10 Minutes With My T3i (and a $150 lens)

We all want what we don't have..it's human nature.

I get asked (often) what I shoot with. Most people are surprised to hear that in my bag is a 60d and a Rebel T3i. I don't have any super fancy lenses, I don't know the next thing about the speed of my memory cards (who knew that was a thing?), and to be honest, I use my kit lens (18-55) a lot.

Yesterday, I grabbed my T3i, my 24mm 2.8 lens ($150 on Amazon) and my newborn (he'll be a month on Friday already..what??) and took some pictures. Why? Because I hadn't used that camera since July, the light in my bedroom was super yummy, and I had the idea for this blog post.

As a Canon user, I long for a Mark III..who doesn't? But, it's not in our budget. We are a one-income household with 2 babies in diapers. I'm lucky to get a Starbucks on the rare occasion that I get out of the house to go grocery shopping (did you know that kids and husbands have to eat every day?).

Yes, my 60d is my every day camera..but I do use my T3i for a backup. Both are crop sensor cameras, with limited ISO capabilities, and like 18 megapixels or something. The "fanciest" lens I own, is a 35mm 2.0 (which I love).

We live in an old trailer house, with lots of crooked walls and confined spaces. I can't get too far back for most photos, so when I saw that Canon was coming out with a 24mm 2.8 pancake lens for $150, I was ecstatic! It was a splurge for us, and I hate spending money on myself (I actually ordered and cancelled the order 2-3 times before I finally convinced myself I deserved this lens).

When it first got here (at 8:00 PM, so I had to wait until the next day to play with it..thank you UPS), I gave my daughter a bowl of cookies, put her in a spot of light in our kitchen, and took 300 pictures. I wasn't expecting super sharp images, or nice bokeh, or anything spectacular really. I was just happy to have a wide angle lens, because I'm a huge fan of getting the background into photos..I think it tells so much more of a story. 

I was surprised at how well this lens performed. 

The more photos I shared, the more comments I got. I get messages every day from people asking my settings for a photo, or how I edit. This tells me that I'm doing something right, which took me a long time to accept (sometimes I still don't). 

I have been a photographer (I hate calling myself that) for a few years now. When I started, I didn't know what I was doing..at all. I just had a fancy camera (my first was actually a point & shoot). When I finally figured out any real photographer has a DSLR, I saved up for my T3i (actually I think taxes paid for most of it). I thought I was now amazing. Turns out, Auto Mode is amazing. 

Then 2 years ago, my husband told me I could get a new camera for my birthday. I was so excited, but had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know there was such a thing as a crop sensor or a full frame. Had I known, I would have went with the 6d..not the 60d. Never the less, I was in love with my new "baby". But..I was still using Auto Mode.

I took some time off from photography while I was pregnant (2 years in a row). I took a few photos here and there, but didn't have the time or energy. 

In August of last year, we moved into our new home..our first home as a family (said 1970 trailer house). It isn't much, but it's ours..and luckily it has A TON of windows. 

I started seeing the light..literally. I saw the light coming into our home in a whole new way, and I forced myself to learn Manual Mode, because the photos I was getting in camera, were not what I saw in real life. So I Googled and YouTubed everything I needed to know about ISO, shutter speeds, aperture, and white balance. Finally! My photos started to look like what I saw in real life. 

My camera didn't get better..my lenses didn't get better. I got better. 

Would I trade all of the gear I have now for a Mark III? Absolutely (duh). But that's not going to happen, so I will keep mastering what I have (that's the key point here, so I'll say it again..MASTER WHAT YOU HAVE).

I learn something new every time I pick up my camera. I embrace the grain I get from my low ISO capabilities, I contour my body into freakish postures (this doubles as my daily yoga) to get interesting angles and make my small spaces work for me, and I put my whole heart into my photos. 

If you do that, you can't fail at photography. A camera can (and probably will) let you down. But if you know WHY your photos aren't looking like you want them to look, you can fix them. And that knowledge, is priceless.