We broke out a little secret weapon for our nursery reveal yesterday, but after this post it won’t be so secret- we got a new digital camera! Here it is playing newborn…
We’ve long sworn by the (often underestimated) power of a point-and-shoot digital camera (in fact, here’s a recent post about how we get the most from ours). Just about every picture ever featured on this site was snapped by our Canon Powershot, and while we never claimed to be the Annie Leibovitz of shelter blogs, we were pretty satisfied with the flash-free, color-adjusted-in-photoshop pics we churned out each week. They seemed to do the job well enough.
But like many parents-in-waiting, we suddenly felt the urge to upgrade our photographic equipment before look-how-cute-our-baby-girl-is documentation became a top priority. Plus with the moolah that we saved from our under-budget nursery makeover, we already had enough in savings to splurge for a nicer camera (since we definitely believe in buying things after we have the money in the bank).
So after some research and a few conversations with our camera-savvy friends, we ended up snagging a Nikon D3000 DSLR off of Amazon for just about $450 beans (note: we noticed that listing prices routinely went up and down, so you might want to watch for a bit before taking the plunge to ensure the best deal). It boasts a lot more control than our current camera (and has already given me several flashbacks to high school photography class – f/ stop wha?) but there are really two main upgrades that we’re the most excited about:
- Being able to shoot in lower light (which will come in handy since a moving child + a low-lit house = blurry baby pics on our old Powershot)
- Using the slightly wider angle lens to capture more of room in each pic – a difference you can see clearly in the side-by-side comparison shots below, which were taken from the exact same spot on the exact same tripod.
Hopefully it will mean better shots for our baby book and our blog (everybody wins!). But we still have a pretty healthy learning curve ahead of us, so any and all photography tips would be welcomed with open arms. ‘Til we get more comfortable with it, we’ll probably be using our tried-and-true (not to mention purse and pocket-friendly) Powershot for the majority of our blog pics. But nevertheless, we’re excited to have finally reached the 21st century of digital photography with our new purchase and we look forward to learning how to use it a bit better so we can get ready for the bambino and upgrade the ol’ blog. Here’s hoping we don’t drop the darn thing…
Psst- Some of the links included above are Amazon Affiliate links.
Update: Over two years later we’re still loving our camera. Here’s the 50mm lens that we got for better photos of moving things in low light (aka: Clara & Burger) along with pretty detail shots, and an update post about how we’re liking our camera in general here.
Karen J says
“You won’t regret it!”. We used our trusty Canon point and shoot for the first 18 months of my daughter’s life. Needless to say, we have too many dark and blurry baby pic. Some great ones but lots of bad ones. That all changed when we bought a Canon Rebel XT. Looking back, that’s the ONLY thing I regret not buying for the baby. And how great that you paid cash for it! Going into debt for baby gear (or anything really) is a horrible idea.
Kristi W. @ Life at the Chateau Whitman says
Congrats on your new camera! I almost bought this very one but decided to go with a Sony instead (which I love). My first tip for using your particular camera would be to use the traditional viewfinder instead of the live view/LCD screen. The d3000 is known for having a super slow live view, and so you lose valuable seconds when trying to focus. With a new baby, you need to be able to shoot quickly. So I’d put it in drive mode and turn live view off. It will make a big difference. Happy shooting!
[email protected] says
Yay! Congrats on the new camera! We have a Nikon D40 and I love it. I have no clue what I’m doing, but I can still take decent pictures. (Except all the ones on my blog today are IPhone pictures. Not so much!)
Enjoy the new camera! i agree to read the manual, and something like Understanding Exposure. You don’t always have to shoot in manual but I think it greatly improves your pictures to know how.
I also agree with the recommendation to invest in a fast prime. You will really want it when you have your little one, the kit lens just won’t be fast enough to get sharp pictures in lower light. Just make sure you look for the ones that have the autofocus motor built in. Like this one:
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G
Kristi W. @ Life at the Chateau Whitman says
Follow-up question: Did you get the kit lens with your camera? I can’t tell from the pic.
Kristi W- We didn’t buy any upgraded parts (lenses etc) yet. We wanted to learn more and see what would work best for us.
Yvette- We just did some research and checked out suggestions and ratings from friends and online camera experts alike. Of course our budget also came into play and the price for the D3000 was right. Hope it helps!
A bit of an off topic question for you guys – we are also expecting our first baby (squeeee!) and our home has a very similar floor plan to yours (three bedrooms, the master, a middle sized room that is currently our guest bedroom and a much smaller third room, currently our office). I’m having a hard time deciding which room to transform into the nursury. One one hand, I hate to dismantle our guest room, but I feel like our office is small enough it might not “grow” as well with baby. Any guidence as to how you made your decision?
