Just for fun: My thoughts on photography

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If you have known me long you know I have never been able to sit still and do just one thing for long. I’ve worked since I was 15 and had a babysitting business even before then. And most of the time, since turning 17, graduating high school early, I’ve worked at least two jobs at once. So it doesn’t surprise me that even now, in motherhood, I manage to put too much on my place. Some work to put food on the table, and other “work” to have fun.

Bow from Swan Lake Etc.
When I first moved to Texas I moved without my husband. I didn’t know anyone, so I went out with Snoop a lot. And when we weren’t out, and I wasn’t at work, I was making him coordinating dog collars and leashes. It was my new-learned hobby. A creative outlet for me to try something new and share with strangers I met on the dog park.
“Cute collar!”

“Thanks, I made it!” I felt so cool having a new talent!

Photo by Katie Harris
But soon after my husband and I moved back in together, I stopped going out, and I stopped making custom collars for my Snoop dog. Poor thing. … More on him at a later date.

About that time I also started another hobby to get my creative juices going. This blog. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled writing 90 second stories at work, so I wrote here too.

Then I got pregnant and made tutus and mobiles and leg warmers and hair bows. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have time to do all of those things again. I can’t as much as bust out some scissors without Lil’ J squealing to play too.–Which would be bad.

So what’s the next most fun thing to do when you’re a mom? Besides buying things for your little one to wear, or making things for them?–Taking photos of them wearing cute things of course!

I bought my DSLR before our baby-makin’ journey began. My photos started out pretty crap-tastic, but hey, they looked good to me. It was better than I was getting from my point-and-shoot, so I didn’t know any better.

My weekly maternity photos started out looking like this:

Not good. I was shooting in automatic, with a flash, there were horrible shadows, yada yada yada. I thought my pictures looked better but I wasn’t using my camera to the fullest of it’s ability.

Right before Lil’ J was born I started to shoot less in Automatic, and more in semi-auto, but using some of the manual settings too. My photos started to get a little better. They were coming out more like this:

Hospital gown from Hot Mama Gowns

Then after she was born I got a 50mm lens and they got a little better. And started to look like this:

About this time I started to learn it’s not all about the camera and the gear, it’s about the person behind the lens too. I get several emails or comments a week asking what camera I use, what lens I use etc. I’m not shy about the equipment I use. You can see what’s in my camera bag. And I ask other photographers what lens or camera they use when I notice a specific look I like. Now people say “It’s not the camera it’s the photographer.” And I kind of believe this and I kind of don’t. Here’s my theory…

If you buy a new camera thinking your photos are going to look just like mine, or someone elses who has a certain camera, you may be surprised to find that your photos don’t look like theirs. You may not. You may be happy with how yours turn out. But it takes practice to get better. An expensive camera doesn’t automatically = good photos. That said, I do think once you’ve mastered certain things upgrades are warranted.

If it were all about the photographer and none about the camera, the pros wouldn’t be using bigger, nicer cameras, they’d be using the bottom of the line DSLR’s and wouldn’t have any need to upgrade. Of course, if a pro used my camera they’d be able to take a much better shot of than I would under the same conditions. I’m not going to discredit myself and say my photos come out well because of my gear, I’ll admit I have learned some skill, but I am taking much better photos now thanks to getting a DSLR camera and some nice lenses to compliment it (lenses more so than the body make a bigger difference for photo outcomes).

The biggest help has been learning to shoot in manual. Learning about ISOs, depth of field, my f-stops, and focal lengths, learning about those things, reading manuals, and other tips online has helped me improve A LOT.

And I’m saying all of this to say I have a new hobby, and it’s photography. Mostly just pictures of Lil’ J, but it’s fun photographing other people and things too. I took these pictures for a friend. This mom wanted photos with her son so they can look back and see that she was with him (as moms we are usually snapping the photos, not in them all of the time). It was so strange seeing new faces pop up on my camera screen. And it was fun feeling like I was helping someone else get nice photos they otherwise may not be able to get.

I don’t have a desire to start a photography business. For one, everyone else already has one, and two, I don’t want to end up on yourarenotaphoographer.com. Actually, I check out that site from time to time to get a good laugh, but I don’t think I’m that bad, but I’m also not a pro.

I do think I’ve gotten a lot better though, and I’m using my bit of talent to help Lil’ J get discovered by some major baby commercial company. I’m hoping someday Baby Gap, or Old Navy to give us a call (wink wink), so she can model for them and save for her college fund. More on my stage-mom crazies later (I’m kind of kidding, so don’t freak out!). But for now, until she makes it to the big times, I’m her photographer, agent, and manager, and she’s doing some Etsy and boutique modeling here and there. (By the way if you’re interested in getting your baby involved in this too, click Model Source ad in my sidebar and tell them I sent you! Or ask a question in the comments and I’d be happy to reply!)

