Category Archives: SnapShops & Tips

2017 Photography Gear Guide

Okay…this is going to be a long post with a lot of information! The top section includes a few pointers on shopping for camera gear – I include this every year! After those tips, you will find my 2017 gift guide!

This week many people will be scouring ads for the best deals on photography gear (primarily focused on DSLRs). I can’t tell you where all the deals will be, but I can offer a few recommendations. Hopefully this guide will help you as you search for the perfect combination for your needs.

Now here is my disclaimer…you must know I have always used Canon. There are many other great brands out there, so don’t discount them simply because I use Canon. However, for this post I am going to stick with mainly Canon and Nikon. This post is intended for those starting out in photography – not professional photographers. I do not keep up with all the latest technology and newest camera models. I keep up with kids. I’m an the least technical person…so you will not find any technical reviews of the products in this post. Just a listing to help you find a jumping off point.

Amazon is a terrific place to look at the reviews of most of the items I will share here.

These are just my recommendations…the kind I would email a friend’s husband when he asks, “My wife wants a dslr camera, what should I get.”  Take it for that.


In my experience, you never know where photography will lead…so you want to get a camera you can grow with a bit. At the same time, a dslr is an investment. If you are used to using your phone or a point-and-shoot for your photography needs, a dslr will seem big and bulky…and maybe even cumbersome. It will also blow your mind at the quality of images you can capture. A day does not go by that I don’t pick up my dslr. I’d be lost without it.

So, as you begin the process to invest in a dslr, these are the steps I would recommend:

1. Set your budget

When looking at investing in a dslr, I would first set your budget. Once your budget is set, stick to it. There are lots of options and having a budget is smart financially, but it will also give you some boundaries among all the choices. If you are new to photography, I would not buy a lot of equipment early on.

Once you know more about photography it will help you decide exactly what you want to add to your camera bag. Don’t invest a lot of money into equipment until you understand what that equipment does.

2. Pick your camera & lens(es)

DSLR, mirrorless, or just us your phone camera – which one should you choose? Well, I am partial to my DSLR, so this guide will focus on DSLR cameras. I need to write a post about why I reach for my DSLR instead of my phone to capture my everyday moments. I do own a mirrorless camera and posted in the past my thoughts on mirrorless verses a DSLR as a mom.

So – back to DSLRs for the purpose of this guide.

As you look at the camera options, keep in mind other things you want to purchase like lenses. If this is your first dslr camera, I recommend getting the standard kit zoom lens that is often included. Typically it is an 18-135mm lens. I do not recommend purchasing a camera and several kit lenses, just the one.

However, I do recommend that in addition to your kit lens, you purchase the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. This is called a prime lens, meaning you cannot ‘zoom in’ and ‘zoom out’, you have to physically move your body. The benefit of this lens comes in the aperture setting/speed. In a very basic sense, if you like really blurry backgrounds – this lens will allow you to achieve that. It will also allow you to take pictures in lower light settings without your flash. Most kit lenses do not get near the amount of blur (aka “bokeh”) or let as much light in your camera as this lens. It is about $125.00 and worth every penny.

3. Flash

There are times you just can’t capture what you want without using a flash, but the flash often leaves a less than appealing ‘flashed out’ look. I recommend using an external flash or a diffuser to diffuse the light from your pop-up flash. Personally, I would only buy a Canon or Nikon flash if you are considering really getting into flash photography. If you aren’t big on flash, I would purchase a less expensive off-brand flash. Several SnapShop students have recommended a flash by Neewer – it runs around $35 and has good reviews.

4. Photo editing software 

It is not necessary to buy additional software, but it is something you want to consider. Most computers have basic software to organize and edit photos. However, there might come a time you want something more advanced. Most people then look into Photoshop or Lightroom. Adobe now offers software as part of a monthly subscription called Creative Cloud. I use the basic Creative Cloud Photography Plan ($100 for a year).

5. Learn how to use your camera beyond Auto

Take the time to learn your camera, don’t just use it like a point & shoot or your phone. It will capture great images on Auto, but only by really understanding the basics of photography will you be able to get your full investment out of your camera.

6. Protect your gear, print your photos and enjoy extras


My camera gear recommendations

There are other GREAT camera bodies out there. If you are interested in a camera that is not listed, read the reviews on Amazon!

