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It's Camera Buying Season!!!

Black Friday, Christmas, New Years and Tax Season are all BIG camera buying seasons for moms, teens, etc.. Maybe you're reading this blog because you're exactly the person I'm writing it for, and maybe you're reading this because the person I wrote this for sent this to you as a hint...

Either way, my goal for my education and blogs is to give people (moms and teens especially) the knowledge and confidence to buy exactly what they need for the results they desire.

Too many times I have been at a session, a wedding, or even just with new friends and someone will mention to me that they have a nice camera they bought to take better photos but that they really haven't used it or don't know how to make their photos better!

Hearing that always makes me so sad!! I never see it as some opportunity to market myself to do their photos, because I was that "young, mom with a camera" way before I was a professional photographer. I KNOW how isolating motherhood can be at times, and I also know how fun it can be to learn to do something new that allows you to both create art and capture your memories at the same time.

I desperately want you to feel empowered about the investments you make with cameras and lenses. AND I want you to gain the skills to utilize those tools well. Sooooo let's get started!

*If you're here just for links to what I recommend scroll to the bottom!

Listen, you can be honest here..

If you are buying a camera in the age of the iPhone with portrait mode I think you want one thing.. A tool that sets your images apart from even the best mobile photos and that allows you more chances to take photos like professional photographers do.

You want the blurry backgrounds like the photo below right?! To play around in Lightroom? To create something a bit more elevated? If so, then you're in the right place!! Keep reading...

But first.. a Disclaimer!

I won't pretend that buying any of the things listed below will allow you to suddenly take better photos. It doesn't work that way... and it's why I teach an entire workshop for those just getting started!

However, what I'm sharing here can save you the headache of buying a camera/lens combo without the ability to do what you actually want. We will start with my opinion on the "camera kits" with a camera body and lenses that you see heavily advertised especially during this time of year...

The people making the deals aren't really your friend...

In fact, they are a bit eager to make you think you're getting exactly what you want, when (depending on your goals) you are probably not. They will put together a nice little camera "kit" and sell it to you as the answer to all your deepest desires for your own photos... but it's probably not what you need for your goals. At least not in 2022 anyway.

The Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera Kit with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 is II Lens (and sometimes the 75-300mm like shown above) is always a best seller. And the camera is great for taking photos! But let's break down the most common lens it's paired with.

Uh... 18-55mm????

18-55mm is the focal length of the lens. This is a lens that zooms, which is neat...

BUT here's the real question regarding this camera/lens pair: Is it really what you need for the photos you actually want to the seriously blurry backgrounds for portraits? Answer: Likely not.

You see, back before cellphone cameras were so awesome this lens was a great "walk around lens" for your photo needs. Meaning that when you put it on your camera and walked around taking photos it gave you access to a wide range of focal lengths.

You could zoom out for a wide shot of the whole extended family in your living room at Christmas and zoom in for a close up of your kids opening presents without capturing your husband looking half asleep in the background. But in 2022, cellphone cameras are so great we just honestly don't even need to reach for a big camera all of the time. It can even be cumbersome during such busy times or when you know will everyone want the group pictures you took airdropped to them asap!

What about that whole f/3.5-5.6 thing????

The number behind the "f/" part lets you know the lowest aperture that this lens can be set to. Aperture is a large part of what is responsible for the blur in the background or foreground of your image. Most of the lenses professional portrait photographers use will have one number like f/1.4 or f/2.8. Not two like f/3.5-5.6.

This lens has two numbers which makes it a variable aperture lens. This mean that at a focal length of 18mm the lowest the aperture can go is f/3.5 and at a focal length of 55mm the lowest the aperture can go is f/5.6.

Below I will give an example of different apertures. (Taken on a different lens than the 18-55mm!)

Keep in mind that the lower the aperture you are able to use, the more blur you can have around your subject AND the more light you can allow in too. If that's your goal then you are going to want to look at lenses that have numbers LOWER than f/3.5.. like f/2.8, f/2.0, f/1.8, or f/1.4.

Here's an example of how the background changes and becomes more in focus as you change your aperture!

Prime Lenses?

A lens that allows you to zoom in and out without moving your feet will have two numbers, like 18-55mm or 24-70mm or 55-200mm. A lens that requires you to move the camera and "zoom with your feet" will have one number, like 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm. These are called prime lenses and they have a fixed focal length.

