q and a

I have recently decided that I will be posting an faq at random times on my blog. Now, before you roll your eyes and assume I think I am a photographic genius who feels the world wide web should be flogged with my opinion, hear me out. The truth is that I get emails daily with questions regarding photography. Everything from equipment to lighting to processing to working with children. Sometimes, it’s definitely hard to keep up with the emails. I absolutely love hearing from people and am happy to answer questions, but I felt this would be a way to answer those questions once, rather than several times. In no way do I think my advice or opinion is perfect, but it’s the way I roll and hopefully a person or two will get something from it.

K asks…What camera do you use and would you recommend it to others?

My main camera body is a Nikon D700 and I am IN. LOVE. with it. I always use a backup camera with me at all sessions and weddings, and my backup is a Nikon D300.

J asks…What are your favorite lenses to use?

I admit it. I have a huge obsession for lenses and always have two or three on my wishlist. However, there are a few that I adore and use all of the time. I always shoot with two cameras (mainly because I am too lazy to change my lenses). For weddings, I mainly use my 24-70 2.8 and my 70-200 2.8. For portrait sessions, I have my 24-70 2.8 on one camera and either my 50 1.4 or 85 1.8 on my other camera. All lenses are Nikon brand.

E asks…Do you ever find yourself using higher ISO’s in low light rather than setting up flashes?

Of course! It absolutely depends on how I want the “look” or the mood of the final shot to turn out, but I have no problem cranking my ISO up if needed. If I don’t have lighting equipment with me or really want to use the natural light available to me, I will use a combination of a wide aperture and a higher ISO to achieve a proper exposure or desired look. My D700 handles noise very nicely even at a high ISO.

E also asks…I am in the beginnings of navigating photoshop, but have also heard about “lightroom”. Have you heard of or used that program before?

Um YEAH. I am in love with Lightroom. While my post processing workflow is a whole separate conversation for another day, Lightroom is absolutely essential for me in my post production process. After a session or wedding, the first thing I do is import my images into Lightroom. I then sort and organize the images using color coding and ratings. I will then do all of my basic editing in Lightroom. As far as editing, a lot of my images never leave Lightroom. The others that need a little heaver editing will be pulled into Photoshop to finish them up.

J asks…Do you back up your pictures?

A big old HUGE YES! I am one of the unfortunate souls who has been victim of a severe hard drive failure.  I was lucky enough to get 90% recovered, but not without serious grief, worry, time, and money.  I currently have all of my original and edited images on a main drive, copies of all edited images on second drive, and use Carbonite (an online backup service) to back up everything on the second drive.  Carbonite automatically backs up my images, documents, and other data files online from my second drive.  I also archive old sessions to cd.  Um, yeah, I’m paranoid.

I repeat and repeat again…make sure you have some kind of way of backing up your images and data.  Regardless of whether you are a photographer or just have all of your documents and family pictures on your computer, no one is immune to a hard drive failure.

M asks…I am a beginning photographer and want to learn more!  Do you recommend any good photography books?

My photography book shelf is full.  And I mean FULL.  When I was starting, I couldn’t get enough…needed to know more…craved more and more information on photography.  I love “The Digital Photography Book” Volumes 1, 2, and 3 by Scott Kelby.  An industry standard  (for very good reason) is “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson.  And, of course, your camera manual.  Seriously.  I have read my manuals inside and out and has by far been the best source of information for learning my equipment.

Thanks for stopping by and if you have any questions that you would like me to address in the future, feel free to email or leave them in the comments at the bottom of this blog post.



  1. Joy says:

    Jean Smith, I thought I was the only one privy to your knowledge. Seriously, I love this idea and so glad you did it. I am dying for you to do one on processing, like how do you get your pictures so creamy? 😉 hehehe. LOVE it!

  2. Jamie says:

    Hi Jean! I found you through the maternal lens. I loved your interview and love it that you did a question and answer post. I have so many questions! How do you get your images so crisp? I love the eyes in your pictures, any tips on that? And what editing programs do you use? I am currently using Bridge and an old version of Photoshop. Wondering if I need to upgrade. Oh, and I wanted to know how you got into doing wedding photography. I would love to, but I’m not sure where to begin.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Hi Jean! So glad that you are doing the FAQ!! I am with Joy, I would love to see a beginning (SOOC) to end processing of a pic. Your photos are always so awesome!! I absolutely love your creativity!! I am sure I will come up with a ton more (I always do), so I will shoot them your way. Thanks for doing this!!

  4. brooke says:

    Gorgeous image!! I loved reading this post.. you ought to do this more often 😉

  5. Love this post! Thanks so much for sharing. I would love to hear more about processing too!

  6. Marla says:

    Thanks for this post. Beautiful work!

  7. Melissa Burnett says:

    I wanted to thank you for helping Troy decide to send me to the Nicole Van workshop. I was so happy–I sobbed! I’m still hoping some day you will do a workshop. If you ever do, I am in! I would give anything for a day with your geniusness! I am way happy about you answering questions. Like lots of the other comments on this post, I would love to know more details of your processing. What are some of your favorite tricks?

  8. Shannon says:

    What a fantabulous idea! 🙂 Can you tell us how you got to be so creative? Haha. I would also like to see some processing tricks! Love your work!

  9. MJ says:

    One day, hopefully sooner rather than later, I shall finally get my highly-lusted after DSLR and lenses. And when I do, I am snatching up all the tips you’re offering. 🙂

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