Okay…this is going to be a long post with a lot of information!

This week many people will be scouring ads for the best deals on photography gear. 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.

  • Get your camera.
  • Learn to use your camera.

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)

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!

{Great starter camera bodies (under $1,000)}


Canon Rebel T6i

Nikon D3300

Nikon D7200


{A good middle of the line camera body ($1,000-$2,000)}

Canon 6D – this is the camera I use

Canon 7D Mark II

Canon 80D

Nikon D500

Nikon D750

Pentax K-1


{A high end camera body ($2,000 and up)}


Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Nikon D810 – full frame


{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 – this is the lens I recommend getting in addition to the one kit lens that comes with your camera

Nikon 50mm AF-S f/1.8

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 on the SnapShop site.

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– my favorite portrait lens (I only recommend this for full frame cameras 5D, 6D)

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM– 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 – 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

VSCO Presets for Lightroom

Replichrome for Lightroom

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

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 my SnapShop website. It is a subscription based photography website with anchor courses and new lessons added each month. SnapShop is for the person looking to capture the beauty of their days through photography. I’ll give you a heads up that registration will be 50% off on Cyber Monday! You won’t see that discount again this year.


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.

Registration includes access to all SnapShop content (used by over 3000 students since 2009), including:

  • SnapShop DSLR Course (a $200 value)
  • SnapShop Phone Course (a $50 value)
  • Interviews & tips with leading photographers & bloggers
  • Course discussions
  • Additional lessons posted monthly by Ashley Ann and guests!



Protect Your Gear, Print Your Photos and Fun Extras


I do all my standard printing (prints, canvases, cards, gifts, etc) from Mpix.com. 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.

Now how about some fun options for your DSLR, camera phone and photography fun?!



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 is Oceana – congratulations!

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  • Erin - Thanks for the gift guide and the chance to win the year of Snapshots!

  • Ines - Wowww!!! Thanks a lot for the info!!! And great giveaway! :o)

  • Tamara M. - I’m not planning on buying a (new) camera anytime soon, but thanks anyway for this guide. I know this is a lot of work!

    And what a nice Giveaway :);)

  • Oceana | Maps + Mandalas - Wow, what a great gift guide. I actually just switched from Nikon to Canon and invested in a Canon 6D. I really like it so far, but there’s an adjustment period for sure!
    I ended up with the 50mm only, as I wasn’t really interested in a kit lens. I’m looking to get something wide angle, and am trying to decide between the 20mm and the 24mm canon.
    Have you used either?

    Interested to have a look behind the curtain at SnapShop!

  • Amy Coose - Thanks for all the great info, Ashley! And thanks for the chance to win!

  • Beth - I just purchased a bridge camera. I would love to own a DSLR someday, but they’re a bit out of my price range for now (I’m currently in the Peace Corps which means no income coming in, so I had to dip into minimal savings). I’m curious if you have any experience with bridge cameras?

  • Southern Gal - Thanks for the list!
    (The Deluxe Pop Up Flash Bounce link says it’s not available anymore. It’s one of the next items on my to buy list.)

  • Kristin - I just started learning photography so this is perfect that I stumbled upon your blog! I’m definitely going to come back here often to learn and practice! Having a subscription to SnapShot sounds like a good next step! Thanks for hosting the giveaway.


  • JenW - I really hope I win for the share portion of the prize! I know exactly who I would gift it to!

  • Cindy B - Thanks, Ashley! Will you do a post with micro four-thirds recommendations?

  • Dani M. - A couple years ago, you had a post about using a mirrorless camera. Could you give an update on that sometime? I’m really intrigued by the smaller size of the mirrorless, but I’d love to hear your perspective on it.

  • Jennifer - Great post! I really think I want to upgrade my 5D to one with bluetooth capabilities.

  • Jessica Roberts - Thank you for all your recommendations! One of these posts from years past is what helped me figure out what gear to buy!

  • Chelsea Pershall - I’d love to win!!