It’s so fun taking her out to different spots and trying a new theme for a photo shoots. Like this one, a boutique asked for photos on a farm:

Ruffle butt onesie from Birthday Couture

Or this one asking for photos on the University of Texas campus.

Tutu and bow from For Your Princess Designs

And we have some other fun ones coming up. I want to get better. I want to get so much better, and take photos of pretty food, and places, and things, and other people besides my baby–But I’m taking baby steps. For now I’m self-taught, but I’d love to take a class, and continue to see how I grow.

I’m busy doing two million things every day, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all of my responsibilities. But when I get home and pick up my camera to capture my daughter’s laugh, or milestone, it just doesn’t feel like work.

It’s a good feeling doing something just for fun.

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  1. That website youarenotaphotographer.com is pretty comical! I agree I am not a pro and I am self-taught. So until i get more time to go to school for photography then I will keep it as just me and my kiddos and family… I think the thing that is frustrating is whenever you look for a photographer where I live all you see are white people… don’t have a problem with it but it does make you not want to go and see that person… The person we have as our professional photographer has us up on their website (which is WAY cool!) but again we are the only one’s… guess that’s what happens when you live in the midwest, LOL! We can’t wait to move down south, Texas or Arizona as a matter of fact 🙂 Looking forward to warmth all year and not just for 2 months out of the year, LOL!

  2. Jen, your pictures are great, and getting greater, and you’ve totally inspired me to keep taking pictures of my baby girl. I’ve taken on DSLR class (intro to your camera) and I want to take a photo composition class next. Thank you for sharing your passion around this – it’s helping to fuel my creativity!

  3. It’s funny. We are two of the same. I think I may have mentioned that before. I am LOVING photography at the moment. But it started out as children’s paintings, as you know. I do need to learn more as well. But, lady!!! That pic of Lil J with UT in the background, minus the smile….wow!!!! So fabulous. You are doing wonderfully. You should link up with The Paper Mama Photo Challenges….they are fun. And I KNOW you would “win.” Although…winning = just winning. No prize or anything. ha! BTW – I am ordering some stuff from Sumos Sweet Stuff, thanks to you…

  4. I’m impressed with how much you have learned. I would love to take nice pictures, but I’m too lazy to take the time to learn how to use my camera properly. Maybe someday I’ll get there.

  5. I’m still pretty new to the DSLR world. Hubby bought me the Nikon D5000 for my birthday. I’ve been playing around with it taking pictures of the kids inside, but I really want to get outside and take pictures in the park and really test my camera. I’ve been searching for tutorials online that might give me some great tips, but I haven’t been able to find any.

  6. Chantel have you read your camera manual? It’s helpful! Also, there are things like iPhone aps with “keys” you can try out outside. They’re like formulas for higher ISO the darker it is, lower shutter speed etc, and different ones for different shooting settings. You can use that until you get the hang of it. I have a few tips here on kid photography. I should do an updated one soon:


  7. And you shoot photos of the babe marvelously. I am so impressed to read about how you shot pictures from day one and how they look like to where you have come to now. Practice and knowledge really does make perfect (or close to perfection)!

  8. First of all, I love that picture of her in front of the tower! So adorable!

    I agree with most of what you said. I love taking photos, and I want to get better–not because I want to start a photography business, but because I enjoy it so much. I’m saving up for a new lens right now.

  9. I wish I was better at taking pictures! You are pretty much a pro! I love all your pictures and Lil J is probably the most gorgeous model,ever! I looove her and all her hair!

  10. I agree that when you love what you do, it never feels like work. Kudos to you for pursuing your passion of photography and finding a way to combine it with spending time with J.

  11. I always love your posts on photography. I’ve gone back and looked at your “What’s in my camera bag” post about 12 times in the last 2 or 3 months. 🙂

  12. What a great post! I, too, love to try new things photographing my kids….I am by no means at your level yet, but as you said, it just takes practice and as I look back, I have really improved. I am taking a photography class in July and can’t wait to see how much I can learn and develop from there! Thanks for always sharing your little bits of wisdom!

  13. i’ve got a dslr but i’m not using it as often as i would like. i’ve got to pick it up again soon. these photos are great

  14. I have to tell you I loooove your blog!!! I dont usually read blogs but yours just drew me in and your lil girl is soooo cute and stylish!!! I like to look at your links of her outfits to see wat new etsy shops i should go to. lol but i have a question. How do you start your baby in modeling? I have a beautiful 9 month old baby girl ,Dahlia, who is such a gorgeous lil angel and people keep telling me to put her in modeling but i dont want to do that whole toddlers and tiara thing( she’s too sweet for all that :] ). I’m an Active duty single Marine mom and dont have that much money or time but dont want her beauty to go to waste!! lol. Any advise is appreciated pleaaase…and again i Looooove your blog!!!!! 😀

  15. First time visitor! I’d love to know what you are doing in photoshop for these photos, or is it all due to using your DSLR correctly and creatively?

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