taking photos for the blog

by Sharon Santoni

foxgloves in flower bed

If you’ve read me for any time, you may know that since the blog started 7 years ago, I have always used a point and shoot camera for all my photos.   A point and shoot is lightweight, it slips into my handbag, fully automatic and simply was so easy to use.

chateau de chantilly

I started with a Fuji, that I loved but it didn’t take very big pictures, and a few years ago I moved onto a Lumix that I also adored.    I’ve never been really careful with my cameras, and I expect a lot of them.  They have to travel with me, live in the bottom of a bag, brave all weathers  and not kick up too much of a fuss if they get dropped (not so proud of those moments.)

poppies in garden

This spring and summer I have a couple of bigger photo shoots on my agenda, where I feel duty bound to my subject to produce some good shots.  The pressure feels much greater when taking photos for someone else, so I decided that I should be brave and upgrade.

A couple of weeks ago, having asked around amongst friends whose photos I admire, I finally moved onto my very first ‘grown up’ camera.   I chose a Nikon, simply because I know so many people with this brand, that I’ll be able to try different lenses and learn from their experience.

country path in evening sunlight

Here are some of the first pictures that I’ve been taking,  in my garden, and around the valley, plus a shot of Chantilly.  My verdict?   I am loving using a reflex camera.   I can see a difference in the grain of the pictures, and most importantly the light and the mood.   Composition still remains the most important factor in taking shots for a blog, but a little fine focussing certainly helps too.

The downsides?   The size and weight for sure.   After a whole day’s shooting I could feel that it was way more tiring to lift and position this baby, and it really won’t be possible to slip it into a handbag when out for lunch in Paris, or take it along  on a walk in the forest.  It also requires more knowledge and concentration, although the automatic option works pretty well.

So I wondered about your photographic experience and if you take a lot of pictures, which sort of camera do you prefer?  Is the ease to handle your first consideration?   Are you a total geek and know everything there is to know about ISO and aperture?  Or with today’s phone technology have you put any camera aside and simply use your phone to snap throughout the day?  Look forward to hearing your words of wisdom.

frames and flowers

33 comments

Janet - Shabbyfufu May 24, 2017 - 2:42 pm

I’m a Canon shooter Sharon and although I love my full frame professional equipment it really is too heavy to lug around other than at home. I do some travel with it for editorial shoots and it’s exhausting and I’m looking into a mirrorless camera to toss into my handbag right now. I’ve seen great results with them and on some models you can switch out lenses. Definitely on my radar!

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Hank May 24, 2017 - 2:43 pm

I use a Nikon DSLR with a macro telephoto lens and for me it is the perfect walking around lens. Is it big and clunky, sure. I have a point and shoot as well, but have favored my phone over that for convenience. I have a great strap which lets the camera fall down to my side, rather the short one which comes with the camera. It’s easier to carry this way and I have trucked it all over Normandy and a lot of Europe while on holiday from the US.

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Jeanne Henriques May 24, 2017 - 2:54 pm

Sharon, your photos are always stunning, no matter the camera! I am sure we all agree that your have the eye for beautiful shots. So interesting that you asked this question because I asked the same of a professional photographer this morning. Lots of info to digest but came up with similar suggestion, a Nikon. I am thinking about upgrading from my old faithful, Canon 550D and making the move to a Nikon. I have a big trip coming up and I want to maximize the photographic possibilities. I use my Canon very little these days, mostly relying on my iPhone or pocket Sony. I am torn whether I should just stick with my tried and true and travel light for this trip. I am rusty on the mechanics etc…decision, decisions! I look forward to seeing where you go with it all. Your photos here are wonderful and I am sure you will continue to create stunning photos. I think the answer may be the need for more than one type of camera and a really clever system for travelling with all of them! Your next project?? Good luck!! xx

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Marilyn May 24, 2017 - 2:59 pm

When I go walking I take my Canon point and shot. Then my phone is usually in my bag. But I do love my Canon DSLR when I want really good pictures. I am traveling now and it is in my backpack today. So I switch between all three.

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Rosemary May 24, 2017 - 3:02 pm

I like to have a camera that is readily to hand. If you don’t have one that slips into your bag or pocket then unexpected opportunities can be missed.
I have been asked many times what camera I use but I think it is not the camera that you use, but your ‘eye’ and yours is good.

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Julie Bresette May 24, 2017 - 3:02 pm

I love the camera on my iPhone. I don’t even have to try. Every picture looks great!
P.S. I love the photo of the poppies!

