What camera should I get?

Today’s post is to help those who are looking to buy a camera. Because I’ve been around for a while (started in 2006), I get this question more often than not!

When digital really started to make an impact on the professional photography world, it was around 2005 or so, camera companies were still working out kinks.

Fast forward to 2019 and most of those kinks don’t even phase the camera companies. They’re more concerned with making mirrorless cameras and creating something more compact.

In recent years, camera companies have expanded their smaller cameras to have more professional-grade capabilities, making them lighter, a bit more cost-effective, and still with great quality output.




This is probably the first thing I ask when people ask me to help them purchase a camera. Most often people go out on the search for a camera because they have some event, trip, or otherwise that they feel they need more than their cellphone to capture great photos.

Some don’t even know what they’ll use the camera for and are just looking for something for the future.


You need to sit down first and ask yourself what you plan on using the camera for. This is going to help you determine if you need something consumer-grade or professional.

Are you a hobbyist with some experience in photography? Are you primarily a cellphone type of photographer? Are you thinking of learning more settings or just want something higher in quality and easy to use? Are you looking to spend more money, later on, to keep learning new things or is this a one time purchase?


These questions will help you figure out whether you plan on giving photography more effort or just want something to capture your daily life beautifully. Or perhaps you want an adventure style camera like the Go Pro and don’t have any interest in either consumer or pro cameras.

Maybe you don’t know yet and are just beginning to look around. If you’re into film, that’s for a whole different post!

Consumer versus Professional

These two terms are something you should familiarize yourself with if you’re looking for a camera. Knowing which category you fall into will be the determining factor on what type, style, size, and budget camera you should purchase.



A consumer-grade camera is usually cheaper, smaller, with a smaller sensor - meaning, less data/quality, and sometimes has lenses that are attached (the hybrid camera). Some have detachable lenses but you have to make sure they are the right fit.

Since these cameras have smaller sensors, the lenses you use must also fit the same aspect ratio of the smaller sensor. In short, the sensor is what records the image. What you see through the viewfinder isn’t what you’ll get exactly in the final image.


On a small sensor, what you see through the viewfinder will get cut out on the edges. The amount depends on how small your sensor is. Just make sure you read the box on the camera you’re looking for. If it says anything about a sensor being a specific size, then you’re looking at a crop sensor or consumer-grade camera.

Who should buy a consumer-grade camera?

Consumer-grade cameras, because of their crop sensors, size, and particular price point, these cameras are perfect for someone who loves to capture their family travels, family events, everyday life, etc and not have to deal with bulkiness or doesn’t care to really use the camera out of Auto Mode.

These cameras are easier to use, better to understand when it comes to taking photos, and all-around great for everyday use.


They are a step up from a really great camera phone, to put it in more simpler terms. Obviously, if you purchase one with detachable lenses, you have more range than a camera phone.


Becoming a pro takes money, education, and practice. If you’re looking to get into photography professionally, be ready to invest. If you are just starting out, I suggest you start on a consumer camera that has detachable lenses and learn it 100% before jumping into the pro camera side. That way, while you’re learning, you don’t have to spend as much upfront.


Professional cameras are identifiable by the FULL FRAME feature. Full frame means that the sensor is equivalent to that of 35mm film. Back when film was standard, medium format cameras were the high grade quality cameras and required 120 film. With the onset of personal cameras came the 35mm film cameras. Some pro, some personal grade and every type in-between.

Full frame cameras capture exactly what you see reflected through the mirror of the camera. No cropping and no loss in data. What you see is what you get. This also makes the quality of the photo much better.


There are many, many, many professional style cameras out there and even medium format cameras like the Hasselblad that is even greater in quality. But expect to also pay for what you get.

You want a full-frame quality camera, you’ll have to spend accordingly. And sometimes, they don’t come with lenses, which also means you’ll be spending on lenses of the same caliber and price point.

Look for FULL FRAME on the box or on the detail list of features of the camera to choose a pro-grade one.

Who should buy a professional-grade camera?

Someone who is already looking to upgrade, familiar with photography, has a budget and is looking to take photography more seriously.


You don’t have to go into photography professionally, like weddings or portraits, but even a more serious photojournalist, street photographer, or nature photographer will need the pro camera for the quality in both body and lenses.

This is someone who has moved out of Auto Mode and is looking to expand their portfolio because their current camera isn’t giving them more range.


This is the second thing I’ll tell people to go out and do. Go out and take a look at the cameras. Research online beforehand and then go and pick the camera up in your very own hands.

There is nothing like picking up a camera and seeing how it feels in your hand. Take a few test shots and see how you like the way it sounds.


Nikon, Sony, Canon, Fuji, Pentax, all of them are pretty much on the same level now. Research online and then see which one feels better.

I remember I liked Canon when I first started. Again, this was at the beginning of the digital era and at the time Canon was the better choice. But now, they are all really great cameras!

Sony took a few years to catch up and are now doing great things! Even I want to upgrade to the AR 7 II. But this is after having 10 years to practice, learn, and give my Canons a good run for their money.


The perfect camera doesn’t exist and so the next best thing is to pick the one that feels right in your hands.

It’s like when you go buy a car, you can do all the research online you want, but when you test drive it YOU JUST KNOW.

Same with cameras. Go to Best Buy, Fry’s, Walmart, Target, anywhere they sell cameras and get a really good look at all the features up close and personal. Then choose the right one.



Digital cameras now are all pretty much on the same level as far as quality. The best thing to do is to research which features best serve your photography goals, go and look at them in person, ask others about cameras they have, and then make a choice.

I will say this if you do end up splurging on a camera that has detachable lenses, be ready to spend in the future for more lenses!

Photography is a never-ending artform and there is always something new to learn especially with these types of cameras, also known as DSLR cameras (digital single reflex cameras, which is because of the mirrors they have to help see the photo before taking it).

And if you have any questions, just ask me and I’ll try and help you out as best I can!

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Disclaimer: I know many photographers will look at this post and roll their eyes at the idea that cameras are all the same. Save your comments. This is a simplified post about how to purchase a camera, not about which camera is better or to confuse people with unnecessary jargon.

Tips for getting started in wedding photography

Hi friends! Another installment of #photographerfriday is here! I wrote this post originally a few years ago and still stand by each tip and every word written so I’m resharing it here to help more photographers learn and grow!

