I’ve been shooting one image (ok… more like 10 – but I’m trying to be selective with what I keep) per day for 25 days.  I am awful at uploading every day. For some reason it feels like a chore… I get them all uploaded about once a week and then edit them all at once.  I export the images from Lightroom (I have Lightroom 5) with the date attached to the file name to better keep track of what’s what.  I love letting go of the perfection and just shooting for my memories. It’s freeing and brings the love back that can get lost when trying to get everything “correct”.   There have been a few days that I’ve begun to feel like I’m being repetitive – but I’m pushing through.  I’ll start giving myself themes and/or pigeon holing (is holing a word?!) myself in order to allow myself to have more creativity (sounds counterintuitive… but I’m fairly sure it will work).

wilmington delaware

I’m also in Week 1 of my online photography workshop, Photographing Your Family’s Everyday, Their Extraordinary Day and Everything in Between and the Full Participation seats are completely full and I’m so thankful and grateful for a beautiful turn out!  However, there is still some room – if you’d like to take the class as a Study Along student.  Sign-ups are available until Sunday… so if you’d like to join, do so soon!!:) I’d love to have you!

I get lots of questions from family, friends, moms, cousins, aunts about photography.  I love chatting about it and I love photography – that is no secret.  Helping is in my nature and I want to – for sure.  However, when we are chatting over Thanksgiving dinner or in passing at school drop off I can only give fragmented information when I have so much more to give – so many resources to send and so much excitement to talk about! So I’m beginning a series to help with all of the information I’d like to to share and keep it in one nice organized place.

Welcome to POST ONE!  “Keepin’ It Real… So You Wanna Buy a Camera…”  


This is absolutely my most asked question and unfortunately my knowledge on this is probably the most limited.  Camera knowledge I have – absolutely, but I bought my most recent camera (Nikon D800) last year and my camera before that in 2009 (actually, a D80, D300 and then D700… yes… all in one year and I sold off the lower model each time) if I’m not in the market for a new camera body I’m not really browsing the ads and checking out the specs – especially not the entry level ones (promise I’m not smack talking!).   New cameras are coming out all of the time and it’s a constant contest and sometimes the changes from camera to camera are so incredibly small that you wouldn’t even notice.  I honestly (in my very untechnical opinion) think we’ve hit the maturity level.  In the past, each upgrade to a camera was huge…. today it’s kinda nitpicky.

I’m going to begin completely basic.   When you buy a DSLR (stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex) – and this post is just about DSLR cameras– not Point and Shoot cameras because my knowledge on those is wayyyy low– you are purchasing a CAMERA but you will need a LENS, too.  Typically, they will sell these in packages, but you don’t have to buy them that way.  You can purchase “body only” for the camera.  The lens that comes with a DLSR is one of each company’s lower end zooms called a “kit lens”. You will also need a battery/charger for the camera (I recommend 2 batteries) and 2 memory cards (either SD cards or CF cards).

Now we are going to choose your own adventure… 
(this isn’t a right or wrong thing… just gauging your own interest!)

PATH 1… Are you interested in getting a DLSR, shooting in “Automatic mode” and just want nicer pictures than you are getting right now with your current camera or iPhone ?

PATH 2… Are you interested in getting a DSLR, learning more about photography, purchasing more lenses in the future and maximizing the cameras capabilities?

If you are on Path 1… The kit lenses that come with the camera are going to be perfectly fine.

If you are on Path 2… I’d consider getting a camera body only and purchasing a lens separately (a nicer lens that has more flexibility… we will be covering lenses in the next blog post!)


Let’s talk about camera bodies.  

I’m not going to tell you what camera to buy.  I can’t.  I’m certainly not going to tell you what BRAND to buy. I have a Nikon camera but I am NOT anti-Canon, Sony, Pentax and so on.  A Nikon feels right to me when I hold it, I like where the buttons are and I was happy with the lens choices back in the day when I started.  It’s as simple as that. My first camera was a Nikon and I just kept going.  You need to go pick up some cameras at a local camera store.

 If you are on Path 1… the entry level cameras will probably give you what you need.

If you are on Path 2… you might want to go with a midlevel camera body.  The reason I say this is because I started with the entry level without really knowing that I’d be really into this and once I started learning more I became frustrated and was ready to upgrade pretty soon thereafter (did you see alllll of those cameras above that I purchased/sold in 2009?!) If I had gone with a midlevel camera I would have saved myself some money and been able to get right to business (not a photography business… just taking cute pictures of my kiddo without the frustration).

