• Photography

    Cameras: Which One Should I Buy?

    Around Christmas time, people come to me wondering what camera they should buy? Before telling them what I recommend, I always ask them why they want a camera. Usually people will answer in a few different ways: “I want to take pictures of my kids.” “I want to take pictures of the places I travel to.” “I want to pursue professional photography.”

    Based on their answer, I give them my recommendation. The question I’m going to answer is, “What kind of camera should I buy if I want to take pictures of my kids?”


    The Camera Body

    My first camera was a Canon Rebel. It was nothing super fancy, but it was all I needed. Before getting into photography, my main goal was to take great pictures of my kids. I wanted to preserve our heritage through photography. I wanted to capture memories. My personal experience with the Canon Rebel won me over completely. I learned how the camera worked, and how to shoot in manual mode. I learned to love photography. Funny thing is that almost 10 years later, I still have it. I gave it to my daughter to learn photography. In all that time, it has never let me down. That’s why I’ll always recommend a Canon Rebel camera.  It’s easy to use and not too overwhelming to learn. But this is only the body.  I prefer to choose my own lens.

    The Lens

    Different lenses are used for different reasons.  That is an entirely different blog post for a different time. But since we’re talking about portraits of kids, my go-to lens is this fixed lens. It’s important to know what a fixed lens is. A fixed lens doesn’t have the ability to zoom.  You have to use your feet.  Some people aren’t interested in a lens that has no zoom.  It’s a preference.  But I think the inconvenience of having no zoom is worth it when you look at the image. Also, the more you practice using a fixed lens the more you get used to moving around instead using zoom.

    In closing, I’d encourage you to remember why you want to buy a camera. The one you choose has everything to do with what you want to photograph. Keep that in mind when you go shopping. And have fun!! Buying a new camera is so exciting! Let me know what you bought in the comments below! Also if you just bought a camera, go and check out this blog post about posing children.

  • Personal,  Photography

    Fireflies and Wonder

    His eyes light up. No words, but you can tell his heart is beating faster.

    You watch him hunch over, close to the ground.  He’s in his own little world. A perfect world where there is adventure and happy endings happen every day.

    Then you see him capture something in his hands.  He’s careful. In fact, you’ve never seen him move with the care he is showing now.  He turns toward you slowly. Again, you see the light in his eyes.

    Holding up his clasped hands, he says, “Look, I caught a firefly.”  His voice is barely above a whisper.  You smile at the awe and wonder in his eyes.

    You know this isn’t a perfect world, but you pray he’ll take his wonder with him everywhere he goes.  You pray they all do.





  • Personal,  Photography

    Fourth of July

    This Fourth of July, our friends from Alabama came to visit us.  We’re so thankful for them.  These are the times my kids will remember forever.  Good stuff, ya’ll. Good stuff. There’s nothing like hanging out with good friends.  Ya know?  Hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July.

  • Photography

    A Letter To My Younger Self About Learning Photography

    A Letter To My Younger Self About Learning Photography

    Here is a letter I wrote to my younger self about learning photography.  I wish someone would have sat me down and said all this to me when I was first learning. Wherever you are in your photography journey, just know you can do it.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to learn, it just takes someone who isn’t willing to give up!  Hope this letter encourages and inspires you to go out and learn photography on purpose!

    Dear Rae,

    So, you want to get into photography?  You want to capture amazing, take-your-breath-away photos, right?  Well, I have some advice for you.  It’s blunt and to the point, but also encouraging.  If you listen to this advice – you’ll get somewhere – I promise.

    Learning Photography
    My first piece of advice for learning photography is to get out that camera manual that you stuffed in the drawer.

    Yes, I know – you think great photos are made in Photoshop.  Well, they’re not and you’re wrong.  Great photos are made with a camera.  In order to make great photos, you have to understand how your camera works.  This takes labor – it doesn’t happen magically – you actually have to work for it.  So, get off your butt and learn something on purpose.  Be intentional about becoming better with your camera.  No skill is ever learned by accident.

    Learning Photography

    My second piece of advice for learning photography is to be diligent.

    Let’s be honest, sometimes you’ll want to quit.  You aren’t always going to feel like teaching yourself this stuff.  Sometimes you’ll want to be lazy. But remember,  no one ever learned anything by being lazy.  Now, go get a cup of tea – yes, right now.  I know you hate tea, but trust me, you’ll learn to love it someday. Sit down somewhere cozy with that wonderful tea, get your camera manual out and read it again.  Practice what you read-over and over again! Even if it means reading that manual 12 times through, just do it!  Be diligent.  Someone who takes great photographs must understand everything about their camera.  Don’t quit, don’t be lazy – get to work!

    Learning Photography

    My third piece of advice for learning photography is this:   Find your own style.

    Your photography isn’t meant to be like everyone else’s.  Don’t try to imitate others. How do you do this!?  You find you own photography style by not comparing yourself to others.  No, seriously, JUST STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS.  God has made you to be entirely His – even what you capture with your camera is meant to point others to Him.  Some people will love your photography style and others will absolutely hate it – get over it.  Do what you enjoy – but do it for Jesus.  No one ever made a difference by making everyone happy.