  • Sara Renick - How fun! Thank you for offering this!

  • Allyson - Thank you for writing this! My sister literally asked me this question over the past weekend and I told her I had no clue. This post answers everything. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  • Amy - Thank you! I have a DSLR but want to learn more about it!

  • Heather - I look forward to your photography recommendation post every year! Thanks for sharing.

  • Mary - Great suggestions! Off to add a few of them to my wish list!

  • Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders - There is so much great info in this post! My husband and I both have DSLRs and we really want to learn how to utilize them better, so your SnapShop would be a great Christmas present!

  • Siew - I’m guilty of hanging out in auto with my camera and know I need to branch out a bit!

  • Sarah Kaiser - Thank you so much for all of your suggestions! Always so helpful!

  • Pat - I hope you and your family enjoy your Thanksgiving. Holidays are always bittersweet after the loss of a beloved family member.

  • Meredith - What a great giveaway!!! Thanks for the opportunity! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • alice h - whenever I have friends looking for cameras, I always send them your post!!! Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Claudia - Thank you for the wonderful gift ideas!

  • Jamie - Thank you for the chance to win a SnapShop membership! I’ve passed along your gift guide posts over the years to many friends.

  • Amy M - Thanks for all the great info!

  • Kelley J - Great information and a great prize! Thank you!

  • Annemieke - Thank you so much for your recommendations Ashley and your posts. They frequently make my day!

  • AmandaK - How fun to do two! I have a friend who does photography for fun, would love to share with her!

  • Kery - This was so helpful! Thank you! + Happy Thanksgiving!!

  • Erin - Thank you for sharing your recommendations!

  • annette - I would love to win this!! I have so much to learn!

  • Dawn - So much wonderful info!

  • Jennifer - Do you use mpix for your photo books too?
    I’ve been interested in photography for a long time but I’m afraid to take the leap! Maybe winning one of these prizes would help 🙂 lol

  • Melissa - My almost 18 year old daughter is showing great interest in photography and so this information is timely and so very helpful! The giveaway would be a fun addition to her Christmas morning 🙂

  • Ellen - Oh, I’ve been admiring SnapShop for years… would love to try!! Thanks for all the recommendations.

  • Beth Ann - Thank you for all of the information – I have had 12 year old Cannon Rebel that I am looking to upgrade in the in the next 12 months, the information you have provided is super helpful.

  • Geri - Wow, this is great. I’ve got a basic lens and a wide-angle, but I’m looking to get another.

  • Erin - Thanks for the great information!! Love reading your blog!

  • Lisa K - Great gift guide! I always enjoy your posts. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  • Leslie Ann Jones - I would love to win a SnapShop membership! I was just talking with a friend this weekend about learning how to use our cameras better. This would be perfect. Thanks, Ashley!

  • { l y d i a } - Thanks for sharing your recommendations. The best part though…”I do not keep up with all the latest technology and newest camera models. I keep up with kids.” That’s the reminder I need right now when it’s so easy to get focused on stuff. Your words make my heart happy!

  • Julie - Thanks so much for taking time to do this! I’m really enjoying your class, it is so helpful. Have you talked about photo editing software yet?

  • Sarah Williams - I just love your blog! We are local to you, and I actually saw you on stage several years ago at the ladies Christmas event at Battle Creek. You inspire me to be a more present mama, but I love that you share the hard times also. Thanks for being awesome!

  • Heather - Such helpful information for those of us who have no clue where to start! Thank you!!! And thank you for such a generous giveaway!

  • Kari - Thank you for all the ideas, I love reading this post each year!

  • Sarah - I’d love to win this! I’ve been following you for years and love your stories and pictures! In fact you inspired me to get my first DSLR 5 years ago!

  • Christina C - Thank you for all your awesome advice, all of the photos you take are amazing and tell such beautiful stories. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Hannah - I’ve been following you for years and poured over your photography posts. They have been a huge help in understanding my dslr and inspiring me to stretch myself. Thanks all the way from New Zealand – Hannah

  • Candy Foster - Perfect timing. Thanks.

