Q&A: The Answers!

As many of you know, I only recently waded into the blogging pool. I have actually really enjoyed blogging, but I miss the give and take of a typical conversation.  So, I decided to open up a discussion with you, yes YOU, right there reading this.  I will periodically do a little Question and Answer blog post.  Last week I asked all of you to ask me ANY question you would like me to answer, it could be about photography, business, or even about me personally.  I got some great questions and so below are the answers in the order the questions were asked (*if you don’t see your question below it is because some one, or multiple someones asked the same question—so you will still get your answer):

Jamie Campbell wrote: I’ve got a photo question for ya- I’ve been shopping for a DSLR for awhile, but not sure which one to get. I just wanna take pics of the girls. Any thoughts on canon rebel and lens suggestions? :)

There are a lot of questions I would have to ask you in order to fully answer this question, but here are a few tips.  I personally shoot Nikon, but Canon is a great camera too.  Everyone I know who owns a Canon Rebel loves it and the kit lens that comes with it is a great little work-horse lens and would be great for family photos of your girls.  Additionally, I just read an article that says the new Canon Rebel T3i (around $1000) is top of its class!

Several more of you asked really similar questions to Jamie’s and so for those of you out there just trying to decide which camera to buy, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1) Do you want a point-and-shoot camera, or a DSLR?  A point-and-shoot camera is typically less expensive, smaller, and easier to carry around.  However, a DSLR is going to produce higher quality images, the option to changes lenses, and no shutter lag (that annoying split second between when you push the shutter and when the image is actually captured).

2) What is your budget?

3) What features do you want? Video?  Zoom? Megapixels? Ease of use?

Remember that it isn’t “all about the mega pixels” like it used to be.  Anything over 10 mp is going to be great.  The only thing that more megapixels will give you is the ability to enlarge photos or crop pictures farther without each pixel being visible.   Paying for megapixels that you don’t need can be a waste of money.  Instead, invest in a camera with a larger sensor, or more of the other features that you need.

Since I shoot Nikon, I tend to know more about Nikon products, but here are some great entry level DSLR cameras for Nikon or Canon:

Experience Level Nikon Model MP Canon Equivalent 

MP Approx. Price
Beginner level Nikon D3000 10.2 mp Canon Rebel XS (1000D) 10.1 mp $500
Beginner Level Nikon D3100 14.2 mp Canon Rebel XS (1000D) 10.1 mp $600
Beginner Level Nikon D5100 16.2 mp Canon Rebel T3i (600D) 18 mp $900
Intermediate Nikon D7000 16.2 mp Canon 60D 18 mp $1,500


A few other great Nikons are: Nikon D40 =  6.1 mp $649 ;     Nikon D80 = =10.2 mp $798;     Nikon D90 = 12.3 mp $1,200

As far as lens go, most of the kit lenses that come with these cameras will be great lens.  However, if you have the money to spend, here are a few of my very favorites:

50mm f1.4 ($530) = This is a prime lens and so there is no zoom, but this little lens is amazing.  It lets you shoot in low light and with great depth of field.   You get a lot of bang for your buck, and if you need to zoom, you just move your feet!

24-70 mm f/2.8  ($1,700) = This is a terrific lens that I use all the time.  It is great for portraits.  I think this is probably my current favorite!

70-200mm f/2.8 ($2,995) = Great zoom range so it is awesome for catching your kids sporting events, landscapes, etc..

I also looked up a 2011 review of some point-and-shoot cameras and here are their suggestions:

Panazonic FX75, 14.1 mp =  $299;

Canon PowerShot SD940 IS, 12.1 mp = $175;

Panasonic Lumix ZS7, 12.1 mp = $295;

Nikon CoolPix S1000pi, 12.1 mp = $224

This was a very abbreviated answer to a complex question, but I hope I at least got you moving in the right direction.


Laura Lee wrote: How did you tell Eric that you were pregnant with Bella? And how did he react?

For those of you who don’t know, I have four kids: 16-year-old twins, Mason and Sierra.   Tianna, who is almost 14, and then Brielle, (who we call Bella) who is 3.  I have one of those mega-gaps between kids, just over ten years!  So as you may imagine, Bella was quite a surprise.  Not a mistake, or an Oops, but definitely a surprise!  We always wanted four children, but after many years of infertility, and the doctors finally discovering that I have a rare blood disorder, we gave up.  I wasn’t supposed to be able to ever get pregnant again.  So we decided to focus on our three wonderful children.