Today is all about getting started in weddings! Let’s jump right in!

1.  Make sure you've got experience, or things could end badly.


I was on Google+ recently and found this link to an article about a photographer duo who gave their clients blurry and out of focus photos.  All of the photos were the same.  And it destroyed the memory of the couple's wedding.  Which completely proves why this point is number one in this series.  

You have to know what you are doing and have experience doing it. 


Know your camera.  Know your settings.  Know that you will get in focus, non-blurry, and beautiful photos of the wedding and couple.  Make sure that you've had some experience being a photographer at a wedding.  When I first started, I was deathly afraid of photographing a wedding, why?  Because I didn't know what I was doing.  

After interning for a year and continuing to second shoot for three years, I learned how to conduct myself at a wedding as a professional, vendor, and making sure that I get the shots that are important.  


When I made the leap to photograph weddings, I used the blueprint I had learned from other photographers that I had second shot for.  What to do and what not to do.  I did research online of what to expect.  

I bought two wedding books from Barnes & Noble and highlighted almost every sentence.  But no matter how many books you read or wedding photography blogs you follow, you need to second shoot and get some experience under your belt.  


Get in there and begin second shooting and learning first hand how and what to do.  I still second shoot and I always learn something new.

2.  Never say no.

This statement can save you and your reputation.  Never say no to requests, unless the bride wants to hang off a cliff.  Otherwise, this word shouldn't be said. I know that sometimes as photographers we get requests that cause us to raise an eyebrow, but never say no.  


Instead say, " We can do that however it might cut into your time..." or, "I think it would be better if we..." Find alternative ways to suggest something else that will work for you and for the couple.  At my October wedding, the groomsmen wanted to do a fun shot of them and we were running out of time. I shot it in two seconds and it made their day.  


Later, one groomsman told me that usually other photographers would have said no and been rude about it and that it was nice I got the shot they wanted.  What does this mean?  By giving in to the requests (when able) makes those who are a part of the bride and groom's day makes you be more than a photographer.  It makes you someone who is helpful and listens to their clients.


This kind of professionalism can resonate a lot with the couple, bridal party, and guests.  They see you conduct and handle situations with professionalism and knowing alternatives that will make the experience even better.  And not saying "No, we can't do that."

3.  You will be the coordinator, dress bustle-er, flower holder, and family wrangler.

If your couple does not have a coordinator, be sure that you will assume one of the many roles (or derivative of) listed above.  Because you are the one documenting the day for the time you're there, you become the timekeeper.  


You are in charge and as nerve-wracking as it sounds, this is a good thing.  Mainly because you become the one to guide the couple throughout the day.  I have bustled a dress or two because I can do it faster and therefore, stay on time.  

I have pinned the boutonnières because I can do it faster and know-how (even though they're tricky sometimes).  I work with my bride beforehand to create a timeline that covers the most important moments of the day.  It is my job to stick to it and make sure everything runs smoothly.  


It's part of the job.  Just make sure that you do it with professionalism and keep the daylight, fun, and happy.  

Which brings me to my next point....


I love weddings.  I love being at weddings, watching weddings in movies, and I cry at weddings.  I like to dance and have fun at weddings.  And I love to create long-lasting images for my clients as they embark on a new journey together.  I


f you aren't having fun, then I suggest you find something you do have fun photographing.   When you're not having fun, it will show.  And you never want your clients to feel like you're not as excited as they are on their big day.

5.  Make sure your contract covers your butt.

Make sure that you have a solid contract.  One that helps you convey the specifics of your wedding services.  Not all contracts are the same.  


My contracts have changed over time and I have added and taken away things that apply to me now.  After some experience, I learned that contracts are important when dealing with such important events. 

Many photography companies now offer contracts for you to buy.  I know Design Aglow has one for weddings as portraits.  


You can also make a solid one by consulting a lawyer and making sure you don't get sued or otherwise because you made an oversight on your contract.

So there you have it!  5 Tips for Wedding Photographers Starting Out.  What did you think? Do you have any tips to share?  Write them in the comment section below! Share this post with others 

Happy Friday!

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Tips for working with children under 5 years of age.

Photographing children, especially those under 5 can seem like it would be really hard to get their attention enough to actually take a photo. I’ve been there for sure, a little cute two year old running in the complete opposite direction of my camera!

I hope these tips can help you out so that you can make the most of a session with those little kids that have lots of spunk and personality but don’t necessarily care about your camera, ha!


1. Talk to the parents before the session

Next week, I’m going to dive into pre-consultations and why it’s important to educate your clients, but in the meantime, just know that it’s super important to talk to your clients about EXPECTATIONS.


When you photograph children under 5, you really can’t expect them to pose, sit/stand, and be in one place for a long time. It’s really important that you talk with the parents and lay out the expectations.

For starters, children don’t usually last more than 45 minutes, and that’s saying a lot. Expect them to be behaved at least 30 solid minutes if you wish to have posed and perfect photos, less if they aren’t in the mood.


However, giving your clients this expectation and explaining to them that if they allow you to play, explore, and be the kid’s best friend during the session, they may get more time and many, many, more photos.

Letting parents know that perhaps their child might not be up for photos is okay! This takes away any stress that the parents might have going in an letting them know that you’ve got lots of experience with children and if need be, you can always reschedule.


Reassure your clients about your experience and let them walk away from the meeting / pre-consultation prepared and feeling excited for the session.

Tell them to bring snacks, drinks, and extra clothing so that in case the children get a little hungry or fussy, or dirty, they are well prepared. Bringing along toys are also helpful especially if the child is attached to toys, like my son doesn’t go anywhere with out a toy and so I’d probably have to bring along a bulldozer or dump truck along to the shoot.


It’s better than having a meltdown before the shoot. Plus, it would most definitely capture who he is at 3 years old and I wouldn’t mind having photos of it!

2. Get on their level

It’s generally a good idea, and what I like to do before I take any photos, is to get down on their level and introduce myself. Ask them what their name is and just keep it light. If they don’t answer it’s okay. I’ll compliment them on something their wearing or a toy they’re holding.


Usually they’re pretty shy at first. But bringing yourself to their level makes it more trusting for them to later play and tell you about their dog Georgie.

