We are busy gearing up for Christmas and between holiday shows, our Elf ‘Buddy’ and my workshop wrapping up I’ve been busy! Today I edited 2 weeks worth of my 365 images.  I’m taking them… Oh… I’m taking them.  I have a lot of images.  I haven’t gotten them together to post, though… until today.  I know as 2014 begins I will have much more time on my hands.

So… I love white Christmas lights. I think they make a Christmas tree look incredibly classy and beautiful.  However, I remember the magic of coming out of my bedroom on Christmas morning and gazing at an amazingly colorful Christmas tree and my childhood heart fell in love, every year.  We had a really wonderful (though difficult for my mom) tradition.  Her and my dad would put our tree up on Christmas Eve.  They got the lights on (which was often frustrating as one string would always go out… or all of them…).  Following the tree, we’d head to church only to come home and admire the shining and colorful tree some more.  We were whisked to bed not long after, with a few of the hundreds of chocolate chip cookies made, in our bellies.  Santa, that night, would decorate the tree to perfection.  What a magical experience that was to wake up to.  All of our cherished ornaments, the twinkling garland and angel on top with bundles of wrapped gifts beneath. This was my favorite Christmas tradition… and while I don’t wait until Christmas Eve (mostly because I know how stressed out my mom and dad would end up on Christmas Eve orchestrating all of it) I am holding tight on the colored lights, for my babies.  To experience the colorful childhood that I remember.  We even mixed tiny bulbs and big bulbs this year.  One day they won’t care any more and I can class up this tree to my heart’s content.



I even handed my daughter the camera as my husband and I dragged our Christmas tree into the house.  The results were amazing. HA!



In addition to shooting daily throughout 2015… I have also started a class with Xanthe Berkeley.  I will be creating a film of our family- might be a morning, an event, a season of our lives… but I will be creating 1 per month (wish me luck!).  Here is our first with footage from October…

October 2014 from Melissa LaCroix Stottmann on Vimeo.


And finally… have you planned how you are photographing your Christmas morning? Last year I shared how to get in the picture, yourself, using the interval timer on your camera (Nikon only) or if you are Canon, using a remote, here:


Well, this year, I have updated this with some of my tweaks (adding some light and removing harsh light!):



If I don’t make it back here before Christmas– Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! <3

Welcome to Post 2 of my “So You Wanna…” Series.
 I’m going to tackle lenses in this post!


This post took longer than expected… between running my workshop and the holidays the time is escaping me!

Did you miss the first post, “So You Wanna Buy a Camera?”… no worries, check it out HERE.

Be sure to check out all of the links within the post- from writers more eloquent and thorough than I!

Lenses each have a different focal length.  The way your eye sees the environment is close to equivalent to a 35mm lens (on a cropped sensor camera — it will say DX on the camera- which all entry level cameras are).

There are lenses that are wider than the naked eye (called ‘Wide Angle Lenses’). Some examples are 24mm, 10-20mm.  Basically any numbers lower than 35.  Typically the subject gets a bit more stretched, and wider, at the edges.  Super wide lenses will give the appearance of being in a fish bowl, hence they are named “Fish Eye” Lenses.

Then you have telephoto lenses.  These lenses show items more zoomed in than you’d see with your naked eye.  Some examples are a 85mm, 135mm, 70-200mm, etc.


The image above was shot standing in one spot, just using different focal lengths!

Finally, there are lenses that cover a range from wide to telephoto like the 18-55mm & 24-70mm…

Lenses with just one focal length, the 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc.  Are called “Prime” lenses.  Lenses with a range, the 24-70, 70-200, 70-300 are “Zoom” lenses and can have different focal lengths and zoomed in and out.