  • Libby - Love following along on your family adventures – thanks for the chance to win!

  • Wendy - What an amazing prize. Thanks for sharing all of your amazing knowledge.

  • Lauren - I did a snapshot course years ago and would love to keep learning with the new program!

  • Susan - Thanks Ashley for the great post! And thank you for the opportunity to win SnapShop!
    Have a great Thanksgiving with your family!

  • Rosie - Thank you for all the recommendations, and for the chance to win!

  • Ashley - I love it all!

  • Sarah Marie - I always adore your guide each year. As a daily reader for 5 years, I was so sad to hear of your grandpa’s passing. Praying for you and your family.

  • Jill - Thanks!

  • Leighanna Lindsey - Thank you!

  • Leigh - Hopefully this will be the year I jump off the cliff and start taking regular manual photos with the good camera

  • Crystal Weise - Thank you so much for the chance to win!

  • Karla H - My brother in law just got a new camera for his birthday. This sounds perfect! Thank you for all of your information.

  • Lynsee - I’ve always wondered about your process for backing up your photos. Do you use external hard drives? Cloud storage? Something else? Here’s to hoping I’ll win the SnapShop membership!

  • Karla McMullen - I love your website and always look forward to your gift guide every year. Your guide always gives me great ideas to put on my wish list for Christmas/Birthday. Thank you!
    I’m very sorry for your loss of your grandfather. From your posts, its easy to see he was a wonderful man and is greatly loved.

  • Erica - You are so great!

  • Marie - Love this gift guide! The mobile printer is too fun!

  • Meg - I just bought a new Canon 6D and LOVE it!!! Thanks for all these suggestions!

  • Charmaine Ng - Thank you for this post. I’ve been debating whether or not to invest in a DSLR since I began blogging seriously, so this will really help me decide what exactly to get.

    – Charmaine

  • Mandy - Great list! Love the suggestions!

  • Lyndsay - Thanks SO MUCH for this post, Ashley! It serves two purposes for me: 1.) I’ve been looking for some new camera straps. 2.) I have friends/clients/strangers ask me all the time about gear and am too lazy to put this much effort into an answer. Now I can just send them this link! Awesome!!

  • Kathie M - I look forward to this post each year! Seeing what new things you have found and enjoy! Many of them I have found too! I have my camera but I can’t wait to really start learning how to use it!!

  • Suzan - Would love to have a year to work through your material!

  • Liz - Wonderful giveaway! I hope you and your family has a beautiful thanksgiving. I know I am sure thankful for your blog!

  • Rebekah - I’d love to win the year subscription!

  • Rebecca G - I am guilty of not learning to use my dsl. I would love to learn more!

  • April - I was looking for this post just yesterday, and reviewed the past two years gift guides! Mack and I will both have DSLRs by the end of the year, so I need to learn what he’s learning!

  • Vanessa - Thanks a lot from France for the gift and the chance to win !

  • Amanda D - I love your blog! I originally found it by searching adoption blogs as I am in the middle of an international adoption myself, but also love photography as well. It is a win-win!

  • Roula - I came here to read the article and found myself entering for one of the best giveaways ever!
    Great article for beginners like myself ?

  • brianne sheppard - What an awesome post! I do this as a hobby/job and still learned some new things! Would love a chance to have, and share!, SnapShop with my sister!

  • Janelle S - I love reading thru your gift guide…there are some awesome items in there!

  • Jenny - Thanks for all the ideas! I would love to be a part of your site!

  • Bree - Wow, such great info, thanks! You’re adorable.

  • Casey - I was gifted an OLD cannon 20D and I’ve been trying my best to learn about aperture and shutter speed and all other things that make my head spin. I want to learn now so that when I have the money to buy a new camera, I’ll actually know how to use it!

