Let's begin with my camera.
I started with a Canon Rebel Xsi and have recently upgraded to a Canon Rebel T2i.
The only other brand of dSLR camera I recommend buying is Nikon. My personal opinion is that other brands of dSLR's just aren't comparable to the quality you will get with a Canon or Nikon.
So which do you choose? I only chose Canon because I liked how it felt in my hand. I know...weird way to decide, but the specs (and at the time price) for both brands was so close that, that was what it came down to for me. The two brands really are like comparing apples to apples. Both are great.
Why buy dSLR? They are not for everyone and certainly can be very pricey. But they are getting more affordable every year. The new Canon Rebel T3, not the T3i, is much more affordable at about $500 and is a little better than the Xsi I bought three years ago for much more than that.
You not only get better quality photos, even if you use auto, but you can snap those moments other cameras can't. With zoom lenses and almost no delay between pressing the shutter release button and the picture actually being captured, dSLR cameras are definitely worth the investment. Maybe I'm not the most objective one to ask though, because I can't imagine my camera not being apart of my daily life. :)
Pocket cameras and camera phones definitely have their place as well. You can't always lug a dSLR around, so make sure you always have a decent back up. My camera phone has saved me from missing great memories more times than I can count.
Now...for the lenses I use.
If you don't understand any of the terminology I use, please refer to this post for better explanation.
*The standard 18-55 mm lens of course. Your camera likely came with it. It's my all-purpose lens. I use it about 90% of the time. I find that it is the easiest to use.
*The larger 55-250mm zoom lens is a kit lens that came in a bundle with the camera. I hardly ever use this lens, but it does come in handy for sports, school plays, stuff like that. It has a lower f/stop number than the standard 18-55 mm lens which is nice. One pet peeve I have with it, is that I have to be so darn far away to capture everyday things my kids are doing. I only bring it out when I absolutely need it.
I guess for a camera shy kid, it could come in handy. You can capture him in action without him having to know it.
*This f/1.8 lens is the only non-kit lens I have (the smallest one pictured at the beginning of the post). At $100 it's totally worth it. It is a fixed lens so it does not zoom in and out at all. For that reason it can give you a ultra crisp photo. Its low, low f/stop number is great for portraits because it provides you with a crisp subject and flattering, artistic background blur.
Here is the classic blurry Christmas light background example.
It is also handy for low light photography. If you have an older camera with an ISO that tops out at 1600, you can bump up your indoor photography capabilities with this lens.
Just remember that it doesn't zoom! I feel limited when I use it. Again, I only pull it out when I need it or want to widen my aperture for creative purposes.
As for other equipment.
* I hardly ever use my flash, even in low light situations. I avoid it as much as possible. There are ways to achieve fantastic lighting with off camera flash that you purchase separately from the camera and attach to the top. You can also get a soft box to put over your built in flash. I don't know anything about this area of photography...yet. :)
* I prefer to use reflectors. See my post found here about homemade reflectors made out of foam board. Foam board and white poster board is nice to have on hand for backgrounds as well...if you're a blogger.
I also have this big kahuna of a reflector. It's collapsible and pretty handy for portraits. There is a gold side, and if you zip it inside out there is silver and black (for shade). The gold side warms up your image while also reflecting light onto your subject. The silver side cools it down. I mostly use the white side.
I bought it for about $30 when I entertained the idea of trying to go pro. Now it's $20, so hey... Pretty good deal if you want to spend a few bucks or give your husband a good Mother's Day gift idea ;).
* Tri-pods. These are great for self portraits, DYI family portraits, firework shots, low light shots, long shutter speed shots....It's just great tool to have.
We bought this cheap-o one from Walmart for about $15 and it has worked great. It can be adjusted to a variety of heights and angles, and is sturdy enough. I wouldn't use it to set my camera up on a mountain on the side of a rock or anything but that's not the kind of photography I do. If you plan on doing a lot of outdoor photography you might want to make a bigger investment and get a nice tri-pod.
* Another fun tool that I recommend is a camera remote. I mentioned it in this post and this post. I will elaborate on it more when I cover self-portraits. At $25-30, it's incredibly affordable. And...It's not necessarily just for self portraits either. You can use it to completely eliminate camera shake in low light, long shutter speed photography as well.
So that's what I use. Nothing fancy or unique.
In my personal opinion, if you feel pressured to upgrade, just remember that good photography is more about how well you use what you have. I need to remind myself of that sometimes when I get camera envy! :)
If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I will answer in the comments section the best I can.
And...if you have a great tool that you like to use or helpful tips, please share! I hope the comments sections to these posts become just as helpful as the posts themselves! Please...remember to be kind. :)
My friend Amy, who is a great mamarazzi herself, shared this handy manual settings cheat sheet with me. Just go here.
Thanks for reading. Have a beautiful day!