The One Must For Taking Your Own Family Photos
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By Jennifer Lebo
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The other day I was chatting with a friend who had just had her first baby.  After we gushed over the little guy for a while (seriously, he is the CUTEST thing!), I mentioned to her that I was going to be creating some teaching resources for women, and that she might want to check them out, as this little man was only getting cuter by the second, and she was going to want to have every moment documented.  She was delighted to hear about this, but when I assured her that all she would need is a DSLR, her smile turned into this sort of blank stare.


A what?




More blank stares.  And then I realized my mistake.  I’d assumed that everyone had a DSLR- and that everyone knew what a DSLR was!  And we all know the problem with assuming…


It seems that if I’m going to start teaching the basics of photography, I can’t assume that everyone has the one item truly necessary to do so.


A camera.



A DSLR  is a digital single-lens reflex camera, or a fancy way of saying what everyone else calls “a nice camera”.  Not a little “point and shoot”, and definitely not your phone.  I know we all have cameras in our pockets now, but if you want to take your family photos to the next level, you need to upgrade to “the nice camera”.  



Why in the world would anyone need a fancy camera, when we all have phones right in our pockets!  Well, I’ll tell you why.  Phone cameras are great for snapshots, for catching those moments that catch you off guard.  And some phone cameras are fantastic- in fact, most are.  But they do not give YOU control.  A DSLR will give you the option to change your own settings.  You can open up your aperture, or increase your shutter speed.  Bump up the ISO when you’re in a dimly lit space, or when the sun is starting to go down.  You can play with the exposure compensation if you like things a little more overexposed, or maybe underexposed.  


Wait.  Woah.  What???  What the heck is aperture, and ISO, and exposure compensation?  See, these are things I’m excited to teach you about in coming months, but you can’t learn how to control them if you don’t own a camera that gives you the control to manually change them.


And chances are high that you’ll find yourself in the most beautiful moment, and the light won’t be perfect, or you’ll wish the sun was on the opposite side of the sky, or that it was just a little brighter.  Your baby will be taking his first steps, or heading off to his first boy/girl dance, and you won’t be able to control the light (or have five minutes to get a shot before he rolls his eyes and heads off with some girl!!).  You’ll want “a good camera” and you’ll want to know how to use it.


Here’s another great feature of the DSLR.  These cameras have interchangeable lenses.  As you learn more about your camera, and the kinds of photos you like to take, you can find the lens that works best for you.  You can use your 50mm lens for taking wonderful clean and crisp portraits of your babies, and then switch to a 24mm lens for taking landscapes portraits on your family vacation.  You can buy a zoom lens to incorporate more options, and you never have need to change the camera body.  One camera, endless options.  


That’s why you need a DSLR.




Yikes.  A “good camera”?  That sounds expensive.  And yes, a professional grade DSLR can be crazy expensive!  But there are so many wonderful entry level DSLRs out there, and they are very affordable.  You can get a great entry level DSLR camera and lens kit for a few hundred dollars.  That includes the camera body and the basic lens that can then be removed and exchanged for whatever fancy pants lenses you decide to purchase later on.


Be assured though, that that basic lens can do great things right out of the gate, so you don’t need to go out and start buying fancy lenses.  And those fancy lenses?  Well, they can get as expensive as you like, or as affordable as you like.  Most of my favorite lenses are the least expensive ones out there.  You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get quality camera gear.  You just need to know how to rock whatcha got.  That’s what I do.  And that’s what I’ll teach you to do.




Ok, so yeah, a quick search on Amazon will bring you up a myriad of choices, from Nikon to Canon, Sony to Olympus, and more.  Which is the best?  Where are the scams?  Which should you buy?


Well, I can tell you that all the big name brands really are the real deal.  They are good.  They are all good.  The two top companies are Nikon and Canon, and you really cannot go wrong with either.  You will hear that Canon has better autofocus, or that Nikon has a better entry level camera.  Nikon cameras handle noise better, but Canon’s are better for sports photography.


You can find endless comparisons online, and spend hours doing the research, but the fact is that both brands are fantastic.  If I were to suggest what camera to buy, it would be EITHER a Canon or a Nikon.  


I’ll share with you that I’m a Nikon girl, but that doesn’t make a difference.  Canon’s are amazing.  So I’d suggest going with either of those.  But understand this.  If you buy a Nikon body, you need to then always buy Nikon lenses, or other brand lenses that are compatible with Nikon.  You can’t buy a Canon lens for a Nikon body, or vice versa.  So once you choose your brand, you are sort of married to it.  Not a huge deal, as both systems have great products, but just know that when you choose, you’re choosing any future lenses as well.




How about a few options to check out right here?  I’m an Amazon Prime girl myself, and would suggest checking there for this purchase.  No need to go to some fancy camera store and have some salesman throw numbers and terms at you that will make your head spin.  You can get the same great stuff online.  I love shopping in my PJs.  Don’t you?

I’m not a sponsor of Nikon (as if!), nor would I receive anything should you choose to purchase any of the products below.  I simply thought it would be helpful to you if you had some options right here to check out.  These are camera kits that I would consider purchasing if I were back at the beginning.  These are trustworthy brands, and affordable products, and ones that will last you a good while.  


Canon EOS Rebel T5 Digital SLR Camera Kit


Nikon D3100 DSLR Camera


Sony Alpha A200K 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera Kit


Olympus Evolt E500 8MP Digital SLR

I hope this blog post has helped you.  I’m excited to be finally writing it.  I’ve had a LOT of friends and clients ask me about cameras in years past, and now I have a place to send them to when they do.  If I’ve missed anything, or you have other questions, please put them in the comment section below and I’ll answer them for you.  This way we’ll have a little Q&A section to help future camera seekers.  Thanks!



Leave a comment:
Jennifer Lebo - Laura, if you are even thinking of getting a camera, you should go this way. And even if you have a point and shoot, this would be a great investment. For one, there is no shutter delay (like with a point and shoot when you have to shoot 1 second before you know you want the shot?), and second, you can learn how to take it off manual. You can learn some simple basic skills to give YOU the control in a dark area, or when the sun is behind you and you want to actually get your kids' faces and not a silhouette.
I'll be offering courses on basic photography soon, and you can find resources in lots of places. You don't have to go crazy, but a good entry level camera, like the one mentioned in this blog is a great investment! Good luck! :)
Laura - Jen this is such a thoughtful perspective, thank you! Try not to cringe to much but....if I'm realistically not going to play with the manual settings should I still make the investment?