• Welcome to the blogsite of award winning photographer, Samantha Alday. Samantha is also a boutique-style photographer commissioning a limited number of wedding and portrait events each year delivering the most in personal customer service, detail and the specific needs of each client. Her work has been featured in ALABAMA WEDDINGS Magazine, The Knot online Real Weddings and has been awarded by the Wedding Photojournalist Association.

Photography 101 | Product Guide

Now that you’ve improved your photographic skills and knowledge, I bet you’ve commented, or rather pleaded to your spouse that you now need new equipment.   “But honey, I really neeeeed a new camera….”

I know you’ve said it; don’t try to deny it.  The reason I know so well, is ’cause I’ve used the same tactics on my own hubby.  😉

I hope this final lesson in the Photography 101 series helps you narrow your search and purchase the perfect lens for just what you’re needing.


While I have always used Canon, I cant specifically speak about Nikon.  I have played around with some Nikon cameras before and truly liked what I saw, but I honestly don’t know the techie stuff about the Nikon brand itself.

I do know that I liked the Nikon focusing better than the Canon and wish Canon’s focusing sensors were better.  On the other hand, I’ve heard other pro photogs say they love the Nikon body better, but that the Canon lenses are better than Nikon.

So there you go.  Clear as mud.

I do suggest before you buy your camera to do some research on your own to determine which will work better for you.  There are several forums and camera review sites that list more detailed information on each brand.

I also recommend an SLR camera.  If you’ve followed these lessons and truly want to become proficient in your photography skill, an SLR is the only way to go.  You’re just so limited to what a point and shoot can do.

This is a pretty cool website I found that reviews pretty much any brand and model out there.  You’ll also need to consider which lenses you want before you purchase your body so you can make sure that both are compatible with each other.

My final thought about your camera is don’t buy the kit.  The lens that comes with the body is usually low end and slow.  Consider buying the body only and using that extra saved money on a good lens instead.


There is also debate between prime lens users and zoom users.  Prime lenses are fixed, professional lenses with a faster aperture.  Zooms obviously do just that (zoom) and the apertures are usually not quite as fast as you can go with prime.  Some photogs will also argue that zooms are not as sharp as primes.  I use both.

It is important to consider what your needs are and the style of pictures you’re wanting to take.  Are you wanting a general all-purpose type of lens?  Are you wanting to take daytime and nighttime pictures?  Are you wanting to take sports pictures?  That’s just a few of the questions to consider when buying your lens.

These are the lenses I use so I thought I’d address each one.  (I’ve added buying links to each one, but don’t feel like you should purchase from AmazonCalagaz in Mobile is great and B&H Photo online is good, too.

50mm 1.8 This is an inexpensive, fixed lens.  It’s great starter lens and all purpose lens to use and the fast aperture allows you to take good low light shots, too.  Just keep in mind that because it’s a fixed lens, you’re not going to get the distance that you’re probably used to having.

50mm 1.4 A more expensive, but step above the 50 1.8 lens.  This lens also feels abit heavier and better made than the 1.8.  This lens stays on my camera most all the time.  I love it’s buttery images and how I can take next-to-no-light-at-all images and they still be tack sharp.

85mm 1.8 This is another good all purpose, faster lens.  While you can obviously get closer than the 50mm, it’s difficult to use indoors in a smaller room.  The faster aperture allows you to go low light and it’s imagery is also sharp.  Clark uses this lens 100% during our wedding events.  I love how he can catch fun moments from a distance and different angle that I’m not necessarily aware of or can’t see.

100mm 2.8 macro I love, love, love this lens.  When my 50mm is not on my camera, this one is.  It’s also a fixed lens with a nice aperture of 2.8.  I use this one for a lot of portrait work because I love the compression and bokeh it produces.  It’s also a good lens to use when you’re just not as a close to the action as you’d like to be or when you’re intentionally staying out of the way, but still want to grab those unobtrusive shots.  The macro is an added bonus.  Love it!

16-35mm 2.8L This is my wide angle lens.  With it’s faster aperture, I can still use it for those low light, wide angle ceremony shots and also for the getting dressed pictures in a small room.

17-55mm 2.8 I also love this wide angle lens.  I love it because I can shoot both wide and also zoom in abit closer on the 55mm end.  The downfall to this lens is that it’s just not as sharp as using the other prime lenses.  Another thought is if I’m going to shoot on the 55mm end, I might as well go with my 50mm 1.4 prime lens for the faster aperture and sharper imagery.

There you have it.  It’s really not a full arsenal compared to others, but it’s worked for me for many years.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I do have my own wish list but for now, why try to fix something that’s not broken.  😉

Now, how do I keep up with all this stuff?

For transporting and storage I use this Lowepro Rolling Bag.  It provides lots of storage on the inside and out and having the long pull handle and wheels is a must…’cause when it’s full, it probably weighs close to 50 pounds!

In this bag, I have all my camera bodies and lenses, a separate bag of camera and AAA batteries, pocket wizards, 3-4 strobes, a video light, flash diffusers, a light stand and umbrella (yes, all within this bag) and pockets full of cords, cards, a screwdriver and black tape, velcro tabs, mini-flashlight, super glue, business cards and lots of other miscellaneous products.  I’m prepared, okay?  Don’t hate.

During an event or shoot, I carry my lenses in the shootsac.  Trust me, I’ve tried lots of camera bags and the shootsac suits my needs perfectly.  Because I like to keep things simple when I’m working, I only carry one camera (on my person-yes, I have backups) and the shootsac fits nice and snug around my body even when it’s full.

