Jaime Caldwell on Foodista

Heifer International

Camera Info

I often get questions about our camera (which is very flattering!) so I thought I would share a post on what we use and how we use it.

We are the proud owners of a Canon Digital Rebel XSi 12.2 MP Digital SLR Camera. There are several newer models on the market that have HD video capabilities but for our purposes, we didn’t really need the fancy video function, so we went with the sole camera and I’m madly in love with it. We had zero prior experience with SLR cameras and this one does most everything for you. Ours also came with a very basic EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens. It’s a standard lens but there are soooooo many lens options out there so save your pennies and start your collection!

The magic is ALL in the lenses. I’ve turned into a bit of a lens-aholic. These are the lenses I swear by:

Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens This 50 mm lens is what I call a “fixed” lens. It doesn’t zoom but that’s a very good thing. Maryam in Marrakesh who is a fantastic photographer told me that one of her photography instructors stressed the importance of getting up close to your subject and that’s exactly what this lens does. And then it rewards you with really great pics!

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My new favorite all-purpose lens is the Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 SP XR Di II VC (Vibration Compensation) Zoom Lens. When I’m traveling and don’t want to pack a bunch of camera stuff, I take just this lens. It has a great zoom and has quickly become my best lens friend. I can’t say enough good things about this lens!

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NOTE: For Nikon fans/users, all of these lenses are available in Nikon-compatible versions. 

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Odds and ends:

  • Invest in a lens-protecting filter that fits your lens. Your lens is precious and if you scratch it or get grease on it, it’s game-over. These filters are crystal clear and relatively inexpensive. Believe me, you’d rather spend $25 on a new filter than $500 on a new lens. Our lenses don’t leave the camera bag without them. 
  • Read your manual! For the love of photography, please read your manual. It’s not nearly as intimidating as you might think!
  • When shopping for a camera or lens, think about what you want to shoot… I shoot a lot of food and hands-on stuff. I also wanted something that would take good portraits of dogs, babies, cutie husbands, etc. The lenses we have are perfect for these types of photography. If you’re into shooting landscapes or fast-motion activities such as sports, do some research for the lens to suit you. There are few things worse than spending a chunk of change on a lens that just gathers dust.
  • The internet is your friend. My two favorite sites for all things camera-related are:

Digital Photography Review - My dad turned me on to this site. If you’re looking for a camera or ens and  want to read reviews AND SEE SAMPLE PHOTOS, this is your site.

Pioneer Woman – She’s got an entire chunk of her site devoted to photography (LOVE HER!). I have learned heaps and heaps from digging around here. She has fabulous detailed lessons for questions like, “what the heck is an aperture?” and “what do you mean by composition?”

  •  I NEVER use a flash and always shoot in one of the manual modes. Play around with different settings (and consult that manual!) to get things where you like them. You’ll find your own “sweet spots” where you tend to shoot most often this way.

I've also tweak some of the photos here and there using iPhoto and Photoshop Elements. But really, if you have good lenses, you'll be amazed at what your camera can do!

As always, feel free to email me or leave comments with any questions you have and I'll do my best to answer them!