 So I’ve given you a little bit of a guide- but how do you know which camera is right for you?
Well, for that I’m going to send you outta here to these useful links:

Megapixels… They aren’t all their cracked up to be…
Sensor Differences/Intro to a DSLR
What Specs Really Matter with a DSLR?

And a favorite article, though I REALLY would like you to consider some Nikons, too… since he only mentions Canon
How to Choose a DSLR Camera


Here are some tips on how I purchase my cameras…

  • I have never bought a brand new camera, except for my D40 which was the very first one when I didn’t know any better.  Also, I’m not just talking about a brand new camera in the box… but when a new model comes out I don’t jump in line.  I give it 6 months to work out the kinks! Then, when I do decide I need a new camera I listen to the buzz and I buy refurbished from a reputable place (Amazon, Adorama, Bhphoto.com, Keh.com are four that I’ve had great experiences with).  This way if something is wrong, I have the company on my side, can send it back and get a new one.  I have had positive experiences I’ve saved some moola!
  • I typically look less at the bells and whistles and more at the performance, but this is going to be 100% up to you… If you are a techie sort of person – then go with bells and whistles – just make sure the kinks have been worked out! I’m okay with an older camera if the images are clearer at a higher ISO (we will cover this… but basically, when you are shooting in lower light).


To sum up… You aren’t going to notice an insanely significant difference from cameras that are on the same price level, as a whole.  It’s going to be far more subtle than that! Don’t obsess so much that you never end up purchasing.  If you end up hating a camera – you can ALWAYS sell it!  <3 <3

Keep your eyes peeled…
NEXT POST: Keepin’ It Real… Which Flippin’ Lens Should I buy?!

There are so many lessons to learn within photography.  You can learn to take a good picture (well lit, in focus, clear, no spots too bright or too dark) and then you can learn to tell a story or show/elicit/express an emotion.  The interesting images, the ones that make someone linger and make your heart burst (especially if it’s your own children and family) are the ones that tell a little bit more.  Both of these images do this for me.

The first image was what I see… what is there and what happened.  This holds so much meaning because it’s our memory of this morning with no school at our table where we spend a significant amount of time.  She likes to swipe my permanent markers to draw on post-its which I specially purchased just for her.

The second photograph (in the same spot just a second apart) expresses my feelings for and about her – deep and introspective.  Through cropping choices & editing I am able to add a completely different feeling.

one photograph two meanings

Want to learn more about telling your family’s story and creating images with more meaning to express yourself? There are just a few seats left in my workshop, beginning Nov. 24, 2014, Photographing Your Everyday, Extraordinary Day & Everything in Between.  Email me with questions! Click the link to sign-up below of my adorable little guy taking a nap and for even more information.


I thought I was shooting for me.  I really did.  And I do… BUT when I read Cole Thompson’s “Why I Create” blog post… a realization hit me like a truck. When I pick up my camera, I have a viewer in mind – and that viewer is NOT always me.  It’s can be anyone from a past client, to a friend, maybe a colleague… or someone totally random!  I will often anticipate their reaction to the image I am shooting.  Huh? Why?  That doesn’t make any sense. If I’m shooting MY family, how in the world could I be so wrapped up in what other people are thinking- so much so that they are invading my mind while I’m shooting?!

For right now, I’m shooting every single day in my life – just one shot- for one month. I will be working to make ME the viewer as I shoot and shoot straight from my heart. I hope I fall hopelessly in love with daily shooting and continue… forever.  I’ll be realistic though.

Here goes nothing… wish me luck!   A potty shot is missing… you are welcome… that’s a shot only a mama can love!


On November 24, 2014 my next workshop will begin just in time for the holiday’s.  I’d love to have you join me and learn more about how to shoot your every day with intention! Learn more, here:


Look at me… about to get super wordy again.  Two blog posts in a row!! How do I sum up my 5 day experience at Click Away? It’s taken me a week to fully think through this experience and put it into words.  Finally, after years of growing, learning and working with the amazing women of Clickin Moms I came to meet the very same girls that I interact with on a daily basis.  We’ve shared more than photography – we share our lives and this forum is a safe place… a haven.  I was a bundle of nerves.  Leaving my babies in their first few weeks of school, handing my responsibilities over to, luckily, trusting and loving grandparents.  My husband was so very busy at work and was only able to help take on the chauffeuring, grooming, loving and feeding responsibilities sparatically.  To say I’m thankful for a family that will allow me to go off on an adventure with the peace of mind that the kids are ok, is an understatement.