    Learning Photography

    My final bit of advice for learning photography is to enjoy the little moments you capture with your camera.

    Enjoy the pretty light and embrace those dark shadows.  Allow each moment you capture with your camera to remind you of how good God is.  Then be thankful.  Number your days.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.

    Learning Photography

    Now, enough of this – get off your butt and go learn something on purpose.  And go do it for Jesus.


    Your Older Self


    P.S.  Go check out this camera recommendation on YouTube!

  • Photography

    Lifestyle Photography Tips For Posing Children

    Before getting into the two tips for posing children in photography, let me explain the type of photography I specialize in. The type or genre of photography has a big impact on how a photographer poses the person/subject in the photo. I describe my photography as portraiture-lifestyle. Portraiture means photos of people. Simple, right? Lifestyle means catching the moments happening instead of posing the child. As I teach you how to pose children, keep in mind that I am teaching you from the perspective of a portraiture-lifestyle photographer.

    Posing Children - Photography - By Rachel Dawn

    My first tip in posing children is to catch them posing themselves.

    Children pose all the time. But we as grown-ups often fail to see the ordinary moments as opportunities to grab our camera. Posing children is simple when you think about all a child does in a day: morning snuggles, breakfast, running around half naked before getting dressed, picking out an outfit, homework, playtime, lunchtime, nap time. You get the idea. Now, think of all the expressions they make when they do those things.

    Think of their morning face with squinty eyes and crazy hair. Imagine those morning snuggles on the couch. Imagine that dimpled hand slowly tugging the pants up and not making much progress. See the wonder in those sweet faces and the light in their eyes when they sit to listen to a story. Everyday ordinary moments are the best kind of moments. They are real and raw and worth photographing. Embrace the ordinary.

    Posing children - Photography - By Rachel Dawn

    Also, a little note to moms -and maybe some beginner photographers out there, too- who want perfection.  Believe me, I understand the struggle. But sometimes the perfect photo is found in all the imperfect moments. I know it’s hard to resist the urge to make something perfect. Most of us have a desire for the perfect matching outfits and coordinating colors for our family photos. I get it, and there is a time for that. But let’s be honest here. Real life doesn’t come in perfect outfits. It comes in messy crazy chaos. Learn to pay attention to the ordinary and enjoy it.

    Posing Children - Photography - By Rachel Dawn

    Two things will help you be ready to snap the photo when you catch the kiddos posing:

    One thing that will help you be ready to take a photo is to limit clutter. Whether it be at your home or a location-pay attention to the surroundings. I have 4 kids, so I’ve learned to embrace clutter to a degree. It still drives me crazy most of the time. But every 3 to 4 hours we do a full house “clean up” where we spend about 20 minutes (set a timer, and turn on the music!) and get rid of the clutter. Clutter distracts in photos, so I try to limit it in my house. But I have 4 kids…so if I can’t get rid of the clutter, then I do the next best thing.

    Posing Children - Photography - By Rachel Dawn

    The next best thing that will help you be ready to take a photo is to embrace the clutter. I know, it seems like I’m contradicting myself.  But I’m not. You find your child coloring while surrounded by toilet paper on the floor, embrace the moment.  Take the photo! Don’t stop to clean up the mess because who knows how long this moment will last!  Believe me, I’ve decided not to take a photo because of clutter before-I regret it every single time.

    Posing children - Photography - By Rachel Dawn

    My second tip for posing children is to give them something to do.

    Let’s not think of this as posing. Let’s think of this as keeping them busy in a super-cute-i-want-to-take-your-picture-sort-of-way. An idea for giving them something to do is to give them a book. Think it through.  Try to make the window light fall on their faces. Coax them, but don’t overwhelm them with directions. Another idea is to tell them when the Mailman is here and watch what happens. Capture the moment with your camera. Let the story unfold without much help from you.  Direct them in a way that helps them forget you are holding a camera.

    Posing Children - Photography - By Rachel Dawn

    Let’s stay away from “Put your hand here.” “Lean this way a little…smile with your eyes. Now look deep into the camera.” That kind of talk makes kids look at you like your crazy (At least mine do. Remember, this isn’t modeling!) and it may even embarrass them a bit. Believe me, forced poses are very obvious in a photo where the child doesn’t feel comfortable. If I ever find kids struggling in front of the camera, I’ll give them something to do or direct their attention to some thing else. If I want them to move, I’ll say it like,”Move so you can see the book better” or “What’s on the next page?” or “Show me the leaf you found.” Redirecting their attention helps them to forget the awkwardness. It brings them back to the comfortable play where you can once again take the photo.

    Not every photo I take is in the lifestyle genre, but most of them are. Portrait – Lifestyle images are, in my opinion, the most emotionally filled photos because it tells a story about real life.  I hope these tips help you in getting children to pose.  Remember, it’s not all about directing them, sometimes it’s as simple as catching them.