  • Beth Moore - This is exactly the sort of info I’ve been looking for. Advice from someone who knows what they’re doing but isn’t employed by a specific camera company. Thank you so much for helping me make an informed decision!

  • Sharyl Brown - Thank you so much for sharing this information. My 16 yr. old daughter has been trying to decide which Canon camera to put on her Christmas list. She first took a photography class last year and loved it. This information will be so helpful for her.

  • Rachel Dallaire - This is an awesome guide! Thanks for the chance to win and for putting together this guide each year!

  • Tessa - This is the best giveaway ever! Really hoping to win! If I do win, you can draw another name and give the second spot to another person on here who I know probably wants to win this just as badly as I do!

  • Elizabeth Wimer - Great giveaway!!

  • Rhonda M - This looks like so much fun! I’d love to learn to take better pictures from my phone!

  • Cassie Lawler - Would love to share this with my friend from seminary Molly!

  • Jamie Halleckson - If I don’t win, I’m going to register, I need something to get me going on improving my skills, my goal for the next year!

  • Laurie P - Thanks for sharing. We are looking to upgrade our 4-H photographer to a “real” camera and this will be handy info!

  • Laura Kyle - I’ve been a fan for a long time and would love to win!! Thank you for your recommendations!

  • Alana Dawson - I love mpix! So helpful, thank you.

  • Rebecca D. - Would love to win a subscription! I have followed your blog for years and we followed your advice 3 years ago when we bought our DSLR – time to finally learn more about the other modes besides Auto! Do you have or have you considered writing a photography course specifically for kids? My almost 8yo daughter is showing a real interest in photography and says that is what she wants to be when she grows up. We would love to encourage her interest but aren’t sure where to start except for letting her use our DSLR with guidance to practice. Thank you!!!

  • Melisa T - Thank you for the great post! Going to bookmark it for future reference!

  • Logan - love your blog! Very helpful post, thank you.

  • Jessica - Great gift ideas! Thanks for sharing.

  • Lindy - Oooh!! Pick me! Pick me! I’ve been teaching myself to shoot in Manual for a few years now, and just need that little extra boost to improve. Would love this!

  • Miriam - Thank you for the opportunity to win a SnapShop membership!

  • Sheryl Bradley - My 15-yr old daughter is taking photo journalism this year & has become interested in learning about photography. I would love to win your giveaway & be able to share it with her! Thanks!!

  • Jenny Hansen - Thanks for all the helpful info and for the chance to win SnapShop!

  • babs decamps - exactly the information i needed.thank you!!

  • Tina C. - Oh I’d love to win the snapshop membership. I bought a dslr in 2010 when I had my first baby, but I never really learned to use it as anything more than a point and shoot. I decided 2017 would be the year I started learning something about it!

  • MC - Thank you for the generous giveaway! And all the camera gear advice!

  • Hannah S. - I love reading this post each year, such great info!

  • Ruth W - It would be great to get better pictures with a SnapShop membership 🙂

  • Genesis - Thank you for the great information! One additional item I’ve found helpful is a UV filter that attaches to the end of the lens. They are pretty affordable (under $30) and offer an extra layer of protection to an expensive lens. Totally worth it to me…especially since my UV filter cracked after a nasty accident but my lens was completely fine!

  • Danielle - Thanks! I’ve done the phone snapshop, would love to do the dslr one. Thanks!

  • Danielle - What a great list of ideas!

  • ruthie - Thank you! great info,i learnt a lot from you. And thanks for the chance to win!i wish i will…

  • Kathy - Yay! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  • Jane Machin - Just sent this to my husband with a big “IDEAS FOR CHRISTMAS PRESENTS FOR ME!!!” heading. Thanks so much

  • Kate Waller - This is a great list! I just got my first “good” camera about two years ago and I love it! Thank you for all the great recommendations!

  • Mary Ann in Vermont - Thank you, Thank you for Everything! I adore your blog and your incredibly special family! This giveaway is amazing! xo

  • Ashley Johnson - Thanks for the chance to win! I took this course several years ago and LOVED it! I would love to refresh and to share with a dear friend of mine!