Getting on their level might also mean running around, playing tag, and asking them if daddy likes stinky farts. Anything to get a smile out of them, usually the 3-5 year olds will have a good laugh at the last one.


For babies or children around 2 years old, making loud noises, singing their favorite songs, or placing them somewhere they can play with legos, building blocks or other toys can really help them to focus on something and maybe they’ll turn in your direction at E-I-E-I-O if you sing it loud enough, ha!


I once had a kid who just really didn’t to pose, he was about 3.5 years old. He didn’t want anything to do with me or the camera. So I started asking the parents for favorite songs, favorite shows, until we landed on Dora the Explorer. He was a huge fan and at the time I actually had a hair cut short like her and well, I kinda look like her too. So we started play the “Dora game” and explored and I made silly comments, obviously got everything wrong about the show, and he laughed at me and we got some cute shots.

That’s the Dora toddler. Look at that smile! I’m sure he’s laughing at me but I don’t mind at all!

That’s the Dora toddler. Look at that smile! I’m sure he’s laughing at me but I don’t mind at all!

Sometimes, it takes a little more effort but find something, get on their level, and make it work.

3. Take breaks between posing and non-posing

Nothing can set off a toddler faster than being bored and being told what to do. Taking breaks between poses can really help a kid relax and have a lot more fun than being told what to do.


When you feel like you’ve gained enough trust between you and the child(ren) ask them to pose alongside mommy and / or daddy. Posing mom and dad first can help the kids just fit into the photo pose rather than having them pose first.

Sometimes, giving them the choice of where they want to stand or sit can help you pose around them. This also helps them to feel like they’re a part of the show and usually if they’re more willing to pose on the left, let them!


Other times, I ask if they want to pose with daddy or mommy and that can help them find the perfect place where they want. Having them make that decision can make posing happen faster.

Break up the session with walking shots, playful shots, maybe some exploring shots and maybe sun silly face shots. The children don’t often know that these photos are capturing once-in-a-lifetime moments, but what they will remember is how much fun they had. And that is what is more important than anything else.


Get the parents to play along and tickle, throw the kids in the air, or simply do some huggy shots. Anything that makes the session feel less posed and more relaxed is a definite win in the kids’ eyes.

4. Don’t force it

This is a HUGE one for parents, and should be discussed when you meet with them before the session. DO NOT FORCE IT. A toddler who doesn’t want to sit on the right side of mommy, if forced, could have a meltdown or run away or cry and then shut down for the rest of shoot.


Instead, have them choose where they want to sit. Sometimes the older kids get tired and don’t want to smile, don’t force it. Make some funny noises or play with a toy or have mommy and daddy help, but don’t force them to smile.

If the kid is not about the session at all don’t force them to do it. Have a shoot with the parents and sometimes, the kids feel left out and so they later want to join in.


Find a way to get them to WANT to be a part of the session. But if you force it, you’re not going to have a good time at all. Especially if the parents are doing the forcing.

5. Reschedule it

If you can, and it’s most definitely an okay option, reschedule it! I once had a two year old who as she showed up to the session cried the whole time in a fit because she simply didn’t want to be there. We tried and it just got worse, so we rescheduled it for the next day at an earlier time.


And you know what? It was 100x better! By the end of the session the little babe was picking out where she wanted to pose, even got to do a couple of clothing changes, and she was all smiles and giggles. Even shared her water with me.

Rescheduling can help reset everyone, parents included, and you might even get better photos than what you thought! I


Some parents feel like they can’t reschedule or feel like they have to get it done then and there, but if you can, offer the idea of rescheduling and do it. Reassure them that it’ll be better for everyone and it’s not a problem at all! Of course, it all depends on your business model and what you have going on, but if you can, do the family a favor and just reschedule it!

6. Last but not least, schedule the session at a good time for the child

We may want to have those beautiful sunset photos with that gorgeous golden light, but let me tell you, a two year old who is supposed to be napping or already down for night night is not gonna care about golden light.


A child who is supposed to be eating her dinner isn’t gonna care. A kid who is used to having his quiet time isn’t going to care. Work around the best schedule for the child.


It’ll make life for everyone so, so, so much better. For example, one family opted to have a session at 9am because that’s when her kids were the most energized and awake. Another family was able to do right before dinner because that’s when the baby was the best.


Making sure the children are at their best time is best for everyone. It’s the best way to avoid meltdowns due to hunger, sleepiness, or changes in routines.

There you have it! I hope these tips help you get a little more confident in photographing children under 5. And don’t forget to shoot in burst mode because these little ones are fast! Got any tips you want to share? Click on the comment box and leave a comment, we all could use tips from each other!

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How to pose large families

I love photographing large families! It is really amazing to see how the whole family can come together and spend some time getting their portraits taken.

It can also seem like a real challenge posing big families. But I have the best trick for you that you can apply to any family or group posing, not just large families. I use this all the time and don’t eve realize I do it anymore.

It’s called…

Triangle posing

Okay, so what the heck is triangle posing? It is using the shape of a triangle, either upright or upside down, elongated or short, doesn’t matter, as long as the heads of your clients form a triangle.

This triangle ensures that everyone in the photo can be seen, which is especially important for large families and groups.

It also means that when you’re posing children, you can pose them in front to create both layers and triangles so they’re not hidden or have to be lined up with the rest of the family.


Creating these layers are great when you do have to line up the group so that there is more interesting depth to the photo, and not just a straight line of people. Which is what bridal party photos tend to look like, ha!


This simple and easy way to pose large families will make it so the photo has some depth, interesting highs and lows among the people in the portrait.


Grouping smaller families together

In large families, there tends to be the main people who gave way to such a beautiful and large family! Usually grandpa or grandpa, mama and daddy.

I like to place them in the middle so that they are the focal point and obviously the whole reason for this family to even exist in the first place!

Copy of nuevo-vallarta-puerto-vallarta-family-photos

From there I try and group the individual families together on either side. Spouses and children stick together so that each individual family is together and forms part of the larger family portrait.


Sometimes, it’s fun to just have everyone mixed in however they want, but try and keep in mind to group each family together for the formal portrait.

Natural posing

You’ll hear me talk a lot about Natural Posing. I’m not sure if this is an actual official term, I’d like to think I made it up! But either way it means just that: natural.