Different photographers will have different preferences on whether they like a lens that zooms or a prime lens. I prefer primes mostly, but having a lens that zooms is great at times too.

However, you will find that as your prioritize the aperture number in your buying, lenses that zoom AND have a number like f/2.8 are big + pricey!! I recommend starting with 1 or 2 prime lenses because of this-- links below!

Crop vs. Full Frame?

Back to focal length, which is the number before the "mm" on a lens, like the 50 in "50mm".

In all likelihood, you are looking at a camera that is marketed to the average consumer during most sales. These cameras are called crop sensor cameras, and most professional photographers use full-frame cameras.

Why does this matter? Well, if you have a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera it will give you the POV on the left. and if you have a 50mm on a crop-sensor camera it will give you the POV on the right. (Mug of reheated coffee and tired mom photographer remained in the same spot for these photos!)

Why is that important?

Let's say you saw that your favorite professional photographer's lens to use indoors is a 50mm. So you go out and buy the 50mm for your camera, not realizing that they shoot on a full-frame and you don't. Then it will matter!! You will wonder why you feel like you have to stand against your wall or in another room just to take a photo inside when they don't seem to have to back up the same amount.

On a full-frame camera a 50mm lens shoots at a 50mm focal length. On a crop sensor camera a 50mm lens is more comparable to the focal length of an 85mm lens. Same with a 35. On a full-frame camera a 35mm lens is at a 35mm focal length, and on a crop sensor camera it's closer to a 50mm focal length.

I don't feel like we need to "focus" on that anymore, but I do feel it's important to note. (Here's a graphic to reference back to!)

So what should you buy...?

My opinion is this: If you just want a camera that takes better quality photos during your own times of staging family portraits or for the beginning stages of learning photography you should buy the camera body separate from the lens(es). For lenses, I recommend getting something equivalent to the 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm focal length. BUT remember our conversation above when buying a lens!!

The Crop Sensor Camera and Lenses I Own...

While traveling I did not use my professional camera. I wanted something a bit smaller to pack that costed a bit less so I invested in the Canon M50, which is a mirrorless, crop sensor camera.

To best utilize it, I bought a 22mm Lens, a 30mm Lens and a 56mm Lens. (Shown above/below)

For me, these lenses were the equivalent focal length to shooting with my 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm lenses on my full frame, professional camera! I love the M50 so much and use it for photo and video still to this day!

12 Photos Taken with my M50

Oh, you already have a DSLR?

If you already have a Nikon or Canon DSLR? That's GREAT! BUT if you only have the lenses that came with it then I would highly recommend you look at these prime lenses!! All are under $200 and will make a world of difference as you dive deeper into photography!

If you already have a Canon DSLR camera I love these lenses:

Canon 24mm f/2.8

Canon 50mm f/1.8

If you already have a Nikon DSLR camera I love these lenses::

Nikon 35mm f/1.8

Nikon 50mm f/1.8

Whew.. That was a LOT.

Look I know I just threw a ton of information and choices right at you. I hope to break it down into smaller blogs one day, but it's already November so I truly just want to get this information out there for those preparing to buy a camera or lens this holiday season.

I honestly hate to see people excitedly share about getting a new cameras online, only to have them tell me a year or two later that they got frustrated and just don't know what to do. I've always been pretty transparent about what I use, what I'd buy, how to take better photos, and overall just don't like to gate-keep. This is no different and I hope it's been helpful!

Thanks for Reading!!

I developed my first round of basic, in-person photography workshops in 2013 after seeing a need for a course that's geared to moms and teens that want to learn, but who have a busy schedule and can't make it to weekly classes over an extended period of time. I recently updated this workshop to give a fresh perspective and even more tips after moving to Des Moines, Iowa.

My course is a "crash course" that teaches you the basics of photography and about your camera in a way that embraces both the technical and creative knowledge needed. Attendees of my class are invited to a Facebook group afterwards to continue asking questions, growing and sharing their work!

Want More? I've got you covered!

Iowa friends, I will be hosting my basic photography workshop early Winter 2024! If you're interested just leave your name and email, and I'll make sure to send you any discounts and details FIRST!

Learn even more about my workshops HERE.