Then suddenly, ten years later I was feeling really yucky and throwing up all the time.  It was November, my busiest time of the year as a photographer ,and I assumed I must have some kind of bug, or that I was just stressed.  Finally I broke down and bought a pregnancy test.  I took it about 11 pm after everyone had gone to bed, because I knew it would be negative.  When the test read positive, I took the test and the “how to read the test” instructions up to Erik, woke him up and had him verify that yes, the test was positive.  Now, let me preface this by saying, this was NOT a great time in our lives.  The real estate market in Phoenix was in a free fall and we owned three homes and were losing our shirts.  So when Erik saw the positive pregnancy test, all he saw were dollar signs.  To say he wasn’t thrilled would actually be an understatement.

But everything changed the day Bella was born.  Her birth was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life.  It became completely obvious to both Erik and I that this “surprise” baby was the biggest blessing in our lives,  not just to the two of us, but to our other three kids as well.  Since that day Bella has had the five of us wrapped around her little finger! She cracks us all up on a daily basis, she fills our family with laughter and love, and she is the cutest darn thing ever. And instead of calling her our mistake, our kids call her out MIRACLE baby!  Here is one of the first family photos with Bella


Melissa Miller Wrote: Do you have any suggestions for capturing fun pictures of our furry children (ie: our pets)? Not only are they constantly moving (I have a million pictures of Koda’s back), but their eyes always reflect the light in a way that looks creepy and demonic.

I am not a pet photographer and so I don’t claim any expertise in this area, but here are a few tips (and by the way, a lot of this advice applies to children as well):

1) Avoid flash whenever possible.  Not only may the flash scare your pet, but the flash is what causes red eye, or in animals, that “creepy and demonic” eye look.

2) In order to avoid flash, place your pet in natural light.  For example, indirect light from a window, or a shady area in your yard or at the park.  If shooting out doors, the best lighting is first thing in the morning, or an hour before sunset.

3) Try getting down on your pets level.  Everyone has pictures of their pet viewed from above, but this distorts their head and body.  Get down on their level and focus on the eyes!  The saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul” is so true.  Your pets eyes tell so much about them.

4) Try some close up shots.  Get in really close and again, try focusing on the eyes.

5)  Getting your pet to hold still, especially when you are standing right in front of them and they want some lovin’ is tricky.  So surprise them.  Sneak up on them when they are playing or longingly looking out the window.   Or give him a toy, let him play and when you are ready, whistle to get their attention and capture them while they are at their most alert.

6) If your pet just won’t hold still and cooperate, get some action shots.  Set your camera to the sports setting and get shots of your dog running, catching a ball, or rolling in the grass.

7) Be creative, and patient.  And most of all try-try-again!


Hailey Schild wrote: Ok, I have a photo question for you. What is the best way to store photos? If it is on an external hard drive, do you suggest making copies or actually moving the albums? Eventually I would like to free up space on my computer, since the photos are taking up so much space.  Also, any tips for making family photo albums with Blurb? Or is there an easier program? I am just thinking about starting, and don’t know where to begin.

This is another complicated question with about as many answers (or opinions) as there are photographers.  Photographs hold not just emotional value, but monetary value as well.  Before digital cameras, most photographs could be saved on negatives and with relatively minimal environmental control the negatives would last decades or more.  However, now, a photo or image, is just stored data and none of the current CDs, DVDs or hard drives have proven to be as resilient as good old fashioned negatives.  Therefore, I think it is always important to save multiple copies.  I don’t have THE best answer, So I will just tell you what I personally do (my work photos are a whole other can of worms!)

I have a very large hard drive on my computer and so I keep a copy of all my personal photos on that.  However, I also always keep a back up copy on a CD or DVD in a fire proof safe.  Additionally, my husband has a copy on an external hard drive that he keeps at his office.  And last, but not least, I have albums that contain all our favorite photos each year.  Multiple copies = NO sleepless nights for me!

There are also many web sites where you can store your photos.  Everyone from Costco, to Walmart, to Shutterfly currently will store your uploaded photos indefinitely and for free.  There are other companies that offer to store your photos on “the cloud” for a small monthly fee.  In other words, you are paying for your photos to be kept on some one else’s servers.  These companies back up your photos regularly and most offer guarantees that you will have access to your files/images whenever you need them.