Natural posing can mean allowing your clients to just enjoy their time at the beach, park, or where ever you have chosen the location of your session.


It can mean giving them a task like holding hands and walking while enjoying the sand between their toes. Or building sand castles together. Or perhaps a cute hug sesh between all members.


Then, you the photographer, move a little further from the scene to document how it unfolds. Get experimental, get close, choose a different lens, and if you need to, ask your clients to hold the pose or do the same task again until you feel you got the shot.

This type of posing is really good for relaxing nerves, both for you and your clients. Trust me, even after 10 years of photograph people, I still get nervous.


Natural posing let’s the session feel a little more relaxed and light rather than pose, pose, pose, and more posing. Which let’s be real, can get a little stiff and boring after a while, especially for little ones.

Shoot the individual families too

Even if my client only wanted a large family portrait, I always take a few of the smaller family units so that they too can have their own individual portrait.


You don’t have to do a full on session for each family, just take a few group shots and then perhaps a couple of the children alone.

This also adds variety for your clients and can help you get some more orders in for individual prints, gift prints, holiday cards, etc. Instead of only giving grandma and grandpa a large portrait only of everyone.


Plus, who doesn’t love photos of the children as well!


Ok! That wraps up todays installment of Photographer Friday! A little short but I hope it was helpful and don’t forget to use the triangle post for interesting layering and making sure everyone is in the shot!

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Tips on focusing and how to take sharp images

Happy Friday friends!

Got a request to talk about how I focus my photos and I’ll breakdown my own version of how I do that. Not all photographers are the same an I’d love to hear different techniques to how you focus your photos. This isn’t a tutorial per-se but just about how I do things.

Alright, let’s get into it!

Here the center AF point is in her right eye. From there I focus and recompose.

Here the center AF point is in her right eye. From there I focus and recompose.


I use autofocus for all of my focusing. All of my lenses are on auto focus and it just is fast and easy. When I feel like my lens isn’t focusing as fast, I’ll switch it to manual.

But it’s super rare. I’d do it only if I can for sure get the focus right. It’s hard to make sure through the viewfinder.


Also, I might put it in manual if I’m using the LCD screen to shoot something, but that’s hardly ever the case. I just use the viewfinder because I’m old school and habits are hard to break lol. Plus, I think it’s faster because the LCD screen shooting takes for ever, anyone got tips on how to make that focus faster?


I might get some gripe about metering but I mostly just leave it how the camera had it from the start. It’s in evaluative metering, mostly because I want to make sure that the metering is assessing the scene.


Plus, since I shoot 90% in manual, I have full control of what I want to be lit, how I want it to be lit, and adjust my settings accordingly and so I don’t need the camera to meter for me.

Perhaps if I was doing more landscape or wildlife or nighttime photography I could see how other types of metering might come in handy.


I started on Canon back in 2006. Digital was still pretty new, however, focusing hasn’t always been the best feature on Canons, ha! Anyone who shoots with Canon can attest to that for sure, however, I learned pretty early on, with only 9 points, that the center AF point was the best for Canon.


Rarely do I ever shift the focal point or move it away from center. Only if my camera is on tripod and I have an aperture like f/8 or higher and can be sure that my scene will have lots of depth of field in focus do I change the AF point.

Here I most likely put the center AF point on the mom’s left eye. From there, the focus is distributed.

Here I most likely put the center AF point on the mom’s left eye. From there, the focus is distributed.

I am pretty certain that even though I upgraded to the 6D, the center AF point continues to be the sharpest focal point.


I photograph lots of portraits. Some are individuals, groups, large families, small families, wiggly children, any and all people!


In order to get the best focus, I focus on the inside eye of the person in the center. Sometimes I’ll alternate on the eye just to make sure I have enough if I wanted to stack the focusing in post later.

When it’s just one person, focusing on the eye closet to the camera tends to work the best. I make sure to get a few frames of the same pose and same eye before switching the pose or focus onto another part of the body.


You can not talk about focusing without talking about aperture. Because aperture effects depth of field, you have to make sure that you’re using the correct aperture to begin with.

Aperture for this image is f/9.0.

Aperture for this image is f/9.0.

Might surprise many but I hardly ever shoot wide open. Unless it’s a detail shot, or for a specific reason. Most of my portraits are at f/2.8 or more. And very rarely are they at f/2.8 to begin with.

Aperture for this image is f/10.

Aperture for this image is f/10.

This is because I want to make sure that I have the face in focus. For that to happen, either the face has to be square to the camera, which isn’t a flattering pose for many people, or I have to have an aperture at at least f/4.0.

Aperture for this image is f/4.0.

Aperture for this image is f/4.0.

I’ve also learned, higher F numbers are sweet spots too. More in focus means more detail. Especially when we’re dealing with large families or wiggly children.

Aperture for this image is f/6.3.

Aperture for this image is f/6.3.

You get more in focus and this helps to get more people in focus both in depth and from the center out. When i have shot more open, I’ve regretted it because I can see that I get less in focus and it’s so disheartening when this happens, especially with big groups.


Okay, this might sound weird and super old school, but it’s how I do things and it’s usually the best way I’ve gotten my focusing down.

I focus on her eye with the center AF point and then recompose the composition so that their faces are in the upper right hand corner of the frame, not center. All while keeping my finger half way down on the shutter button. Takes practice to get it right each time and sometimes it’s off, which is why it’s good to get a few frames of each pose/expression.

I focus on her eye with the center AF point and then recompose the composition so that their faces are in the upper right hand corner of the frame, not center. All while keeping my finger half way down on the shutter button. Takes practice to get it right each time and sometimes it’s off, which is why it’s good to get a few frames of each pose/expression.

I am really selective when photographing anything or anyone. I make sure to take the photo after being certain that’s what I want. Which means, I never shoot in burst mode. I don’t shoot 50 photos of the same thing. Too much time in editing and finding the final images in 50 identical images, no thank you.

Which means, I don’t shoot as much in terms of frames. I average about 150 images per hour, which isn’t a lot especially for weddings. But I make sure that each photo I take, it’s what I want to take. And then I’ll take about 5-10 until I feel sure I have the shot.