So I show up at Click Away and immediately, I mean IMMEDIATELY begin hugging people like we have met a million times in the past.  There’s simply a warm love between us that required zero ‘warming-up’.  It was a run and hug type of event that lasted through the entire five days in Salt Lake City.  I would eye someone that I ‘knew’ from across the room only to RUN and hug like long lost friends.  Multiple times per day.  I worked the registration desk – voluntarily – we had ‘staffing’ times, but when I was free I hurried to that desk as my own sort of mecca to chat, talk, interact and connect.  Connect I did.  I came home with new friends.  Most everyone was enormously friendly and opening.  I ate dinner with a new group of ladies every single evening and laughed until my sides hurt each evening.  I was even whisked away on a college-esque adventure the last evening.

Here are a couple of iPhone shots…

clickaway iphone melissa stottmann

I was also pushed.  Pushed out of my comfort zone, nudged, thrown… if you will.  I’m a teacher by nature, I’m comfortable speaking in front of people – but filming me… with visual proof to remember my every move… yikes.  I’m not going to lie I almost didn’t leave my hotel room on Thursday morning for the body wrenching fear I was experiencing.  The filming was coming and what if I have no idea what I’m doing…. what if I fall… what if no one shows… what if… what if… what the flip if…. I was scared.  I picked myself up – got dressed and headed out the door.  I did it.  I did not let my deep seated fear hold me back (with a few phone calls to my husband and mom in between).

Here are some images from my filmed sessions, “When the Golden Hour Isn’t Practical“.  (This is available for purchasing and watching by clicking the link!) We shot around the convention center  starting at 1:45pm in the afternoon.  Finding light that will work in mid-day sun is a challenge, for sure!  In true Melissa fashion, I was so busy chatting with the 50 participants following me around about the light that in some shots I, ahem, didn’t watch or warn my subjects that I was taking a shot all of the time ;).  My mind wasn’t 100% behind the camera like it is at a regular shoot (without an audience!) – my nerves wore off quickly, but my head was focused on the filming and the participants.  It was quite the juggling act.  I’m going to show all of these images with a brief explanation of what my ‘goal’ was with the light… but know these are far from ‘perfect’ or ideal;)

Below is an example of when I needed my stool that I always have… I would have been more above them and shooting down avoiding any bright light.  This is what I got while making it work at 5 feet 1 inches tall;) _MSP4281-Edit


Ordinarily, there wouldn’t be 50 people in the reflection!!!_MSP4285-Edit

This shot, below, ended up as a happy accident.  Behind them is a wall – and I was showing how it wouldn’t work because their skin is so much darker than the wall.  Turns out, it acted much more like a bright window and I was able to completely blow out the background, isolating them! _MSP4286-Edit

I spy a member of the film crew!_MSP4292-Edit_MSP4298-Edit_MSP4305-Edit_MSP4300-Edit_MSP4308-Edit_MSP4311-Edit_MSP4312-Edit_MSP4318-Edit

Here is another example of a shot that I desperately needed my stool to get up above them and cut out the bright spots behind when using this small patch of light!_MSP4319-Edit_MSP4326-Edit_MSP4333-Edit_MSP4336-Edit

One of the big lessons I learned is that while I’m a photographer… I’m so much more of a ‘connector’.  I had a hard time shooting throughout this whole trip.  At first, I was so sad I wasn’t coming up with amazing images of the locations and people in the evening, during the golden hour, etc.  However, when I thought further, I was having an amazing time connecting, chatting, LAUGHING.  I photograph to show connections between people, but only when I am quiet and an observer.  I didn’t want to observe here, I wanted to connect.  And connect I did.  I made a LOT of time to take some posed selfies with amazing women!

I went on a selfie rampage during my ‘connecting’ and forced myself to take some shot with just some of the amazing women I had the opportunity to meet and chat with!


Oh… and I’m still not done.  In an effort to keep this short, I’ll wrap up for now!

  • September 25, 2014 - 8:42 pm

    Jodi - These are great! I just watched your class last night and was so impressed with your poise. I don’t think I could have done that. I also love the realization you made about deciding to connect with others instead of focusing on observing and shooting. I can’t wait to read part two of your experience!ReplyCancel