  • Samantha Chapman - I’ll be sending this to my husband!!


  • Sara Torbett - Thank-you so much for this awesome photography post! It is extremely helpful to me. I would really love winning a membership to Snapshop! Thank-you for the opportunity.

    Happy Thanksgiving! Your blog has been my favorite for years and years.

    Much love.

  • Hannah Matousek - Always love reading your camera gift guide…it helped me buy my first dslr a couple years ago and I’m still loving it!

  • Tara G - I just upgraded my D3100 to a D7200 and would love to win! Thanks!

  • Beth - Such an appropriate giveaway!

  • Carrie - Thank you for taking the time to put all that information together! So helpful!

  • JessN - This guide is so helpful every year! I bought my first DSLR, a Rebel T3i, about five years ago on your recommendation and I’ve loved it. Now I’m finally looking to upgrade! 🙂

  • Chelsa - Would love to try Snapshot out!

  • Hanna - What a great giveaway! I love to photograph but missing the drive lately. Maybe snapshop would bring back the groove.

  • Jenna Kaye - So fun! Thanks for the opportunity!

  • vanessa - Thanks for this helpful info! I’d love to get better at taking photos of my kids.

  • Jessica - Awesome info! Thanks for putting it together for us!

  • Jennifer Lill - Love all these recommendations and hope to pick out some new things this Christmas!

  • Natalie - Thanks Ashley! Any suggestion on what would be a good upgrade from a Nikon d3200? I feel like mine is running out of juice and would love something that had a better ISO and maybe even offers the wifi. But Im not sure where to go from there. I guess a middle of the line camera? Any insight would be so helpful!

  • Martine - Thank you for the recommendations, perfect timing!

  • Holly Ross - I absolutely love your photography and I would love to learn how to take great picture with my camera!

  • Deb S - Thank you for all the great information!

  • Courtney Leonard - Great list – thanks! I got a Canon Rebel last year for Christmas. This year I’m asking for software and a backpack camera case. I’d love recommendations for cases!

  • Cherie K - I haven’t taken the time to learn my camera outside of Auto. Would love to learn!

  • Sarah Cott - Thanks for the recommendations!!

  • Aly - I always appreciate your thoughts on gear! Thank you!

  • Dawn Mills - My daughters are just getting ready not photography…would love to win this for them! Thanks for the opportunity.

  • Jessica Elliott - Thank you for this! I always come back to your recommendations multiple times a year!

  • Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine - Fantastic! I’m in the market for a new camera, but don’t have the money right now to upgrade!

  • Lindsay - Thank you so much for the very thorough guide! I just got my first DSLR for my birthday and I LOVE it! I’m drooling over that Nikon 50 mm lens for Christmas. Do you recommend a website that sells discounted refurbished lenses?

  • Lauren - Great suggestions! Thanks for the giveaway too! 🙂

  • KD Roeber - We just purchased our first DSLR camera and I do need to learn how to use it! This is a fantastic giveaway and one I would be very grateful for winning- Thank you for doing this and have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas

  • Brenda - I got a used Rebel XT *ages* ago and the kit 18-55mm lens it came with was definitely an amazing lens. In some regards, it’s still better than the 17-85mm I usually keep on my camera now. (I have a 50D now because I needed better low-light capacity, plus I worked my poor Rebel to death.) I love love love seeing you recommend people fall in love with the kit lenses because most people don’t need more. And the nifty fifty you recommend helps people figure out their needs.

  • TheDenverPack - Thank you for the gift guide! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Letha Carlton - Yes I need someone to hold my hand through the editing process. I enjoy taking pictures that’s the easy part! Have a great Thanksgiving!!!

  • Sunitha - Thankyou verymuch for the valuable information.And also for providing the oppurtunity to win the snapshop.

  • Audrey - Nice guide–I never really thought about what different lenses could do on my camera.

