How to decide which "big camera" (DSLR) to purchase | San Francisco Family Photographer

This is such a difficult question and one that I am asked several times a week from friends, clients, and strangers alike. People know their cell phone camera and point-and-shoot cameras aren't cutting it to take pictures of their lightning-speed kiddos, but aren't sure which "big camera" to purchase that will give them the results they want without putting them in the poor house and the camera becoming a dinosaur before it even arrives in the mail.

So here are some points I emailed a friend yesterday that I thought might be helpful to other people too:

1) "Nikon or Canon? Nikon or Canon??": Let me start by saying I'm a Canon girl through-and-through. I use Nikons in my 101 Workshops, but I truly can't speak to which body is better than any other. What I can say is that my professional photographer friends who shoot Nikon are beyond pleased and I'm sure whatever Nikon you choose will be fantastic. Having said that, I can only recommend Canon because that is all I have experienced. It's not to say that whatever Nikon you have or are considering isn't equally fantastic.

2) "Which Canon should I buy?" Check out this YouTube about Canon Rebel comparisons and note that the big take-away is that if you don't care about video (you'll use your cell phone, your point-and-shoot, your Flip, etc. to capture video), you might as well save some money and get the Canon Rebel Xsi.

3) What about the lens? I want the blur": "Blur" is actually called "bokeh" and you get that effect with shallow depths of field (an entirely different blog post and part of my 101 workshop) When you decide which body to purchase, ignore the lens they sell with the body. It's usually a 3.5 or even 5.6 and won't give you the "blur" that you would like in portrait photographs. In fact, if you can buy a body without a lens, do it. Put that money toward the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens...nicknamed the "nifty 50" because it's an awesome lens for right around $100. Buy the $5 Tiffen 52mm UV Protection Filter too (protects the lens from dust/dirt/fingerprints).

I can say that whatever camera you decide on is going to be a huge, humongous, awesome improvement. What you'll notice quickly is that babies...even little ones...are FAST little guys! They blink, they rock the "startle reflex" (where they jerk their arm up for no good reason and scare you half to death), they turn their heads at the wrong time, etc. etc. etc. A point-and-shoot, even the latest-and-greatest ones...just aren't going to cut it. You need a DSLR (like the ones you're looking at, or even a lesser version) to get those moments.

Another note, I buy ALL of my gear on Amazon. Yes, there are cheaper places but I love Amazon. Great customer service, great returns, great quality. And, for a little while longer, no sales tax (at least for CA). Feel free to buy through B&H or any other reseller...I'm just telling you what I've found to be the best solution for me. Here is a link to my gear (not that you need this gear...just want to share what I use): http://astore.amazon.com/brookebryandphotography-20

Good luck in your quest and don't hesitate to contact me with questions. I feel like I need to put a doctor's statement here that the views and opinions expressed here are mine only. Brooke Bryand/Brooke Bryand Photography can not be held liable for the photography items you purchase.

Most importantly - GET OUT THERE AND START SHOOTING!

How to Take Great Photos of your Kids this Summer {Workshop Tips} San Francisco Family Photographer

Tired of returning from vacation, downloading 1,000 photos and realizing Little Johnny is squinting or has his eyes closed in most of them? Find it daunting to flip through them and figure out what to do with the other 999 of them? Here are some tips to make taking photos of your kids this summer a little easier (on everyone!):

1) Find Shade: Although it's a common misconception that sunny days make for beautiful photos, it's actually the opposite. Cloudy/overcast days are ideal for photos, both because the subject isn't squinting and because the cloud cover brings out gorgeous color tones in your surroundings that are often washed out when the sun is beating down. Try to take photos in the early morning or late afternoon, and if you need to take them mid-day because you're at a picturesque lunch, find shade to snap that shutter.

Brooke Bryand Photography | San Francisco Family Photographer | Photography Tips

2) Play Games: Most kids rate having their picture taken right up there with having a tooth pulled. Why is that? Because many parents make it about the picture...but if you make it about the kiddo, all of a sudden it's not so bad. Find yourself in a gorgeous setting and want to capture it? Play a game with your child (depends on their age, but it's as simple as singing a song or playing peek-a-boo or asking ridiculous questions like, "Do you think Mommy should eat a spider for lunch?")...they are much more likely to engage with you and have a genuine smile on their face if you make it about them.

Brooke Bryand Photography | San Francisco Family Photographer | Photography Tips

3) Put Away the Camera: If your child thinks that your iPhone is an extension of your fingertips, put it away for a few hours. Cameras on cell phones or actual cameras are used so much on kids these days, they are either immune to them or they are really annoyed by them and our constant harassment ("look at mommy! look at mommy!"). Put the camera away for a bit and just enjoy the freedom of doing nothing together. When you take it out again, they're more likely to be refreshed and ready to go!

Now...when you get home...that is the other part of the challenge. What do you do with 1,000 photos? The quick answer: delete! I recommend deleting 75% of the photos taken. Yep, I said it. Delete! The truth of the matter is that an overabundance of photos weighs heavily on all of us. We think that because digital photography is "free" (i.e. no film to develop), we should keep everything we've ever shot, lest we risk missing 10 seconds of our cutie-patooties lives.

Here are my quick tips to free yourself from digital photo overload:

1) Organize: When you download your photos, put them in folders and sub-folders (yes, sub-folders). So if you took a week vacation to Hawaii, the folder would be: 07.13.2011 - Family Vacation Hawaii and then you'd have sub-folders according to date and activity (i.e. "07.14.2011 - Snorkeling" and "07.15.2011 - Luau"). Taking the time to organize photos from the point of origination (i.e. download) will save you lots and lots of time later.

Brooke Bryand Photography | San Francisco Family Photographer | Photography Tips

2) Star & Delete: If you use a program like Picasa (my favorite for consumers...free from Google) or iPhoto (very similar), there is a rating system (either stars or numbers). When you load your photos into these programs, go through and star your favorites. If there is a numbering system for selecting favorites, go through and choose all of your "1's" (i.e. anything that has a chance of being salvaged) and then number some of your favorites "2's". My process is then to go back through the "2's" to edit my favorites of those and making them "3's" which are those I'll share with family. I may then select my top 10 images as "4's" which are the ones I'll share on Facebook. Nobody needs to see all 50 family photos...just pick the very best-of-the-best. And what to do with all of the pictures that didn't make it to be a "1"? Delete. Let 'em go. Adios. When you want to go back at the end of the year to create a calendar/Blurb book/etc, you'll be grateful that you just need to flip through your BEST 25 images from that trip to Hawaii and not all 1000.

Have questions? Let me hear 'em!