As far as albums, there are a lot of options out there.  I personally have used Shutterfly, My Publisher, and Blurb.  My current favorite is Blurb.com.  One of the main things that I like about  Blurb is that they offer an upgrade to premium paper, and even more importantly, they offer books over 400 pages!  Most companies limit their books to around 100 pages.  I also love that Blurb offers a lot of page options, and the flexibility to create your own templates.  You can change colors, patterns, styles, etc to fit your personality and needs.  For my family photos, I create one book per year.  I just keep everything in chronological order and try to be somewhat picky about what photos I keep.  If you take six photos of your daughter in her Halloween costume, you don’t need to keep them all, just keep the best one or two.  When selecting photos for your album, think about your future generations that will be viewing the photos.  Don’t give them six photos of the same thing, pick the best!

I know that albums can be a daunting task.  Especially if you are years, or even decades, behind.  But photos kept on your hard drive aren’t giving any joy to anyone!  Just  start.  With the ease of use of the new online photo albums you just drag and drop your photos.  It is so much quicker, and so much cheaper than traditional scrapbooking.  Don’t let the enormity of the project paralyze you, just jump in.  If nothing else, do this year.  Then move backwards as you have time.

Also, remember that at Blurb, and most other album companies, if you print your album through them, they will keep a copy in their archives indefinitely (bonus, another back up of your photos!)


Hailey Schild wrote: Another question is about photo editing. When you enhanced that photo of my babe in her blessing dress, it made such a difference.  Is there a free, or less expensive option to what you use? You have a real talent for making photos look like a work of art…and that’s what we pay you the big bucks for ;)

I use a program that is really aimed more at professional photographers, called Photoshop CS4 or CS5.  It was around $1,000 when I bought it.  Then I also have many actions or plug in’s that I use that are worth hundreds of dollars more.  These really help me to make each photo a work of art.  However, for a LOT less money you can get Photoshop Elements.   In fact, you can currently get Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 at Costco for $80.  This is a great program and performs most of the functions that you would need.  You can do anything from color correcting, to lightening, to cloning, etc.  It takes a while to get the hang of it, but there are tons of online tutorials.  Just go to Youtube.com and type in whatever you want to learn and you can almost always find a tutorial.  Or just call me!  :)


Melissa Farnswroth wrote: What is your favorite location to shoot photos lately?

I love it when I have inspiration for a new location, or if a client offers a new idea.  However, one of my “go-to” locations is Red Mountain Ranch.  They offer not only the beautiful lush green grass and waterfalls, but also some desert areas.  Additionally, they have a large grassy area for larger family shoots.  And a pond that offers amazing reflections as the sun sets at night.

For more urban shoots, I like the Mesa arts center, or just walking around Ol’ downtown Gilbert.  Gilbert offers great textures with old store fronts, neat architecture and railroad tracks.


Melissa Henderson wrote: As a photographer and mother, how often would you suggest that I have professional photographs taken of my baby? Thanks!

Although I LOVE doing newborns and children, that isn’t my specialty and so I will just tell you what I have done with my own kids.  For the first year, I try to do a shoot at around 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and one year.   Then for the next two years I do a shoot every six months and then at least once a year there after.  I always put each childs shoots into our family album and into their baby books, but I also have just a small coffee table book for each child that shows ONLY their professional shoots at the intervals mentioned above. (And actually I was more ambitious with my twins and had theirs done nearly every month of their first year!)


Angela Rogers wrote: “I have a hard time with indoor lighting, is there a way to make the pictures less dark when you photograph inside? Is there a best place in the house to take pictures, or is outdoors always best?”

First off, turn off your flash.  Flash will light up your subject, but darken your background (anything that the flash isn’t strong enough to reach.) I love natural lighting whenever possible.  Of course, good natural lighting is harder to come by indoors, but you can find it.  For example, all the photos of baby Finn (click HERE)  were taken on the edge of my son’s bed near his southern facing window in indirect sunlight.  Another great spot can be just inside an open exterior door.  When you open the door what happens?  You flood the room with light! Yummy, natural light!  Near large sliding glass doors is another great option.

If you are looking for more even lighting, have your subject face the light source.  If you want a more moody, dramatic look, have them at 90 degrees from the light source and you will get more contrast in the image.