We just got a Nikon D5000 and we love it!! I would recommend getting a 50mm 1.8 lens… makes for nice blurry backgrounds.
I found this online class that teaches you how to use the camera. Its really good. Here is the link (I hope it works, its a pdf file & I’m at work so I cant tell)
Have fun with it!
My husband writes a photo blog for learning basis that I think would help you out immensely. We shoot Nikon too so it’s even better for you because all the buttons are the same.
It’s very straight forward, beginning posts are easiest and they work there way to harder going forward. Let me know what you think. Good luck :-)
Oh, you’ll love your new camera and we readers will love it too! I’ve had a DSLR for just over a year now and it’s probably one of my favorite purchases ever.
Recently I saved up for a new Macro lens which you might want to look into–it’s not the best for wide room shots but for portraits of the baby you might want to invest in one!
I also just bought a cheap little gadget called the Lightscoop (http://www.lightscoop.com/). I haven’t had the chance to play around with it much but it allows you to use the flash without everything looking like a garish flash photo. The few pictures I’ve taken with it don’t look quite as nice as natural light, but are tons better than if I just used the flash normally.
Kim at Yellow Brick Home says
Congrats on the new camera! I’m a freelance photographer on the side, have assisted many photographers straight of college (commercial, wedding, and portrait), and am also a true believer that the money should be spent on the LENS.
Some of my favorite lenses to use are a 12-24 for those wide angles you mentioned (Tokina is a good brand for this and half the price of the Nikkor version), but also love my 50mm 1.8 (couldn’t afford the 1.4) and 20mm 1.8.
The biggest tip I have for you is remembering to set your ISO! I think most people forget about this. the higher the ISO speed, the lower light situation you can shoot in. For example, setting your ISO at 800 will give you a nicely lit shot for a cloudy day indoors, whereas setting the ISO at 200 is plenty for a sunny outdoor shot.
Hope this helps! Can’t wait to see what the new camera churns out.
I love my Canon Digital Rebel XTi.
I use the Av setting 99% of the time (Tv or M in other cases – the other shooting modes just don’t give you the control over what the camera does). Also, in Av you can try photographing with the internal flash as it is used as fill-flash and does not blow the foreground out with light as much as the compact cameras (or DSLRs in Tv mode) do.
I bought a 50 mm f/1.8 lens for shots at extremely low light last year, just as Danielle suggested above. As it is a prime lens (as opposed to a zoom) it is quite inexpensive for an aperture of 1.8. Last christmas, I photographed with only the christmas tree lights and a couple of candles without flash and the pictures were not blurred and perfectly in focus.
For baby photos, I personally love b/w shots.
Jenn C. says
Congrats! I’m going to echo the advice of shooting as much as you can and shooting on “Manual” mode. It’s the best and quickest way to get comfy with the camera and settings. Rule of thumb for exposure on a sunny day is f16 @ 1/125 second. Play with that and see what you get, that’ll sharpen your eye for getting your exposure right without the camera or a light meter’s help.
For “moving target” practice, try shooting with Burger. Not exactly the same as shooting a baby, of course. But it’ll give you similar challenges and maybe even get some cool shots of him. He’ll love the attention, I’m sure.
Good buy! We are also expecting a little one here in 5 weeks and did the splurge-on-a-fancy-camera thing. It was between the Nikon that you guys got and the Canon Rebel XS… we went with the canon… they really have similar features. My friend is a photographer and she recommended the book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson and the website Clickinmoms.com… you have to pay for a membership to the site, but you can do a 7 day trial for $6… I think I’ll do that to check it out!
Also… Katie over at Bower Power had a great post from a guest blogger on how to take good portraits… here’s the link: http://allbowerpower.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/shoot-me/
Good luck! Can’t wait to see new pics!
Aaaacckk! I’m so jealous… :-p
I’ve had the Nikon D50 for a few years now (and adore it) but would love to upgrade. The only bad thing about it is that I’ve become a bit photography-obsessed, and now I have to make hard decisions like…new lens? or fabulous new rug for the bedroom? Life is tough! ;-)
Lillian @ Domestic Simplicity says
Our DSLR was by far our absolute favorite, smartest, most-used money spent for babies:) I use it every single day and love love love love love every penny spent:)
Cindy @ The Flipping Couple says
We just upgraded our camera as well! And, ironically, our point-and-shoot is none other than a Canon Powershot (which I still love and tote everywhere with me). My dad is a camera guru and when he upgraded his DSLR we were the first in line to purchase his previous Canon Digital Rebel. I still usually pretend it’s a point and shoot because I don’t know any better, but the pictures come out great! I still have a lot to learn…
Congratulations on your new shiny purchase toy (I love toys, especically those in the tech world).. I got a new camera for my birthday as well and found the following sites very helpful in learning about my new obsession of taking pictures (mostly for my food blog)but the tips are for all types of photography.