My friend Kristin Dokoza wrote a fabulous blog post comparing lens focal lengths to demonstrate the differences on the Clickin Moms blog, “Lens Choices: how to decide which lens to use

When purchasing a lens you will notice some more numbers after the lens with a  “f/  ” in front of it.  This is the aperture of the lens and refers to how wide the lens opens up to let more light in (yes, lower number… wider open).  The lower the number, the better the lens.  Also, the lower the number, the more expensive.  We will cover aperture more in another post… but for now just know that a really nice quality lens has a low aperture (1.4, 1.8, 2.0, 2.8 are low numbers).  For instance, the ‘kit’ lens, the 18-55mm, that we talked about in the last post has a variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6.  This does not let a lot of light in.  Also, it varies based on your focal length… so if you are shooting at 55mm (with the 18-55mm) you can only shoot at 5.6 and this is a major cramp in your style;)

Click It Up A Notch did a fabulously comprehensive description of the writing on the lenses.  Continue on through their entire lens series for even more information about lenses!

Here’s a fantastic graphic demonstrating each aperture.  It’s very similar to the pupil in your eye- the more wide open, the more light that is getting in.  The wide open numbers are the lower numbers.  Notice how f/22 lets only a very little bit of light in?

aperture-scaleimage from Expertphotography.com
How to Understand Aperture in 5 Simple Steps

So what do I recommend beginning with? I recommend getting a 35mm on a cropped sensor  (either 1.4, 1.8, or 2.0) to start.  This will give you a view of the world as you see it  and allow lots of light in (again, we will talk about this later!)  Yes, this doesn’t zoom.  You know what does zoom? Your feet.  Get up and move;)It’s cheaper than a high quality zoom lens. Canon’s 35mm is more expensive than Nikon’s – so for a Canon I’d recommend going with the 50mm 1.8 – but for indoors you might find yourself wanting more breathing room than this will allow.

Another thing to note… lenses are for life (generally speaking).  Your lenses have an infinite shelf life (they may have to be sent in for repair and cleaning every so often but you can literally have them forever).  Your camera is not for life.  It will die eventually.  The technology will degrade and it may not be worth it to fix the camera.  So… invest in your lenses, even if it’s over time! (We will talk about which lenses to purchase next in a future post!)


Please research your camera and the lenses that work with your camera. All DSLR cameras have an arsenal of lenses… but some of them just aren’t made for certain cameras due to functionality.  For instance, some Nikon cameras do not have a focus motor so you will need to purchase a lens with a focus motor (it will say AF-S).  I don’t know much about Canon… but I know there are things to watch out for.

One more thing I’d like to cover is how DSLR camera lenses differ from a point and shoot or your iPhone with a lens built in.  Digital zoom (on a point and shoot or iPhone) simply takes the same size image you are shooting and crops the image.  The image is lower quality.  Optical zoom, from your lenses, literally brings you in closer and allows the image to be high quality.  Some more technical information on that here.

Questions? Comments? Leave me some below in the comments! I’m happy to help:)

Soooo… you will need to go ahead and purchase that camera that you are thinking about.

Go ahead… I’ll wait.  Hit buy.





Want more? Well, next up is Post 3 – “What are these modes?!”   We will be covering Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority & Full-On Manual… with some fabulous resources to get you going even further!

Do you ever feel like some days you know yourself SO well and other times you are convinced you’ve got it all wrong? I’m getting closer to ‘me’… but I still have times that I’m just not sure where my photography is going.  However, the jump between identities gets smaller as time goes on, as I navigate through the photography world, through my own internal world.  I suppose my identity has to switch occasionally.  If it doesn’t, no growth can take place because their simply won’t be room.  This 365 shooting project (which I’m currently brainstorming a name for… since ‘365’ is so… used & boring… and I’ve finally admitted that this is a real 365 days of shooting) project is very much in line with new identities emerging from within.  It’s a good thing. Change is inevitable.

I’m thankful to be able to preserve my memories – albeit in a wide range of photography ability – from the beginning of my journey to the point I’m at now… to where I will be.  I’m thankful that there is no end and I will always have something to learn.  I’m thankful for what photography has done for my life, the connections I’ve made and the lifelong friends by my side.  I’m thankful for my identity crisis’s that pop up when I least expect them to show me my next path of learning.


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!

  • November 25, 2014 - 9:10 am

    Christina Walker - Great pictures, love the idea of 365 days.ReplyCancel

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!  


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).

EOS 70D FRT w EF-S 18-55mm IS STMproduct_d7000

 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: Which Flippin’ Lens Should I buy?!