  • Teresa McKinney - Such great info! Thanks!

  • Robyn B - Thanks for the information. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  • Christy Thompson - Lots of people have been asking me about camera recommendations! Now I can point them to your valuable resource! Thanks!

  • Anne - I love your forms window!
    I’m typing on a phone — tiny, tiny, tiny…
    But your input boxes got nice and big as well as the point size!! This is exceptional. I have not seen this in Many months.

    Thank you also for this post with all the great ideas and resources. If I win, I’d give the extra one to a struggling blogger.

    Thank you so much for everything.

    Happy thanksgiving to all!!
    Newbie blogger with a “one eye” 😉
    That’s a Canon t1i — still going strong!!

  • Marcy - Thank you for all the information! =) Happy Thanksgiving

  • Nadya Kotik - sounds like a great app. i want to start photography

  • Monica - So excited for the opportunity to be a part of your workshops! Thank you for the opportunity.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Kristin Mondt - I’ve been saving and saving for my own DSLR camera and I’m glad I came across your blog. I took a beginners course borrowing my mom’s Nikon. Thanks for your recommendations for cameras and your favorite lens. I hope I win the SnapShop membership!

  • Cry - OOOOHHHH! i would love to win! Thanks for the chance, and thanks for sharing this post. I need to get a flash.

  • Jessica - I used one of your older photography guides when I bought a dslr. It was so incredibly helpful. Hoping I can learn my dslr better. Thank you for the chance to win such an amazing giveaway!

  • katherine - Thanks for the reviews 🙂 would love to win!

  • sam - Thanks for the basics of beginning photography!

  • Valerie Maples - Thanks for all the information and the opportunity at the giveaway. I take care of my husband who is on a ventilator and the classes would really help me with my relaxation hobby that also helps me keep my diabetes in check. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Cassandra - Thank you for all the great tips and advice, thru the years. I’ve learned a lot from you!!

  • Megan - Creative Veg Gardener - I take a lot of photos of my garden and vegetables for my business. I’ve learned a lot, but I feel like I’ve stalled and need to get to the next level of proficiency now. Thanks for your tips!

  • Meaghan - Thanks so much for sharing your family with us! And all the great tips:)

  • Kathryn - Thanks Ashley! You’ve totally helped me narrow down my one ‘birthday lens’ that I get to pick out– and I really want to sign up for SnapShop!

  • Irene - Great information and amazing giveaway!!!! I adore your blog! 🙂

  • Raquel - Love the ideas!

  • Annie - Thanks for the info. I would love to get a dslr but I feel like it would be lots of money to spend and I haven’t much of a clue about them!


As if we needed another crafting addiction around here…we found one. Button making. One of the Be Crafty Workshop crafts was button making and my eldest daughter enjoyed the role of teaching that craft. My sister designed a few buttons graphics for our use and we got busy. Makers gonna make.

buttonsunderthesycamore11-16-01buttonsunderthesycamore11-16-03buttonsunderthesycamore11-16-04buttonsunderthesycamore11-16-05buttonsunderthesycamore11-16-06buttonsunderthesycamore11-16-07I keep adding more and more buttons to my camera bag. It is like reliving middle school, only I am the mom of a middle schooler now. Whatever.
buttonsunderthesycamore11-16-09I’m not selling buttons because I can’t remember to check my mail everyday, so packaging up orders to mail to someone else definitely won’t happen. My sister, however, is selling some of her designs. She has super cute button sets – perfect for stockings. You can find them on her Etsy site…they would make great stocking stuffers!


Speaking of Be Craft, my friend Amy of Happily Situated Photography created the cutest video for Be Crafty Workshops. It is short and gives such a perfect picture of the sweetness of this gathering. Amy is Tulsa-based, but travels. If you are looking for someone to capture your family or event through videography – Amy is your girl! I am having trouble embedding the video. If you click on the image below, it will redirect you to the video!