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franki May 24, 2017 - 11:58 pm

Me, too!!

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Our French Oasis May 24, 2017 - 3:07 pm

I used to very happily use a Canon point and shoot camera until my husband decided I needed an upgrade and bought me a highly professional looking Panasonic LUMIX! I cannot deny that it takes fabulous photos, the quality is excellent, but and there is always a but, it is heavy and bulky and certainly doesn’t slot into my handbag. Therefore I only use it when I know I am going out taking photos. The rest of the time I rely on my iphone7, the camera is truly excellent and it is always with me and so always to hand whenever I need to take a quite shot. So far it has been the perfect solution!! Your photos are always beyond stunning so I am sure you are going to have great fun with the new camera. X

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stacey snacks May 24, 2017 - 3:45 pm

I’ve been using the same little Canon pos camera for 9 years for my blog photos…..but my iphone is taking better shots lately.

The slip in the purse feature is what I want!
I think it might be time to upgrade, maybe a Nikon?

xo

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Emm May 24, 2017 - 3:47 pm

I used to use a Canon, and occasionally a Nikon for reporting purposes, but for personal use in recent years it’s been a little Panasonic Lumix (with a nice zoom lens) and even a phone.
For casual snaps, something that small and light is much easier, and the phone cameras seem to get better by the day.
I went through a period of not using a camera at all, because realized one day I was seeing nothing of a trip but the viewfinder. So I carried a pencil and sketchbook instead, which makes you look at things differently.

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Cheryll May 24, 2017 - 4:23 pm

I have a sweet little Lumix with a Leica lens as a point and shoot. Totally satisfied, actually it is the second one. About 5-6 years ago I bought the big honking Nikon. It is fabulous, it is heavy and I have no clue what I am doing. I took an online class a couple years ago and learned a bit but I dislike carrying it. I am hoping your experience will incite me to try harder!

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James May 24, 2017 - 4:25 pm

YAY! I am loving the new photos! =)

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Lorrie May 24, 2017 - 4:28 pm

I began with a small pocket digital years ago, then had a little Nikon mirrorless camera that I loved. It was, alas, rendered useless by an unseen water drip on a trip. After a lot of research, I settled on another mirrorless – the Panasonic Lumix. I have three lenses for it, and although it can be used manually, I really rely on the automatic settings for most photos. Reasons: the weight of a full DSLR. I carry my camera hiking and walking and although it’s not as light as my earlier cameras, I can handle it. And it’s great to have a husband who will carry the extra lenses, if needed.
Looking forward to more fabulous photos.

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Jenifer May 24, 2017 - 4:47 pm

Switched from a Canon P&S to an Olympus mirror less because I wanted something compact and light. I just throw it in my tote and it’s a perfect travel companion. Great quality pictures.

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Deborah May 24, 2017 - 5:00 pm

I think you need un sac different chere Sharon. There are cute bags out for cameras that are purses. I have a few, and I bought an insert so I can make any tote a camera purse/tote.
Look at these brands for “girl” camera bags. Jill-E, Ona, Kelly Moore, and Epiphanie (I have 3 of the latter bags).
I’m sure you would find a bag stylish enough to have lunch in a Parisian cafe. 🙂

I’ve been shooting a Nikon DSLR since moving from film to digital in 08.
My walk-around kit is my Nikon DSLR with a 35mm mounted or my old 28-105mm lens.
My camera, wallet, cell phone, keys, spare battery, and lipstick are all I need in it.

Regarding the weight- it’s relative. You’ll find the more you carry your kit, and use it how fast you become used to the weight.
If you’re not carrying around a heavy telephoto lens all day that is.
I do that. It’s a workout. 🙂

I’m kind of a gear nut. I love cameras, lenses, and talking about them.

I forget to use my cell phone camera when I’m in field shooting. It’s usually when I notice someone else using theirs that I take mine out of my bag or pocket and make a image with the phone camera.

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ParisGrrl May 24, 2017 - 6:00 pm

I just cannot contend with the weight of a large camera, although I do admire the quality of the photos they produce. I always have a banged-up Nikon tucked into my purse–it’s seen more of the world than most people have–and I love using the phone camera for up-close or unusual shots as well.