I’m totally sure that you guys already have research and found them.. but just in case!
Can’t wait for the bambina to get here.
I also wanted to mention that The Nest website has a message board for photography (its actually under the Bump, so go there first). The girls on there are so helpful and I have learned a lot just from reading their suggestions.
I would also suggest that you try to always shoot in Manual. It takes some getting used to, but practice makes perfect, and it really does make a difference in the quality of the photos I think.
Sarah @ Dream In Domestic says
Yay! I have a Nikon d5000 and LOVE it! I can take faster, clearer photos and feel so cool while I’m doing it. I really want a 50mm lens to take portraits and achieve more bokeh (the blurry background if you didn’t know what that is) but because the Nikon d5000 (and d3000) don’t have an internal motor, the lenses are more expensive since they have to have a motor built in to them. I’m saving up, though.
I hope you love your camera as much as I love mine! Good luck!
i have a nikon and i LOVE it! you can always stick it on auto and it will do a nice job for you! good luck with the baby birthing and bring the camera, you can’t ever have enough pictures!
You may want to check out this particular Nikon lense: AF 18-200 mm (w/image stabilization). This lense allows you to do so much that you will have little need for other lenses, accept for maybe a wide-angle lense. But as you’ve noted, you’re already able to achieve a wider angle on your photos.
You will LOVE having a DSLR! We bought one before my DH deployed for a year. We thought about getting professional pictures taken but all of the prices quoted were $500 and up for indoor/outdoor pics! Crazy! So instead we bought a DSLR (in cash, like you guys) and then had my sister take the pictures. With a little iphoto editing they turned out better than I could have imagined! Congratulations and have fun with your new toy! Also, ThePioneerWoman.com has TONS have great photography and Photoshop lessons!
Ooh, nice! Mazel Tov on the “new baby!” I got a really nice DSLR two years ago, and I think it’s really taken my interest in photography to a whole new level. The drawback is that it creates a whole new object-lust for ever fancier lenses, LOL! (I sooooo want a proper macro lens . . . )
Maggie Rose (Magchunk) says
Very nice! I need to take this plunge too, but I need to save up for it (keep dipping into my camera fund for house projects – bad!). Getting tired of blurry and orangey photos of my house (and only partial shots). Did you already have the tripod? Where is that from?
We bought that same camera back in December and we love it. I just bought my husband another lens for the camera for his birthday and it takes the most beautiful up-close pictures. The subject is crisp and the background is blurry. They look really professional and we are by no means professional photographers!
congrats and good for you for taking the plunge. i was afraid of the investment but so glad i finally did it. i waited and finally got one when our daughter was 8 months old. i am still ashamed of myself that i didn’t buy it before she was born. you will be so happy with the results!
the 7msn ranch says
Ken Rockwell writes his own user’s guides to many of the DSLRs – they’re straightforward, very easy to understand, and in large enough print on your screen that you can actually read them. Here’s his guide to the D3000.
Fun! You know what, I totally noticed something was different with your photos, but I thought it was just your post-processing. It seemed to me like you were tinting them just a **teeny** bit toward the vintage-y side of things. Hooray for a new camera before baby arrives. It totally makes a huge difference to have a larger aperture in low light. What lense did you get? Do you have a 50mm/1.8? That is my go-to lense for kiddo pics. It lets me use a faster shutter speed w/o the flash.
Congrats on your new addition :)
Miss Gator says
Long ago we caved and bought a Nikon D60. We absolutely love it, we have done so many fun things with it, and I can’t imagine going anywhere without it these days. We recently bought a fisheye lens for it on Amazon and have had so much fun taking pictures with it. Good choice with the Nikon, and welcome to the amazing world of DSLRs!!!
Coasting anon says
Oh I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Nikon DSLR. Went with the Nikon b/c I had a regular SLR and my lenses are all Nikon. My biggest advice for new SLR owners that you WON’T find is to definitely change your ISO settings and shoot manual only when you have a baby and you are indoors. With the metering guides, it is just as easy as point-and-shoot, and it gets you out of Auto and P mode and allows you to really capture great pictures without flash.
Feel free to email me if you want help. I’m no where NEAR a professional, but I would rather spend my time taking pics of my 9 month old son than editing them in Photoshop because I didn’t change something that was easy to change in my settings.