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  • Jenn - such a great video. perfect
    and those buttons.
    i have already purchases four sets. i have a set for me. one for my sister, oh wait another one for me and one to separate between my girly and my bff. they are awesome. 😉

  • Kathie M - Too cute!! I really want to get a button maker too…I keep telling my husband that I want one. Someday! But what a cute video too!!

  • Rebecca - Where is your camera bag from?

  • Linda - Such a great video. And the event looked fabulous and so did all of the great details.

  • L Rock - Could you tell what brand of button maker you have? Thanks!

  • Nicoline Bingham - Hello Ashley,
    I am one of the many women that you met last year at the farm chicks workshop. I was the one that needed to charge my phone so I had to kept coming back like a pest, you meet my two daughters, one that has joined out family through adoption, and the one that your graciously gave some of the streamer decorations to take home. Which i have used over and over for different celebrations. It was kinda serial meeting you. As I am sure you have heard over and over again, its weird how we (your blog readers) feel like they ‘know you’, or are even friends, and yet, you are probably looking at us like: no i can’t go shopping with you at the fair, you’re a stranger, now please go. lol

    Anyways, the reason for my email, is i have wanted a button maker for quite a while. Which one do you have? would you recommend it?


Earlier this school year I was looking for ways give each of my kids opportunities to learn more about specific topics they were each interested in. Driving from lesson to lesson with 5 kids is not an option for us (nor is it financially feasible!). My sister posted a picture on Instagram of my youngest niece following along a Skillshare online drawing class. I was familiar with Skillshare, but had not really dove into any of the courses or had taken the time to see what all was offered.

With Lesley’s prompting, I sat down and began scrolling through the classes. Membership is $10.00 a month and includes unlimited access to all of the courses. I sat down with my kids and began making notes of all the different courses they want to try: Drawing, Painting, Basic Web Coding, Cooking, Crafting, Game designing, Hand Lettering, Doodling, etc. Their is list is LONG!

Winter is approaching and we will be outside less often. I’m looking forward to busting boredom using Skillshare courses!

One of the very first courses we tried was a drawing basics that the girls picked out. I didn’t think the boys would be interested since it appeared to be very basic. In no time all 5 were in the living room following along. Each lesson was only a couple minutes long and they kept moving onto the next lesson after they finished one.

skillshareunderthesycamore11-16-04skillshareunderthesycamore11-16-05skillshareunderthesycamore11-16-06skillshareunderthesycamore11-16-07skillshareunderthesycamore11-16-08skillshareunderthesycamore11-16-09skillshareunderthesycamore11-16-10skillshareunderthesycamore11-16-11skillshareunderthesycamore11-16-12Chris has been using our membership for business classes and learning more about web related stuff. One of the overwhelming aspects of Skillshare is there are so many courses! It is hard to know where to start.

If you are interested in trying it out, I thought I would share a few of our favorites so far:

  • Doodle Art Basics by Karen Duchan
  • Building Kids Confidence Through Drawing by Em Winn (pictured in this post)
  • Doodling for Kids (don’t let the course listing image keep you from checking it out) by Em Winn
  • Handlettering Essentials for Beginners by Mary Kate McDevitt

Skillshare lets you save courses, so we have a bunch saved to work through in the coming cold months. The older boys and I have some more advanced classed we want to try and I’m excited to give the kids the opportunity to dive into their own particular interests without having to juggle driving to a bunch of lessons.

Once you are a member you can invite others to join and get a discount on your own membership. Since we are really enjoying the courses, I thought I would share here. I joined using a $.99 code my sister shared and planned on cancelling before my 3 months were up if we didn’t love it…but we do, so I am sharing my own code here today!

Click here to use my code to get your first 3 months for $0.99. 

I’d like to create a collection of courses to take, so if you are already on Skillshare and have a few favorite classes will you share them below? Let us know if they are favorites of your kids or for adults. I’m planning to kick boredom this winter by doing lots of creating.

Happy creating!