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donna lampen-smith May 24, 2017 - 6:30 pm

when I was shooting with film I had a nice Canon with several Tamron lens. I found that I was always switching lens and missing shots. It was also heavy. Switching to digital and with getting older ( and what am I going to do with these photos anyway) I purchased a lightweight automatic Nikon. Looks fancy and takes some great shots but it can’t do what the manual cameras can. It only frustrates me when I am shooting with a friend and we are taking the same photo but she can play with it more and I have to just take what I see. But I travel alot and do I really want to be traveling with a camera bag and lens especially given all the checkpoints now with flying. And the phone takes some pretty good photos too. I’m torn………kind of

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Taste of France May 24, 2017 - 8:27 pm

I took photography in college and had to do it professionally for a while after. Those were the film days. But I knew about f-stops and developing and could even do darkroom tricks. With digital, the cameras change so fast it is frustrating to invest. Plus, it was one thing to schlep around a big camera and a bag of lenses for work, but now, the best camera is the one I have on me, which is a point and shoot since my phone camera is lousy. The drawback is the inability to get different depths of field, as you have with the photos here.

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Colleen Taylor May 24, 2017 - 9:44 pm

Sharon, I have a Canon SLR. I have a few smaller cameras as well. I have a case that I can fling over my shoulder & another camera backpack as well. I have friends that are in love with their Lensbaby lenses. Yes, lots of schlepping this stuff around can be very tiring & hard on the shoulders & back.

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joie lynn May 24, 2017 - 11:06 pm

I have an older Minolta SLR that I still use sometimes because the clarity using the film was always so good. Then I got a SONY DSLR (only because my Minolta lenses would fit on it.) Both are heavy, but I just use a small back pack if I am out for a day of photos. I use both the manual and auto on it….just depends. Have never had a small camera, and my phone is not one of those fancy ones. I think once you get used to it you will love the photos you end up with.

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Bungalow Hostess May 25, 2017 - 12:35 am

I use my IPhone as the camera takes great shots. I used to use a Canon but the convenience and size of the phone which can fit into a pocket makes it easy.

I suppose for your books you need a higher quality camera but for my blog I find the IPhone is all I need.

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Botanic Bleu May 25, 2017 - 2:58 am

Sharon,
When I first started blogging I used a point and shoot Olympus that is compact, but makes great photos. There are two options for close-ups that take crisp photos of small items and written info. The zoom is good and creates some of the blurry background with crisp foreground shots.
I have begun using my iPhone 5 recently, and it takes good photos also.
Then in February 2016, I upgraded to a Canon Rebel 6. There is definitely a difference in the sharpness of the photos, but the camera and lens are heavy, bulky, and difficult for me to carry. I use it at home, sometimes with a tripod, for my blog. I did not take it to France last year because of how difficult it is to manage that camera. Nor did I take it on a short trip day trip yesterday because it was raining. I did not want to risk getting my camera wet.

I am still learning. As several have written, the best tool for a good photo is the photographer, and you are superb. With an upgraded camera, you will have even better photos technically, but artistically you are already at the top.

Judith

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Sue H May 25, 2017 - 3:51 am

So I immediately had to check out the camera bag/purses that another commenter mentioned.Wow!
But what I wanted to say was you should do a quick search in Pinterest for photography cheat sheets and/or fstop charts. You can laminate some of these and they would be small enough to carry with you to help while you are learning the new camera. They help me.

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Carolyn May 25, 2017 - 5:38 am

I always thought your photos were lovely and assumed you had a DSLR. I have an entry level Canon DSLR and have upgraded the kit lens and also have a macro lens. As I mostly take nature and still life pics I switch between the two. When. I don’t have my big camera with me, I use my iPhone, but I’m disappointed after getting used to the better lenses on my DSLR. I have an older Canon point and shoot that does allow me to shoot in RAW and manual mode. I’m planning a trip to Scotland (I live in the US), and I’m debating carrying my heavy DSLR or not or whether to get another lens for my big camera. Can’t decide!

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Andrina Treadgold May 25, 2017 - 6:21 am

Sharon, I have a DSLR but rarely use it these days. It obviously takes excellent photos and I even did a photography course but the down side is the lugging around and the time it takes to set up and take the shot.
On my last visit to Paris I just used my iphone and was very happy with the result.
I’m quiet surprised you have just made the switch, your photos are so professional I presumed you used a different style of camera.

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Susie Craig May 25, 2017 - 8:22 am

Sharon, I always love looking at your photos and I know that you will master any new camera. I adore using my Canon DSLR camera but it is heavy particularly with a good lens. I switch to my Sony mirrorless camera which I bought before Canon produced one and it is a wonderful travel camera, lightweight, with WiFi, remote control app and subject to the user, takes brilliant photos.