Look for the light, not the background.  If you use a larger aperture you can blur the background if it is ugly.  Or, if you are shooting on automatic and don’t really understand aperture and shutter speed, just head to your linen closet and grab a solid colored sheet to drape for a good, uncluttered background.


Brooke Taylor wrote: “I don’t have a super nice slr, just a little ol’ point and shoot, (which I like because it fits in my purse so I use it often – I have found that I just don’t use a bigger camera – too inconvenient for me) but when I take pictures inside the flash washes everything out but if turn the flash off, the picture is blurry. What to do?”

There are four main reasons that you end up with blurry photos: 1) The subject moves while the shutter is open.  2) the camera moves while the shutter is open. 3) the subject is out of focus, or 4) the depth of field is too shallow.

These four reasons end up falling into two main categories, blurry images due to camera shake, and blurry images due to focus.

Solving problems  1 and 2, blurry images due to camera shake, can be due to a lack of light and/or your shutter being open too long.  If there is not enough light, your camera, set on auto, will lower its shutter speed.  This leaves the shutter open longer and therefore gives more opportunity for you or the subject to move and cause blur.  There are a few solutions for this.  One of the easiest, may just be finding more light.  Look around the area you are in.  Is there a window, could you step outside under a tree, or patio?  Sometimes it may be as easy as having your subject face towards a window rather than away from it.  The more light you have, the shorter time the shutter is open, the less likely you are to get shake.

A second  issue is that a lot of point-and-shoot cameras no longer have a view finder only an LCD screen.  When shooting a photo using the  LCD, you tend to hold your camera out at arm’s length which increases your movement.  Bring your camera in closer to your body and hold your arms close and tight to your torso with your legs about shoulder length apart to minimize camera shake.  If you are going to zoom in, first concentrate on zooming in and secondly concentrate on bracing your arms to reduce the movement.  Then squeeze the shutter slowly don’t stab it.

The other main reason for blurry photos is due to lack of focus. Most point and shoot cameras will let you know when it has focused with either a beep, or a light, or even a square on the screen.  However, this does NOT mean that the camera has selected the correct part of the photo to focus on.  Sometime the camera may choose to focus on the wall behind your subject and you will end up with your subject blurry.  To make sure the camera focuses on your desired area simply center your preferred point in the frame and press the shutter release button half-way down to lock focus and exposure.  Then you can recompose your image without releasing the button.  Once the image is as you want it, press the shutter button the rest of the way down to take the photo.

The last problem could be depth of field.  This is somewhat of a complex issue, but with a point-and-shoot camera, you just want to make sure that you are on the correct setting.  For example, when you shoot in the landscape mode the entire scene will be in focus, while using the portrait mode, the camera selects a larger aperture, and therefore a larger depth of field and less of your photo will be in sharp focus.


Brooke Anderson wrote: What suggestions do you have for clothing in family portraits? We don’t want to look too matchy-matchy, but still want to look cohesive and nice. Your family photos are beautiful; do you have any suggestions for us?

This is probably the number one most asked question by clients.  Due to the popularity of this question, I have actually started a monthly “What to wear” blog where I give suggestions.  However, check out my complete blog post on “What to wear” and why right HERE!


Thank you to everyone who submitted questions.  I hope these answers proved helpful.  If reading this post has inspired you to ask a question, just leave it the comment section below and I will answer it in my next Q&A!

Also, as a side note to any of you who are new to blogging, when you see a word that is colored and underlined, if you click it, it will link you to the site being written about. How cool is that!

3 Responses to “Q&A: The Answers!”

  1. Angela April 19, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    This is all very helpful! Thank you!! There were a lot of questions other people asked that I found very useful! One question; What is a DSLR?

  2. Stacey Hemeyer April 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm #


    Thank you for your comment. I really should have clarified what DSLR is. SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex, and of course the D is for digital = Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. There is a complex answer that the mirror reflects the yada, yada, yada. But the short answer is that if you can change the lens, it is an SLR camera. A point and shoot does not allow you to change lenses (however, there is a new category of cameras that are smaller like a point-and-shoot, but also you to change lenses, but that is a whole other blog post) :)

  3. Sophie April 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

    Super helpful information, and the story about your miracle baby brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written, and you have such a gorgeous family!

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