You can see how many of each pose I shoot before changing it up or moving on. I’m super selective and therefore I take my time focusing, choosing my settings, and making sure I can get the shot. I also allow for natural posing after I get my sure shots.

You can see how many of each pose I shoot before changing it up or moving on. I’m super selective and therefore I take my time focusing, choosing my settings, and making sure I can get the shot. I also allow for natural posing after I get my sure shots.

So what is compose, focus, and recompose? It is where I compose the shot, make sure to focus with the center af point on say, the eyes, and then recompose the composition of the photo to how I want it to look in terms of rule of thirds without letting go of the focus.

For these you might wonder how I focus quickly. I don’t. I have my clients walk slow and enjoy the walk! Or sometimes I’ll have them take two or three steps and then freeze. Looks like they’re moving, but they’re not. Wind also helps create this effect on beaches ;).

For these you might wonder how I focus quickly. I don’t. I have my clients walk slow and enjoy the walk! Or sometimes I’ll have them take two or three steps and then freeze. Looks like they’re moving, but they’re not. Wind also helps create this effect on beaches ;).

I am careful to move only in the x and y axis of my focus. Which means that once I focus, I can only move directly up or down, or side to side. If I move forward or backward, I’d have to refocus and recompose because the original focus would be off.

Seems like a lot of work and it’s really not. It’s just because I got used to Canon having the center AF point being the strongest and sharpest, I had to do it this way. Since my Rebel days.


I have tried back button focusing, which locks focus so you don’t have to keep your finger on the shutter to hold the focus, but i feel like I don’t have full control over the focus. So I stopped doing that.

I may refocus more than most photographers just to make sure but this is what works for me.


Given some circumstances, I’ll use those two focusing modes but only if there is a lot of movement or I’m moving a lot.


I don’t normally like using these because it can throw my composition off and I like having my photos as close to the final image that I can and so composition is so second hand to me that if I were to use these, leave my focus in the center, most of the compositions would be centered.

And truthfully? I haven’t mastered these metering modes to work for me and so I do what I know and focus how it’s worked for me in the past.


Because I tend to direct and pose a lot in my photography, I don’t need these all too much. Perhaps for walking down the aisle they work best.

Or children who move too much. Personally, refocusing and recomposing has worked for me. However, I should practice these two just to get them down in case I need them.

That’s it friends! That’s how I focus and what I use and just like any other photographer out there, I’m constantly learning too! Even after 12 years because there are always new things to learn. That’s what makes photography so interesting!

Got tips for me? Want to write a post? Want to sponsor a post? Let me know HERE.

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Photographing Teens

It’s not a surprise that teens are a the forefront of most selfies. They are getting an understanding of who they are as a somewhat adult but still child.

Self awareness is huge for teens and most already know what they like and don’t dislike and unlike my generation, are more forward in telling you exactly what that is unapologetically.

Teens are also one of the most self aware clients and therefore can sometimes feel a bit self conscious and uncomfortable in front of a stranger that mom and dad paid to photograph them.

So here are my tips for having a great experience with teens!


I can not stress how important it is for you to have a conversation with your client before any type of session actually takes place. This can be via email, FaceTime, or better yet, in person!


Ask them what the session is for, why they wanted to hire you, what they need after the session or if the session is with other teens or family.

Also, if you can, get some time with the teen alone, always with mom or dad near by, and talk to them about THEM. Ask them if they’ve had professional photos taken before, what do they want out of the session. If the teen goes mute, which can sometimes happen if they’re around say 14 years old, just keep asking the questions in a light hearted manner.


Don’t dwell or force them to answer anything they’re unsure of. Teens are unsure of many things. If you can spark up a conversation about you like or perhaps ask them to create a vision board and text it to you.

Giving the teen some say about their own session gives them the authority to dictate what they like, what they don’t and be the creative directors of their own shoot.

Trust me, having their input will help you create images that they’ll love and ultimately get bought, shared, and even mom will enjoy that you got them onboard.


Have music playing. If it’s in studio, on location, or anywhere, create a playlist and even offer the teen to add songs to it if they wish during the session.

You can also bring a small portable speaker and have them connect their phone to it so that their favorite music is playing.


Music can create an experience unique to the teen and help them feel more comfortable in front of your lens and during the whole session as well.

Music also fills in awkward silent gaps because let’s face it, we’re focused on creating amazing images for them and sometimes, the convo can get a little stale. Music helps to fill in that blank and keep the momentum going even when you’re not talking about anything in particular.


Teens have some really great style, however sometimes they can use a little help in that department, and we’re not talking about mom or dad.


Have an add on your packages for styling services with a local hair and makeup person, or you can do a quick inspiration board before the session with all the looks that the teen likes from pinterest or social media.

Creating a cohesive look and getting the wardrobe and styling down before the session can also bring confidence levels up. When you feel and look good, it shows! And teens will like having this confidence boost.


Okay, we’ve all been there. Photographing someone and most likely it’s mom who’s begging the children to smile, say cheese, have fun, or otherwise force the child/teen to do something they want.


It’s best to give the parent a little pep talk, sans teen, and reassure them that the teen is gonna knock this out of the park and that having them just enjoy the experience is much more important.

Let them also know that it’s a rule that if the teen doesn’t smile, we’re not gonna force it. Because sometimes they don’t want to. Sometimes, you’ll get a huge authentic chuckle after the nerves have calmed down.

You might even get them to dance to the music they put on. Just give them some space and time and their personality will shine. There is no need to force it.


And if the parent is hovering, give them a job to do! I’m a mom, I would totally hover and make sure the session I’m paying for goes how I want. Because I know my kid and I know their real smile versus their fake one, I know what gets them happy and I can always hear their laugh in my head.

But let’s get real, as photographers, that’s super annoying and keeps us from doing our job. And it’ll make the teen never want another session again because of mom or dad.


My solution to this is to give the parent something to do, hold, or find. This gives them something to do rather than just watch the session. They are actively participating and busy hands don’t have time to hover over the busy photographer.

Even better if the parent is comfortable with going for a quick coffee run or lunch run. That gets them totally out of the room and lets the teen just relax.

What are your tips for sessions with teens? These tips are here to help you at your next session because we want our clients to have the BEST EXPERIENCE POSSIBLE which will let you create amazing photos for them, their parents, family, and everyone!