Awesome! I can’t wait for the photo storage post!! I want to know how/where you’re going to store your camera and its lenses, plus memory cards, batteries, etc. Basically, I need ideas! We’ve been paring the whole house down a TON but my camera bags just keep getting shuffled around.
Congrats on the new addition. I 2nd the 50/1.8 based on price alone. That lens has no R&D group since it was the kit lens back in the film days, so that’s why it’s so cheap (<$100). Its price does NOT reflect its quality!!
Congrats on your new purchase! I’m a Nikon user myself (Nikon D80) and I love, love, LOVE it! However, there is a significant learning curve to it, but the ability to capture pictures without the “delay” of a point and shoot is super important when you have pets and kids.
I would recommend buying a “Field Guide” such as:
I have one and it’s small enough to fit into my camera bag and/or drag with me to do nature shots and the like. It’s a quick and easy-to-use reference for beginners, but it also teaches you a great deal about depth of field, apetures, etc. I’ve found it invaluable because I never had a fancy camera growing up and I never had a class to teach me all of the finer points.
One other thing I would recommend (sorry this is so long) is to eventually invest in an adjustable flash so that you don’t get the garish flashy-looking photos (the Nikon’s flash is a little harsh, but indispensible for some shots). I have one similar to the following and I love it:
Then if you decide to get *really* fancy, then you can purchase a “remote” so that you can do family shots as well as take photos of rooms with no flash and without “bumping” the camera. When I have to take pics of my house in low-light, just touching the camera (even on a tripod) can be kind of tricky and cause a lot of blurring in low light situations. It’s certainly not necessary, but it’s a fun little toy.
Enjoy your baby! A camera like that, if well cared for, should last a lifetime, keep other digital “junk” out of landfills, and will always produce the results you’re after!
It might be worth looking into a personal articles policy to add on to your homeowners policy to cover your new camera. Most policies limit the amount they’ll cover for categories like computer equipment and photography equipment, and you have to pay a deductible of $500-1000 if you make a claim. With a personal articles policy, you can add things that are above the coverage limits on your policy and get them covered if something is stolen or there is accidental damage (drop or spill) without paying the deductible. We pay an extra $63 a year to cover our laptops, digital cameras, and wedding bands. If anything happens, we get a check for the replacement value of the item.
Michelle- Great idea! We already have our rings insured so it makes sense to add the laptops and the cameras!
Jacci- We haven’t purchased any additional lenses yet so we just have the one that the camera came with (you can see those details by clicking the amazon link) since we’re trying to get a better feel for what we’ll use it for and how we’ll adjust to being first time fancy camera owners. We’re really excited about all the advice and suggestions though!
Maggie Rose- We did already have that tripod from John’s high school days of wanting to be a music video director (you should see the hysterical dance videos he made with his younger sister). It’s extremely old but he got it from a big box store like Best Buy around ten years ago. Still works like a charm.
Kelsey- Our nursery is 8 x 10.5 which is definitely tiny! But it still totally works for what we need and we love that we got to keep our bigger guest bedroom since that room will multitask as a lot more in the coming years (stay tuned for more details on that). Basically it came down to figuring out which room could work as a nursery, and since both guest bedrooms could work, we opted to use the smaller one for the smaller kid and leave the bigger one to accommodate grown ups and the bigger full sized bed (since the smaller room could never do that, but it could house a crib and all the other trappings that are necessary for a wee one). Hope it helps!
Congrats on the camera, guys! I have the Nikon D80- it’s great. The best recommendation I have is READING THE MANUAL. It seems like a no-brainer, but so many people don’t, and with these newfangled cameras with so many tricks and secrets, you’ll do yourself a huge favor to really sit down and read through it a couple times. Especially if you need some refreshing on the deets of serious photography.
And good call on the Nikon! Toeing the line of drama-free-zoneness, they’re the best. Like, better than canons. Did you know the lens mounts never change? Just an all-around good investment.
You’re going to love it! Honestly, anymore, there is just no need to spend more on an SLR, the entry level models will do everything you need (and a ton you will STILL never use!). I am a photographer by trade and I only use 1/2 of what my camera has to offer on a daily basis.
I have a small camera and a dSLR…I think it is very handy to have them both.
When I got a Nikon DSLR in October I only used the automatic settings, but once I started reading The Pioneer Woman’s photography section I’ve only used the manual settings. She exlains everything in a way that you can actually understand, and I’ve noticed that my photography skills have improved a lot since! Her photoshop tutorials and action sets are awesome, too!