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  • kate - Oh my goodness, Ashley! SO MANY TIMES you have shared things on your blog I never knew about and have accessed, that have made my life richer with a new layer!! Thank you so much for always being so generous with your heart, great ideas and life experiences. I am grateful.
    Can’t wait to sign up and try out lots of classes with my kids! FUN!

  • Beth - Are you familiar with DIY.org? I think your kids would really enjoy it! It’s a similar concept, but all the courses are specifically built for kids. There’s pretty much everything on the sun, and it allows kids to earn badges (those cost money, but everything else is free as far as I can tell).

  • JenW - Thanks for sharing! That does look terrific for the winter! My boy and the neighbor kids always end up watching too much TV or video games in winter. They will be excited to do more “projects” as we call creating around here!

  • Sarah Morgan - This could not have come at a better time! I’m struggling trying to find activities for my 7 year old who isn’t a sports kid. I’ve seen skillshare advertised before but honestly just never thought to check them out. I’m thinking this could be a great opportunity for him to check out lots of activities and hopefully we can find one that will stick! I’m excited to possibly learn a few things too! Thanks Ashley!!

  • Carrie - Dear Ashley,
    Thank you for continuing to write this blog. I am one of those long time readers, a fly on the wall of your blog, if you will! But…you have encouraged me and brightened my day on many, many occasions. Interestingly, we have a special needs daughter who is about the same age as your youngest and she has also made wonderful strides in her development. We also homeschool and participate in Classical Conversations. And my oldest is about the same age as yours and cannot keep her nose out of a book! So, in some ways our lives have taken parallel paths. I admire you so much even though I have never met you. I appreciate your “real”ness while you also help me to meditate on what is true, good and beautiful. I rarely comment, but please know that I feel at home in your little blog niche. Thank you for making me feel like a welcome friend! You are the good neighbor from Luke 10! 🙂

  • Steffany - Thank you so much! My kids (5 and 7) LOVE to draw. The older one took art classes through a program after but it was expensive and an okay class. These sound WAY better because they can both attend and certainly less money. Mom might even sit in on them too! My husband was laid off yesterday and so three months of drawing classes for $0.99 could NOT have come at a better time 🙂 Thanks again!

  • Iara - Yeah for Skillshare! so excited to see you featuring it here on your blog. I am a long time member and started teaching paper craft related classes in September. I have so far a scrapbook class, a Christmas Card-making class and a mini album class. Working now on a mixed media / collage class 🙂 My kids love to watch the drawing classes – the all time favorite is called “drawing cute” – search for it, your kids will love it! even my boy love the cute animals and people! and my favorite is “Introduction to modern calligraphy” and the sketchbook classes by Ria Sharon.

  • Andrea - Thank you so much for posting this! I have wanted my boys to take drawing lessons for years but being a teacher and paying for private school for 3 kids it hasn’t fit into our budget. I will definitely try skill share!

  • emily hope - thanks for this! my 9 year old is just learning to crochet and I was hoping to find some tutorials for her to branch out with. now I’m finding lots more that I want to do 😉

  • Mandy Jones - Being a fellow Beagle Mom, the photo of your pup drinking out of your littlest one’s cup absolutely stole my heart and made me laugh out loud. That is a common occurance around here too. Got to love our “Nosey” kids. 🙂

  • LOUIS DEJESUS - ashleyannphotography.com is a great website.

  • Carla - thanks for this!! you always give such thoughtfully chosen tips and tricks that enrich lives for all.

  • Kari - Thank you for this post! I’m going to introduce my daughter to this for a Christmas gift! She loves to create and this will be right up her alley!

  • Gail - I nanny a slew of kids between the ages of 5 and 12 and skillshare has been a HUGE hit. I’m curious whether it will still keep their interest in a few months but initially, every kid has loved it. This weekend with an 8 and 10 year old, I enjoyed Lesley’s class as well as Em Winn’s class on drawing cute! It was an entertaining intergenerational activity.