Until next Friday friends! Oh, and let me know what you’d like to see for future posts!

Want to sponsor a post or contribute some great tips? Email at hello@jackielamas.com

It's not all about gear

When I first started in this art form, digital was just coming up and lots of really professional and tenured photographers were starting to switch over. It was a constant battle between Canon or Nikon and many even winced at having to put their medium format cameras on the shelf until digital backs were more widely available.


Some didn’t make the switch at all. Some swore by one brand or another. But I’m here to tell you IT DOESN’T MATTER ABOUT YOUR GEAR.

What does matter then Jackie? Let me tell you: Experience, practice, and the willingness to always learn and be receptive to criticism.

I’m going to blow your mind by telling you whats in my camera bag. You might even laugh and say what the how? Or you might say, oh it makes sense. Either way you’ll be surprised, for sure.

My gear:

  • 28-105mm F/3.5-5.6

  • 580 EX ii flash

  • Cheapo extra flash that can be slaved or TTL

Taken with my cellphone but this is it, my gear. On camera is my 50mm.

Taken with my cellphone but this is it, my gear. On camera is my 50mm.

Yep, that’s it. Every image you see here on my website was made with that gear. And before a few years ago, it was a Canon 5D, the original one, which I still have two if anyone is looking to buy. While it’s good to keep one for backup, that’s all they are now. Just cameras I lug around “just in case”. I also have a tripod and I’d be surprised if I actually ever pulled it out to use it.

But all the gear listed above is what is in my bag and I love it. Keeps my gear light, easy to access, and I seriously love the 85 and could honestly shoot everything with it if I had the choice.

Now let’s get into what DOES matter when it comes to photography.


If you’re just starting out and are worried that you’ll be judged by others, clients, photographers, neighbors, your dog, that you don’t have all the top gear, or that you’re still shooting on a semi professional system, let me be the first to tell you that IT DOESN’T MATTER if you don’t actually learn how to use your gear.

Knowing your gear in and out until you don’t even have to look down at the buttons is what makes you great at the creative side of things. Sure, tech is cool and trust me, I’d love to have all the latest gear to play with but it’s not the reality and honestly, let’s be real, expensive.

This was shot on a 2006 Rebel Ti. One of the first ones that ever came out, I believe second generation? Kit lens 18-55mm.

This was shot on a 2006 Rebel Ti. One of the first ones that ever came out, I believe second generation? Kit lens 18-55mm.

Photography, at least not professional photography, is not cheap. So it’s best to really get to know gear and even rent if you need to until you’re sure what gear works for you for the type of photography you want to do.

The only way that you’ll understand what the differences are between a 35mm and an 85mm is by shooting with them. You’ll see subtle differences and perhaps your style doesn’t include a 16mm wide angle lens. Perhaps you shoot in a studio and feel like a solid 24-70 is your sweet lens.

Perhaps you’re a natural light photographer and don’t need anything fancy in terms of flash. Perhaps you are all good with a reflector and some good light.

Maybe you’re starting out and have the kit 18-55mm lens. Use that lens with everything its got and see how far you can push it’s limits.

Get so in tune with your gear that you are not phased when work comes your way, you know you can rely on the gear you have and the set up you’ve created for yourself.

Knowing my gear in and out helps me create images that I picture in my head. Otherwise, I won’t be able to create photos like this because I won’t know the low light capabilities, for example, of my camera.

Knowing my gear in and out helps me create images that I picture in my head. Otherwise, I won’t be able to create photos like this because I won’t know the low light capabilities, for example, of my camera.

My gear works for me. Because I mostly photograph families, children and events. Sure a 70-200mm would be nice, but personally I’ve shot weddings with that lens and it’s painful for my hand after a few hours. Plus, most beach weddings are small and intimate and I don’t even think I’d use it all that month. So for me, it’s not on my wish list.

My gear is light, easy to move around and change, and more than anything, still gives me the results that I’m looking for. It’s what works for me, find what works for you with what you have or want in the future.


It doesn’t matter if you have all the latest gear. It doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve spent learning Photoshop. The only way that you can make your gear work for you, is to practice and gain experience.


Shoot, learn, watch other photographers and how they work, read tutorials, get insights into how people do and create the images that you like, try recreating (not copying) and learning light. Ask friends to pose for you, try different lighting situations, use different backgrounds, reflectors, creative ideas to get unique style photos that are all your own.

Shadow another photographer. Send them emails, ask questions, connect with other photographers, build a community, and shoot, shoot, shoot as much as possible.


That’s the great thing about digital now, you can shoot until your finger goes numb and if you don’t like any of it, erase it and start over. Only when you feel like your gear is holding you back is it time to start thinking about what you can change, if you have the money. If not, then think of unique ways to use your gear to get different photos or the photos that you’re trying to create.


I started photography when I was 19 years old. I’m 34 now and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new about photography, lighting, gear, the creative aspect, or the industry as a whole.

There is always something to learn and that’s what makes it so fascinating! Which is always why I write articles and tutorials because if i can pass down some kind of knowledge I’ve learned over the past few years, then I will.



I can’t end this post without talking about this aspect of photography that has nothing to do with gear. You can have all the gear in the world but if you don’t expand your creativity or at least attempt things, try new things, add ideas to your list of ideas, or explore that side of yourself, your photography will not flourish it it’s true potential.

Creativity can be found in all different formats and doesn’t have to be to actually taking photos. Some photographers are inspired and get their creative juices from books, movies, music, paintings, experience, personal struggles/triumphs, family, etc. There is so much floating around that can move us and keep our creativity flowing.


This doesn’t mean you are to compare yourself to someone else. NOT AT ALL. Creativity is personal and it is an intimate experience with yourself. Your photography is an expression of that and it can push your limits.

Just because you photograph portraits doesn’t mean that you can’t do macro photography as well. Or mixed media with photography and other types of art. Allow your ideas to be big, crazy, and creative. Allow yourself to really dig deep and get it out and see how you can bring it to life.

No amount of gear can bring out your creativity.

Okay, I know that this week’s post is a little fluff but I can’t even begin to tell you how many photographers and artists I come across who are so bent on the fact that they can’t move forward with their craft because they don’t have the right “gear”. Let’s be real: It isn’t just about gear. A camera is a tool, that’s it.