Love the new camera and the nursery!!! I have been eying up that camera since Christmas. My husband has a Nikon D60 and it is fantastic! Good luck and have fun with it :)
Yay new NIKON camera! I’m a Nikon advocate! You are sooo going to be glad that you made that purchase! I definitely recommend the 50mm, 1.8 lens, especially for taking photos of the lil’ one.
This site: http://www.jessicasprague.com/ has excellent photography and Photoshop classes. Most are self-paced (just buy, download, and do on your own schedule) and just really well done. I’ve done several and been very happy with my investment.
Ashley M. [at] (never home)maker says
I had a feeling you got a new camera! I noticed the wider angle immediately. Great choice. I’m a Nikon fan myself. I have a D40, but am looking to upgrade to either a D3000 or D5000.
Have so much fun with it! And really take the time to learn how to shoot — not just on auto. It’ll greatly enhance your photos/give you more artistic freedom — esp. with shots of the little one. My favorite setting is A –aperture :)
Thanks so much for all the advice guys. You’re the best! John and I will be sitting down to read through all your comments again tonight and then we plan to head over to all those sites that you recommended and do some major manual reading to boot. Can’t wait to learn how to use this baby… before the real baby arrives!
WOW! Congratulation! I have exactly the same camera and I love it! I replaced my pocket one for this to shoot jewelry for my webshop.
You will love it I am sure!
This is a link to a 12-week course, but I printed out all 12 weeks and bound them together and did each lesson as I had time. I learned SO much from this that I highly recommend it to everyone I know who has a DSLR.
We got the very same camera before our little bean was born and LOVE it! Enjoy- I’m sure it will get a lot of use!
I bought this same camera in november. While its an upgrade from a cheap point and shoot in most cases, it’s built in flash is garbage and I only started getting decent indoor photos in our low light house after I bought a shoe mount flash and bounced it off the ceiling. Best hundred bucks I’ve ever spent.
Congrats on the camera! I’ve just finished taking a beginners photography class and what I didn’t know about my own camera and photography in general could fill a book! Two things that were huge for me to learn…the light meter, learn to make it happy and also, figuring out how to over-ride it by slightly under-exposing and slightly over-exposing, and how to do a custom white balance! Now my indoor shots are not yellowy…yay! And its super easy to do, take a photo of a white sheet of paper in the space you want to take photos, go to your white balance and switch it to “custom”….huge difference! I wish I had known this 16 years ago when my first child was a baby…he wasn’t jaundiced after all!
Congrats! I’m a Canon girl myself for DSLRs, but my first camera was a fully manual Nikon FMII 35mm camera that i still use and love.
To get good pics in low light, it’s all about the lens. A fast lens like a 1.4 or even 2.8 will serve you well, as well as high quality glass. Some cheaper lenses are made with plastic and don’t provide the best or most accurate color, and the focus can be just a touch soft. A fast lens that allows you to open up the aperture all the way will also give you the ability to get artsy with super shallow depth of field.
Really, though, the camera isn’t what allows you to take a great photo. It’s you! Amazing photos can be taken with a plastic Holga if you just know what to do with your light, exposure, and composition.
Good luck! Can’t wait to see what you do. And just shoot, shoot, shoot! Use the camera in different lighting conditions, see what works, what doesn’t, what you like, what you don’t. My first photo prof at college just told us to take our camera EVERYWHERE. The only way to get comfortable and get good is to shoot ALL the time.
Thanks SO much for posting this. I just put this camera in my Amazon cart 3 days ago and kept wondering if I should really buy it. Now I’m sure I will. :) Enjoy the baby girl, time flies so do shoot her a lot. Mine is suddenly 19 month-old :). Kisses from Switzerland.
I agree with Laurel. The better the camera the more likely you are going to want a better flash. My husband is a photographer and he rarely just uses the flash that is on the camera.
One other thing to keep in mind – especially with the baby pics. The DSLR’s are all 8×12 size. So if you want to frame large picture that you don’t want to have to crop you will have to search for 8×12 frames – harder to find than 8x10s. I have a couple of places online that we have found them for decent prices if you ever need a recommendation. Congrats on the new toy!
Lessons in Life and Light says
Looks like you’ve gotten tons of great feedback–much of the same stuff I was going to tell you, in fact!
I just got into photography about 4-5 months ago when I purchased an EOS Canon Rebel xs. It’s been so fun but it can be really intimidating because there is so much to know.
Your first 10,000 shots will be your worst. That’s a pretty widely accepted theory. Definitely try not to rely on auto. Learn how to shoot manual and shoot in RAW. Learn the triangle: ISO, aperture (also known as F-stop), and shutter speed. That book everyone talked about, “Understanding Exposure” is a great place to start! Can’t wait to see all the fabulous photos you take!