If you’re a mom who’s buying a DSLR this Christmas, I’m so glad you found this post because I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about buying a DSLR and the accessories you’ll want to go with it.
Here’s the deal. I know you probably think the better your camera, the better your photos will be. Let me be the one to break the secret of the professional photographers to you….that’s not the important part.
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I know. You’ve been thinking you need a pro camera body all this time, so now what?! How are you going to take those amazing DIY family photos?!
Take a deep breath and come with me. I’m going to show you the way.
Buying a DSLR
The Camera Body
Your camera body isn’t the piece of camera equipment that does the magic: it’s your lens that makes the magic happen. And don’t worry. I’ll tell you what to look for.
If I were looking for a new camera setup today I would start with a camera body (and I would probably wait to see what deals roll out during the holiday season).
Go to the store (yes, like change out of your pjs, drag the family to Best Buy wearing real clothes and all) and pick up some of the camera bodies they have in store. Feel them in your hand. Is this one too big or this one too awkward?
Can your fingers reach the buttons without letting go of the grip? Yes. That’s totally a real problem sometimes.
Find one that is the lowest quality you’re okay with.
Make sure it has a manual mode (I’ll be teaching you all about how to use it (It’s totally not that hard!)).
Make sure it can switch out lenses.
And has a high native ISO
Save some money and get one without a lens (unless it is actually free).
Choose a Canon or Nikon (everything about them is reversed, so if you have used one in the past, stick with the same brand if you don’t want a learning curve).
To me, as a mom, anything between $400-$500 new is completely acceptable. If you’re on a tighter budget, don’t be afraid to buy used. I have even shot weddings with used cameras and everyone came out alive (and even beautiful!). The lens is what actually makes beautiful magic happen (keep reading!).
If you do look at a used camera, be sure to research the camera model’s reviews from when it was new, buy from a respectable seller (there actually are some on eBay), and ask about the shutter count. The shutter count is like miles on a car. The lower the count, the more life that is left in the camera.
You might not like what I’m going to say here because it might destroy your budget. You need to buy a good lens. In my book, you have two options as a DIY mom photographer.
Before I tell you what they are, let me tell you what’s important about lenses and that will help you understand why I chose the two lenses that I did.
When you shop for a lens, you’re looking for two important numbers. The focal length (measured in mm) is how far the lens can see while keeping in focus. You need to know this number because the longer focal lengths mean you need to be further away from your subject. I don’t know about you, but my son never gets far enough away from me when there’s a camera involved!
And the aperture (shown as f/1.8) is essentially how wide the lens can open (meaning how well it can see in the dark). Your home is darker than you realize until you begin to notice a shift in light patterns as you develop your photography skills. I like this number to be as low as possible to let in more light, and it also keeps the background all blurry and buttery.
The main reasons kit lenses (lenses that come with camera bodies) aren’t awesome is because of their aperature. It’s just too high to shoot with during normal life, and the background won’t be as soft and buttery as you want it to be. Trust me. It won’t unless you in the middle of a football field or something.
So, the two lenses I recommend will keep your kids close enough to you that you don’t have to run to the other side of the room to get their photo, and they will perform in low light situations (like your house in the daytime) with a soft background.
50mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.4
The “nifty fifty” (1.8) is an awesome beginner’s lens. Why? Budget. It’s only $100 and it’s a killer lens if it works for you. I’ve found that it’s usually too zoomed in for me to work with easily, but some people absolutely adore it. And in the right setting, it’s amazing for a soft background in low light. It’s the best deal if you are taking photos inside your house.
If you talk to most any pro photographer that photographs people, you’ll hear them mention this lens as a great lens, and many of us call it our “go-to” lens. Wedding photographers love it. Family photographers love it. It’s flexible because it is a zoom and amazing in low light.
28mm is wide enough of an angle that your kid can walk up to you and you won’t need to back away, and 75mm is long enough that you can sneak in for a candid shot without anyone knowing you were even there.
And it does great in low light most of the time. Not as good as the 50mm, but still great.
If I could only have one lens for the rest of my life, I would pick this one.
Must Have Camera Accessories for a Mom
Here’s the deal. You don’t have to have a camera bag, but if you’re a mom, you NEED a camera strap. Oftentimes, I keep my camera out on a shelf where I can get to it quickly because you just never know. But when I need my camera, I can’t always hold it the whole time. Am I the only one who needs to hold 5 things all the time?? I almost always have my phone and a toy of some sort in my hand.
I love our Black Rapid R-strap. It’s like an amazing husband: tough, strong, comfortable, and always by your side. Hahaha. You might not want a knockoff (r-strap, not a knockoff husband) since it holds your camera and lens dangling by a screw and a hook thingie. We have had an off-brand camera strap fail in the middle of a wedding. Yikes. (It’s okay. Everyone lived.)
The best thing about these straps is that your camera slides along the strap, so instead of the strap dragging along your clothes when you pick it up to shoot, the strap takes all the drag and it’s as smooth as butter. And the strap stays in place the whole time.
There are gorgeous camera bag purses that can keep your camera with you all the time. I never had one of these, but I would honestly be too scared to carry mine around with me unless I was on vacation.
Plus, I don’t know about you, but my purse already weighs 378 lbs as it is! And a 5 lb camera will not lighten the load for me.
So, just get a camera bag. Any ol’ camera bag will work as long as it travels well (because you might keep your camera out at home like me and only need the bag for vacations) and is easily accessible if you need your camera in a hurry.
Unless you already have everything else and are already carrying your camera everywhere. Then you need a camera purse.
You don’t NEED this. You really don’t. The glass on your lens is amazing and will resist scratches while you’re shooting. But if you’re rough (or your kids are) or just nervous, get a UV filter. It’s only a few bucks.
It’s a little piece of glass that screws onto the end of your lens to filter out UV light.
It shouldn’t impact your photos but might act as a layer of protection if you drop your camera lens-down. Plus, for the price, it can’t hurt.
So, there you have it! This is my list of what you need to know before buying a DSLR for Christmas!
Don’t forget to pin this so you can come back and read it later when you’re actually buying your camera to make sure you’ve got everything you need. 🙂