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Dee Nash May 25, 2017 - 4:02 pm

I’ve had a Nikon camera ever since I started my blog ten years ago. I also use my iPhone 7 camera, but most often, my Nikon DSLR. I love that camera and how it catches red in the garden. Since I do a lot of speaking and garden writing assignments, I needed a really good camera. Welcome to the Nikon family. Yes, they’re heavier, but such wonderful cameras.

BTW, I loved my May box. Thank you.~~Dee

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Millie May 27, 2017 - 1:37 pm

Isn’t the blogging community just awesome! Ask a question of them & look at the generous response. I know nothing about cameras except anyone who points one at me better have the strongest Hollywood filter on it or else! ‘Alright Mr De Ville, I’m ready for my close-up!’ xx

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Monica May 29, 2017 - 1:36 pm

I have a wonderful quote that stands in for my Facebook profile photo that says, “I opened two gifts this morning ~ they were my eyes”. So, I suppose you could say, in my opinion it’s not necessarily the equipment you use to take memorable photos, but more about how you use your eyes to see the world you live in. I’ve used heavy Canon cameras for years now, and yes they are a pain at times (the above suggestion on using a longer strap is very helpful), but for artistically creative images I’d never switch out to a point and shoot for important work. However that said, iPhones and P&S are indispensable as well, especially when traveling light and for grab shots. My one essential recommendation for making wonderfully expressive images would be to learn the art of photographic backlighting, a technique your big girl camera is set up to handle much more effectively than a smaller one. Backlighting is achieved by having the sun coming from behind your subject instead of your subject facing directly into it. With a few adjustments to aperture settings and oblique lens angles (early/late morning and late afternoon light is best … telephotos work great for this too) you can, with very little effort, achieve a subject rimmed by a halo of light and magically diffused features. Never fear shooting in inclement weather as well … fog, mist and the ephemeral light that comes from a lifting storm are all conditions rife with drama and incomparable beauty. And, from what we’ve already seen Sharon … you’ve got an amazing eye for the wonder of it all. Absolutely love your videos … especially the one on Chateau Moissac, where natural backlighting has been exquisitely use in its filming. Thanks for sharing all that loveliness!

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Lory at Designthusiasm May 29, 2017 - 10:26 pm

Fun post! First, I’m really surprised you were using a point and shoot up until now because your photos are beautiful.

In terms of what I use, I’m the worst iPhone picture taker, so I rarely use my phone. For the first 2 years of blogging I used a high end point and shoot (Canon G12) which I loved. It fit in a dinner bag and could go anywhere with me. I’ve always traveled with it and loved how it performed.

But like you, eventually I decided to upgrade for the blog. I have found the difference startling. I used to love the quality of my G12 photos, but now I only want to use the larger camera. The difference is truly compelling.

I’m about to take a trip to Greece and I’m conflicted on what to use for the trip. For sure I will bring them both. I can’t imagine lugging a DSLR up to the Acropolis, but then again, what a shame it would be to have a great camera (I got the Canon 6D) and not use it.

To be determined which I’ll use… 🙂

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Charlotte Des Fleurs June 1, 2017 - 3:40 am

We used to own some pretty fancy cameras with all the bells and whistles. Now I just use my cell phone. There are so many on-line apps to create different effects that my phone is now my “go-to”. Having said that I have heard that there is a special lens that attaches to your cell phone to take even better picture. Unless I was taking photos for a magazine, cell phone+ special lens should be good enough for 99% of my or anyone’s needs.

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Jeanne June 12, 2017 - 11:59 am

I think that whatever camera you use, Sharon,your photographs will always be exquisite because of your eye. You know just where to focus and how to make the most of whatever available light. I really enjoy taking photographs for my Facebook page but am an undisciplined photographer. My little pocket Nikon Coolpix S3200 must do everything and it is pretty much a hit and miss affair …sometimes the “hits” are astonishing. If the flops outnumbered the good ones I would probably make an effort to improve my equipment but for the time being, I enjoy the freedom of the pocket Nikon.

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Dorothy Johnson July 23, 2017 - 7:35 pm

Can you tell me what the white flowers in the top photo are called? I have these from my grandmother’s garden ( I have had them for 50 years) and have no idea what they are. Many expert gardener friends are stumped. Just love them – and it looks like they can be pink also.

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