Photography is much more than that, it’s YOU. Your drive, your creativity, how much you practice, the experience you accumulate, and how you express your creativity.

Types of lighting

So a while ago a photographer friend came to me and told me how she recently had a client who told her that a real professional photographer doesn’t use flash.

Yeah, I had to hear the sentence a couple of times, mouth wide open, in full surprise that someone would ever think that! Not because flash is bad or gets a bad rep for being a little too harsh sometimes but let me say this for everyone, clients and photographers:


Whew, there, I said it. This means that flash, studio strobes, hot lights, flash lights, and even construction lights should not go to waste when the can help you achieve the look that you want and get your shot.

Yep, used flash here to fill in my clients’ faces in order to get the color from the stained glass in the background.

Yep, used flash here to fill in my clients’ faces in order to get the color from the stained glass in the background.

When a photographer can use both artificial light and natural light, there is nothing that photographer can’t create! Don’t limit yourself and jump in today because we’re gonna talk about using flash.


Okay, let’s start with this all too common question. A flash is a more portable studio light that can help you add light to your photographs when needed. See, the thing with photography is that even though it’s modeled after our own eyes, it doesn’t have the ability to expose for both foreground and background.

Not just for people, but for details and still life too. Pointed directly at the ceiling to bounce light.

Not just for people, but for details and still life too. Pointed directly at the ceiling to bounce light.

Artificial lighting is there to help light your scene evenly and not be limited to natural lighting situations. Which, let’s face it, as photographers natural light can sometimes backfire on us with really harsh days, or even worse, cloudy days where the sun hides behind clouds and throws off your exposure every couple of frames. Those are the worst in my opinion.

External flashes, and pop-up flashes, help to fill in light on a scene that otherwise would need too much photoshop or to do a composite which also takes up valuable time.

Used flash in a small room to create these portraits.

Used flash in a small room to create these portraits.

Multiple flashes can be used to create your own studio and light scenes that you have pictured in your head just right so that your creation can come to light. This is where you manipulate the light to do exactly what you want in a photo.


Flash is portable, lightweight, and easy to use in any photographic situation. Having one doesn’t mean you’ll always use it or that you have to like it, it just means that you have in your bag more possibilities.


This debate is like the RAW vs. JPEG and Canon vs. Nikon. I can only let you know my own experience with both modes on external flash and why I prefer Manual Mode in all situations.

Left: without flash, blown out sky. Right, with flash, richer colors and you can see the orange in the sky and a bluer sea.

Left: without flash, blown out sky. Right, with flash, richer colors and you can see the orange in the sky and a bluer sea.


Let’s start with TTL which is an abbreviation for “through the lens”. This is where the flash meters the output of light based on the information of exposure metered through the lens of the camera.

It will choose the best output for you as you focus your camera and fire off. In TTL you don’t have to think about the flash much because it’s doing its own thing. You can use compensation +/- to get more or less output from your flash, which is pretty effective if you want to control the flash a bit.

However, my complaint with TTL is that it often meters the output differently from photo to photo. Meaning, one photo taken in the same spot may have a different flash output than the second photo and so on. Which to me is really inconsistent and super frustrating.

These were all shot in manual mode with two flashes. One on camera and one camera left pointed at my clients.

These were all shot in manual mode with two flashes. One on camera and one camera left pointed at my clients.


When I learned about manual, it was a little hard to catch on at first because I had only had experience with controlling strobes in a studio and not a flash on location. Took a little bit of trial and error to get the output right for each situation but it was a total game changer because once you had your correct output you then didn’t have to change it unless you moved into a different lighting situation.

Every single one of these photos was shot using flash!

Every single one of these photos was shot using flash!

For example, I’m on a beach during midday sun and need the flash to compensate with the sun. I put my flash pointed directly at my clients at 1/2 power. Which is a pretty high output and I need it because the sun behind my clients is really bright, causing all kinds of shadows on their faces and lots of lighting mess.

I put it at 1/2 power and see that it works perfectly. Now, I can go about my entire session when I want flash and not have to guess, change, or move the output at all. It’s consistent and I know I’m getting exactly what I want in that particular lighting situation.

Yep flash again! With a big soft box attachment to soften the light. Black and white in photoshop.

Yep flash again! With a big soft box attachment to soften the light. Black and white in photoshop.

Or another example, I’m photographing a bride getting ready and I have the flash bouncing off the ceiling at 1/16 power. I take a photo, see it’s not enough output and so I change it to 1/8. Leave it on 1/8 for the entire getting ready because won’t be changing rooms and I can have consistent flash output each and every single frame.

Manual mode helps me to get consistent exposures and makes me work less by trying to compensate the flash either up or down each time I take photo.


Flashes are so great because they’re portable little tools in your bag. Need to photograph a headshot but want to create that studio lighting effect? Flash. Want to light a reception with two flashes to get some cool flare? Flash. Want to add soft lighting to a bridal portrait to make it look like window light? Flash. All of these scenarios are perfect for flash. Which also requires the use of bouncing, diffusing, and slaving.

Both images have flash. Placed on a light stand and my assistant holding it so that I can move around and the light stays the same each time the flash fires.

Both images have flash. Placed on a light stand and my assistant holding it so that I can move around and the light stays the same each time the flash fires.


This is when your flash is pointed at something and bounces the light back onto your subject, object, or where ever you want it to land.

The most common is bouncing it off a white ceiling. I also like to bounce light off an adjacent wall to create more depth and shadow in the photos. But, that’s all preference and you’re the boss of what want your flash to do.


All of these images have flash because it was super hot, bright, and I was competing with the sun (see the shadows?) Kept my clients out of the harsh sunlight and got the portraits lit evenly. Can’t even tell I used flash.

All of these images have flash because it was super hot, bright, and I was competing with the sun (see the shadows?) Kept my clients out of the harsh sunlight and got the portraits lit evenly. Can’t even tell I used flash.

Diffusers are useful in that they make the flash light softer. You can use the diffuser that came with your flash to soften light, or a mini-softbox, or I’ve even seen a trash bag used to diffuse light. The point is to soften the light making it more even across your scene.


This means that you “slave” one or more flashes so that they fire off at the same time. For this you’ll need either a transmitter and receiver or flashes that communicate with one another. Some flashes have a slave mode and when they detect the light fire from a flash with in range, that flash fires as well.

