos that you see on the blog are taken with that lens, if that gives you any idea of how well it's working. It's pretty much the only lens that is ever on my camera since it's great for many different types of shots.


  30. Was wondering if there are any books on photography you have read and would recommend? I just got the xsi and the manual gets quite boring but would like top know more about what i can do to bring out the best quality photos!

  31. Is this your camera?

    Just diving In

    1. Hi Jenna,

      Yes it is :) I typically use the Tamron 28-75 mm now.



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