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Watcha Shootin’ With? A Look At My Camera

You may have noticed that my little blog has undergone a few changes in the past year. In addition to having a new domain that is much easier to remember (, the photos and images I share in each post have substantially improved. When I first began my blogging journey, I relied primarily on my iPhone and a simple point and shoot camera. It was a good start and I was proud of my work, but last winter I upgraded to a DSLR camera and it brought my blog’s content to a whole new level. Readers often notice the quality of my photos and inquire about my camera. Today I am happy to answer all of your camera-related questions!

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links, which helps to support the blog.
this blogger explains the equipment she uses to capture beautiful photos
Before we proceed, I must stress that I am not a professional photographer. I am just a novice that learned the basics of a DSLR camera and found a way to adjust the settings to fit my aesthetic. I’ll happily share the knowledge I have, but be warned that I am certainly not an expert.

I Heart My Camera

Today, I shoot with a Canon Rebel T3i camera. It is a DSLR (the fancy kind of camera with detachable lenses). I love my camera. The quality, crispness, and clarity of the photos it captures astounds me every time I use it. I especially love that it has the ability to make the background appear blurry so your eye is drawn to the intended subject of the photo.
Cannon Rebel T3i camera

Learning to Shoot Like a Pro

Owning a quality camera is only half the battle. It is equally important that you know the basics of operating a DSLR. Any camera is only as good as the person standing behind it. When I first received my camera, I was beyond intimidated. I was scared of breaking it, the operating manual was like a foreign language, and I was completely overwhelmed.

Then I signed up for a 3-hour photography workshop.
That single class changed everything.

I discovered BTW Photography, a local photographer that offered a 3-hour DSLR class for beginners. I was taught basic camera terminology, how to adjust my settings to adjust the amount of light in the photo, and what all those crazy numbers on the display screen mean. I walked away confident and ready to put my new photography knowledge to use. I now shoot exclusively in manual mode and I never use a flash. (Purchasing an external flash and learning how to use it artistically is on my holiday to-do list).

I highly recommend a beginner’s class for everyone that purchases their first DSLR camera. Whether you own a Canon or a Nikon, your camera will work so much better for you if you know how to use it properly. Unsure of where to find a class? Check your local community college. They frequently offer basic photography classes. Groupon and Living Social also offer occasional deals on local photography classes. (BTW Photography is a perfect example of a professional photographer that has offered classes through Living Social).
blog photography tips

Let’s Talk Lenses

Everyone that gets ready to purchase a new camera always wants to know what lens they need. Many DSLR cameras are available in a starter kit that includes a camera body and an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens. I have learned that this is a very basic starter lens. It’s the lens that I started on and it serves many everyday functions. It’s perfect for shooting around the home (or classroom) while you become accustomed to your new camera. This type of lens sells for about $200 by itself so I highly recommend purchasing a camera kit that includes a camera body and this lens.
Canon 18-55mm/f3.5-5.6 lens
Once you feel comfortable with the camera and the basics, consider upgrading to a new lens. My favorite lens is a 50mm/f 1.8 II lens. It let’s you zoom in super-close and allows you to adjust your aperture to a super-low setting of 1.8 (in non-technical talk, this basically means that it allows you to let in lots of light and get the background of your images extra blurry).  This lens was recommended to me at the class and I love it! I use it 90% of the time when I take photos. In fact, i recently broke my 50mm lens in an unfortunate accident and had to RUSH to Best Buy to purchase a replacement.
Cannon 50mm/f1.8 lens
Sidenote: Have you ever wondered what the inside of a camera lens looks like?
I don’t. Not anymore.

A Stylish Camera Bag

Every girl needs a fabulous bag to carry her camera in style. I carry a Rose Coral bag from Jo Totes. I love how it looks like an oversize purse (I always get tons of compliments) and is large enough to hold my camera, additional lenses, and my purse contents so I don’t have to carry too many bags at once.
Rose Coral Camera bag from Jo Totes
With a pretty pink color and lots of feminine details, this is the bag for me!
Rose Coral camera bag from Jo Totes
You can purchase an adorable camera bag by visiting or find one on Amazon. You can also check out more photos of my stunning Rose Coral bag.

With some basic information to get you started on your own journey into DSLR photography, I am hoping that your toughest decision will be which camera bag to add to your Christmas wish list!
blog camera tips
Say cheese!

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Maria Gavin

Maria is a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, with 13 years of teaching experience. Her love and passion for all things early childhood is now fulfilled as a mom to two amazing kids. She loves sharing practical and creative tips and ideas that are perfect for young learners – in the classroom or at home!

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16 Responses

  1. This is a great post! You didn’t mention my favorite photography tip, and that is to INSURE your camera equipment. I pay about $10/month (bundled with my home/car insurance) for a zero-deductible personal property policy. I’ve had TWO damaged lenses replaced at no cost.

  2. Great post! I got a DSLR for my birthday in July (the Nikon D5100). Just this month I purchased a 50mm/1.8 lens. I LOVE the blur effect it has and that the pictures come out so much more precise. Perfect for taking portraits in the classroom (and of my adorable nieces!). Photography is quickly becoming my new favorite hobby!!!
    Colleen 🙂
    Fun and Fearless in First

  3. Maria! I was so excited when I saw this post!! Your pictures are always beautiful!!! I got the exact same camera last December for my birthday, but I never took a workshop and just tried to learn bits and pieces on my own! Of course since I don’t know what I’m doing the pictures never turn out as well as my point and shoot, so I’ve been sticking to that! Crazy, I know! Now I am determined to find a class so I can start making the best of my camera!

  4. You’ve totally sold me on a class now Maria!! I have a fancy camera that I got 3+ years ago for taking good pictures of the kids and I hardly ever use it unless it’s for special occasions! EEK!! I want to learn how to use it!!

  5. I read a lot about camera bag purses before this purchase. I recently used it for a trip to Arizona and was not disappointed. There is indeed ample room for my camera and three lenses. The space designated for an IPad/Tablet is a bit tight-only because I have a hefty case on my IPad. Plenty of pockets for all accessories. I really love this bag. Not only is it functional but it is also a lovely color. I received many compliments on it. Now I can carry my cameras without an ugly bag. I love it!


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Hi, I'm Maria.

I’m a former kindergarten teacher turned work-from-home mom. I still love sharing ideas and resources to make teaching easier, so you can focus on what really matters in the classroom. When I’m not working on the blog, you’ll find me chasing kids around the house with a cold cup of coffee in my hand (some things never change even once you’re out of the classroom!)


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