One flash on a stand behind the bride slaved to the one on camera.

One flash on a stand behind the bride slaved to the one on camera.

Slaving can be really useful in studio lighting situations where you need to light different parts of the stage with light at different output power. Or if you’re lighting a reception venue and want to make sure that you have light for any angle within the venue.


Flash can be subtle or intentional. You’re the photographer and you can create more with flash.

Flash can be subtle or intentional. You’re the photographer and you can create more with flash.

In the end, flash is such a great too for ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS and knowing how to use them is really helpful for lots of different lighting situations.

You could even use you cell phones flash to get familiar with lighting angles. Video lights also work for still light and getting to know how light works within a frame.

And never let anyone tell you that flash isn’t for professional photographers because the more you know, the more you can create.

That’s it for this weeks Photographer Friday friends! Post your thoughts in the comments below!

Posing Families | Tips for Portrait Photographers

Posing, sounds like it would be really hard but it’s not! At least not with a little bit of prep and practice.

Posing can be really fun because it can be really subtle and it can make your clients feel a little more comfortable if you take a little bit of control.

Here are a quick five tips for posing families in particular. I’m talking about 5 people or smaller. Larger families will have their own separate post because it’s a whole different thing!

I’m not giving you exact posing because every family dynamic is different as is the location, time, situation, and mood. However, these tips will help at ANY family session to keep them going, keep them fun, and get the great images that the parents are going to want to buy!


What the heck is natural posing? I know seems like a made up term, and it is. I made it up, or chances are I heard it somewhere. Anyway, the point of natural posing is to simply allow your clients to get into the groove of the session by just being themselves.


This is helpful because it gives you time to get your exposure right, perhaps walk to an area that is perfect for the session, or just talk and shoot while keeping things light and less “in your face with a camera”.

Ask your clients to walk hand in hand, or carrying their children if they’re young, and have them just explore and check out the location.


With smaller children, younger than 3 years, exploring and walking around helps them get familiar with their surroundings rather than forcing them to smile and pose at the camera right off the bat. Which let’s face it, toddlers kinda do their own thing and run the show most of the time, ha!

Even with older kids, giving them an activity can help them relax in front of the camera.

Even with older kids, giving them an activity can help them relax in front of the camera.

Getting these natural poses can really bring about real connection between family members and also authentic expressions which are probably the favorite images for parents.

During this time, get close to the children and explore with them as you take their photos. Ask them to run to daddy and play a joke or jump on him. Ask the children to hug or maybe make faces.


All of this play will help you gain their confidence and they’ll eventually do what you ask. Of course it’s not a guarantee but at least they’ll think you’re fun.


Posing can get pretty boring for children so try and pose quickly and go with the flow. It’s really important to tell the parents that children run the show and it’s the best way to gain their trust and with some coaxing, get them to pose as you want.

Pose mom and dad first and then ask the children to go on either side. After I asked them to all look at each other, which is the result at left. Then the kids wanted to show me their floss moves so I let them play and have fun!

Pose mom and dad first and then ask the children to go on either side. After I asked them to all look at each other, which is the result at left. Then the kids wanted to show me their floss moves so I let them play and have fun!

Start with posing the parents first. Put mama and daddy where you want them and then tell the children to pose with one or the other. If there is only one child, pose the child in the middle or perhaps being help by one of the parents.

Sometimes posing the parents where the children are is your best bet. This little girl sat on the rock as we were playing a game and I quickly asked the parents to sit on either side. Two seconds later, the little girl was running again!

Sometimes posing the parents where the children are is your best bet. This little girl sat on the rock as we were playing a game and I quickly asked the parents to sit on either side. Two seconds later, the little girl was running again!

Posing mom and dad first helps the children see that they too are listening to the photographer and so usually, the children quickly pose alongside the parents.

Here is where you have to shoot quickly and be ready to…


With smaller children, you should be ready to act a fool. Play is the strongest asset you have when dealing with children under 5 years old because they don’t have any interest in getting their photo taken.


However, if you’re ready to bark like a dog, sing the wheels on the bus as loud as you can, or jump around to get a laugh, you bet these kids are gonna do whatever you ask them to.

Get close and tickle babies, grab keys and shake them loudly around you. You can also use clapping to get attention. Play the peek-a-boo game or just anything you can to get their attention.

Wanna know how I got these kids to stay still? Before this I barked like a dog and meowed like a cat.

Wanna know how I got these kids to stay still? Before this I barked like a dog and meowed like a cat.

Sometimes you’ll have to swap out heads in the final images to make sure that everyone looks their very best.

If you feel like the children want to be silly, let them be and then say “ okay now a good smile for mom and dad”. This gives them the go for being themselves but also toning it down to get what their parents want.



The best way you can keep children engaged in the session is to keep mixing both natural posing and directed posing. This keeps children moving and doesn’t let them get bored with the session.


Giving them something to do also helps to keep them exploring and going. Children usually last a solid 45 minutes and that’s hoping for the best.

Switching it up can keep them going a little longer and you can get some really good expressions out of them by showing them photo sessions can be fun too!

Posed verses non posed. Both showcase the family as they are!

Posed verses non posed. Both showcase the family as they are!

So, what is your biggest challenge with posing families?

I want to know what you want to learn about each Friday, send me an idea!

Comment on this post!

Photographer Friday : Intro

I am so excited to start Photography Fridays!

I have over 10+ years of experience as a portrait and wedding photographer and well, I thought it was time to share some of what I’ve learned with others! I also graduated in photography communications from California State University, Fullerton, which by the way doesn’t mean you need a degree to do photography… at all!

This space is open for YOU to ask questions, post comments, and even give me ideas on what you’d like to learn each Friday. Eventually I would love to create a community and really help photographers learn their craft, without having to hit so many road bumps like I did when I first started!

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ME: I’m Jackie, I’ve been a photographer for quite a while. I write for a couple of photography websites and help photographers there as well. I am an introvert by nature but have been learning the advantages of being an extrovert as well! I’m a mama to an almost 3 year old who keeps me on my toes. Oh, and I live in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico but I’m originally from Sunny California! If you’d like to know that story, just email me and I’ll share that story with ya!

So, what would you like to learn?