Camera Bodies (under $1,000)

Canon Rebel SL1

Canon Rebel T6

Nikon D3300

Nikon D7200

Camera Bodies ($1,000-$2,000)

Canon 6D – this is the camera I use

Nikon D750

Camera Bodies (over $2,000)

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon 5D Mark III (the newest version is the IV, but this is still a phenomenal camera)


{My basic lens recommendations}


A kit lens – most Canons come with the 18-55mm or the 18-135mm

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 USM (Nikon version)- this is the lens I recommend getting in addition to the one kit lens that comes with your camera

Canon 35mm f/1.8 (Nikon version)

There are SO MANY more lens options, but I really recommend learning to use your camera before you invest in more lenses. Each lens will allow you to do different things, but you need to know what you are looking for in a lens before you make that purchase. You can buy a bunch of lenses, but not understand their benefits and you really lose out. Someone that takes landscape photos will need different lenses than a mom who takes mainly indoor kid shots. Different lenses for different folks. I cover several lenses and uses in SnapShop Online Photography School.

A less expensive multi-purpose lens I’ve heard great things about:

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 – I don’t use this lens, but it is a good alternative to the Canon 28-70mm for a less expensive price


{Additional lenses that I use}


Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM (Nikon version)- my favorite portrait lens (I only recommend this for full frame cameras 5D, 6D)

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM (Nikon version)- This is a terrific zoom lens that gives you aperture flexibility. It gives me great aperture settings, but also works for wide angle and portraits. It is expensive.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM (Nikon version)- great for low light when you need to zoom. Also great for making use of a f/2.8 setting and a zoom…that is why it is so pricey. It is a favorite among wedding photographers and portrait photographers.




Deluxe Pop Up Flash Bounce

Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite (a very affordable option for an off-brand external flash)

Canon Speedlite 430EX

Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight


{Photo Editing}

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop through Adobe Creative Cloud

Replichrome for Lightroom

RadLab for Photoshop – 50% off this week only, site wide use code HOLIDAY2017

A Color Story for Lightroom – use underthesycamore20 for 20% your whole cart

VSCO Presets for Lightroom


One last thing I would buy is a SD card reader for your iPhone for $13.99! After you take all those fabulous pictures on your DSLR, you might want to quickly transfer them to your phone. Some cameras come with built in wifi. Mine did, but it stopped working. I use this little card reader almost daily. *it does not support iPhone 8

So that is a lot of information and a lot of links. There are so many online shops that offer bundles and all kinds of promotions this time of year. Let this post just be a resource as you look through all the offers available. I do want to note there are some affiliate links in this post.

**For those completely new to owning a dslr, if you were to pin me down and make me suggest a bundle….it would be the Canon 60D with a kit lens, the 50mm f/1.8, and the Neweer flash. If the 60D was too expensive, I’d trade it out for the Rebel that fits your budget.**


{Learning your camera}

If you are interested in learning more about your camera, how to use the Manual settings, tips for phone photography or general photography lessons, check out  SnapShop Online Photography School. It is a subscription based photography website with anchor courses and new lessons added regularly. SnapShop is for the person looking to capture the beauty of their days through photography.

Use the discount code GEAR2017 for $20 off your registration. Offer ends 11.25.17.

CLICK HERE for a full listing of lessons, interviews, & courses

As a subscriber you have access to all the content for as long as you keep your membership. The monthly membership costs less than a fancy latte.




Print Your Photos!

I do all my standard printing (prints, canvases, cards, gifts, etc) from I’ve used Mpix and recomended Mpix for years. They remain my favorite lab – stellar products, fast turn around time, top notch customer service. You place your order online and it is delivered to your house in just a couple days. They also have a Tap to Print phone app that makes printing from my phone super easy and are constantly offering super promotions.

Current Mpix deals: Free shipping on orders over $35 (ends 11.30.17)

For all my Instagram printing, I use Chatbooks (click the link to get your first book free). After every 60 photos I post, Chatbooks automatically sends me a small album with those pictures. It is completely automatic in my home. There is a 3 day window you can edit your books or add photos, but I tend to forget to do that. Super easy and simple. My kids love them.


Wow…that was a long post! I hope it helps some with your holiday shopping. I’d like to end this post with a SnapShop giveaway!

Prize: 2 – 1 year SnapShop memberships (one for the winner and one for the winner to share)


The winner has been notified. I will not be announcing the winner – in case he or she would like to surprise someone with the second membership 😉

















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SnapShop Online Photography School exists to help others gain the tools they need to be able to capture the beauty if their days through photography. Whether you recently purchased your very first DSLR and aren't even sure how to turn it on or if you have a little bit of a grasp on terms like aperture and shutter speed - SnapShop courses and lessons will propel you forward on your photography journey.

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