Now…let’s pause for this commercial break…

I don’t want to be the worm in the apple, but I feel I have to impose this thought upon you: professional equipment does not a professional photographer make. Repeat.  It’s not the equipment; it’s the knowledge and skill of the person operating the equipment.  Just because you have a “good camera” doesn’t make you qualified to take professional portraits.  I’ve heard so many times someone say, “my cousin just bought this really nice camera, so she is going to take our wedding photos for us” or someone else say, “I want to take pictures just as good as you do, so which camera should I buy?”……ACK….re-read the above statement.  Please, please do not let someone sucker you in to (nor volunteer) taking their once-in-a-lifetime, may-never-get-another-chance professional portraits for them if you are not a professional.  It’s happened to me when I was first starting out (and I thought I knew what I was doing) and it was a nightmare. I’m still embarrassed to think about it.  It has taken me years worth of learning, reading and studying, along with sheer trial and error (and terror) to acquire the knowledge and skill I have now. All of the Photography 101 information I’ve shared with you has simply been for your own personal benefit.  Otay?  Still friends?  😉

Okay…I’m stepping down from my soapbox now…proceed with your regularly scheduled programming…

Just because this is the last lesson in the Photography 101 Series, don’t thing that I won’t be posting!  I have other series plans in mind and will start those very soon, as well as lots of other things in between.

Happy Monday and happy shooting!

Photography 101 | Composition


This is a tough one.

It shouldn’t be really, but for me, it’s a tough subject.


A couple of reasons, really.

For one, there seem to be rules about composition and I’m just not good at following rules.

Many of you have probably heard of the Rule of Thirds.  I totally get that and understand that for the most part that’s a great rule to follow, but on the other hand, I’m more about doing what works rather than following rules.

Secondly,  I’m just not good at it.  Come to think of it, maybe if I followed the rules, I’d become better at it.  😉

Yes, I’m admitting that.  You’d think as a professional,  I could nail it, but I really have a hard time with it.  I tend to see moments as they happen rather than planning something out for the perfect shot.

But, I’m going to tackle it with you today and fill you in on what I find myself repeating over and over again when I get stuck in trying to snap a good image.

Look up.  Look down.  Get high.  Get low.  Think dimensional.  Re-create your image just as you’re seeing it.  Actually take a few extra seconds to compose your shot.  A quick snap of the image often leaves the image feeling flat.  Allow the image to speak for itself….to tell it’s own story.

Use a wide angle, but then get close… use your minds eye to see the difference.  Which tells the story better?

I once read in a photography magazine that it’s easy to tell the difference in a pro and amateur while they’re snapping their vacation photos:  the amateur skids the car to an abrupt halt, jumps out and quickly snaps the picture of the first thing he/she sees.  BUT the more advanced beginner stops, gets out of the car and looks in all directions to see which is the best angle to take his/her picture.  Don’t just snap one picture.  Take several to see which looks best on your screen.

Do you see the difference?  Now put yourself in that situation.  Which of those tourists are you?  🙂

How can you take a picture and make it interesting?

Think about your background.  Think about your foreground?  Do you need to move your body around to include something in the image?  Do you need to move objects within your foreground or your background to make the image more appealing?  Do the objects in the foreground or background add to or distract from your subject?

Another thing to think about is framing.   Anytime you can frame your subject with your picture draws attention directly to your subject.  Look outside the box here; you can use anything to frame your subject and make an interesting picture.  I’ve seen spokes of a bicycle wheel used to frame a subject and think, “man, why didn’t I think about that?!”  That’s how I’m talking about thinking outside the box.

While I understand this lesson is not so chock full of technical instruction, it’s still essential in distinguishing yourself from the complete novice and the proficient photographer.  Think about this lesson you next time you take a picture of a baby or young toddler and you’re tempted to take the picture from your level….kneel down and get on their level so you won’t have a box full of pictures of the tops of baby’s heads.  😉

Practice these tips and I bet you’ll immediately start noticing an improvement in your pictures and others will, too.

And sadly, our time together via these lessons is coming to a close.  Next week I’ll cover my last subject–not so much a buying guide–but a comparison of the lenses I use and what each does best with some extras thrown in.

It’s been 12 weeks and I can’t believe we covered so much stuff!

I hope you have enjoyed learning and feel more confident in your ability!

Feel free to ask questions in the comments section and I’ll try to answer as blog posts.

Happy Monday and happy shooting!

JennaGrace - August 10, 2010 - 3:10 pm

No!! It can’t come to an end yet! I have so enjoyed your lessons each week! Thank you again for doing them!

Samantha - August 10, 2010 - 11:24 am

Hey Lauren!
Glad you found me. Hope you enjoy!

Lauren - August 9, 2010 - 9:34 pm

Hi Samantha, I started late on the Photography 101 posts so I am trying to catch up. I just read the one from today and saw that your series is coming to an end… thank you for doing this! Very helpful!!

Senior Portrait Photographer | Daniel | Senior 2011


Here are more of my favs from Daniel’s Senior Session.  I love how these images capture who he really is:  his love of football, hunting and fishing and pretty much anything outdoors.  We met up at his grandfather’s lake and property where it seems Daniel spends a lot of his spare time.  🙂

See more of Daniel’s pictures in this video! (You may want it to completely load before you try to play it!)

Photography 101 | Raw vs. Jpeg

While this is a tender subject amongst professionals, I’m here only to give my opinion and offer information on the difference between the two shooting formats.

Someone mentioned to me the other day that that did in fact take some images that day in the RAW format, but “couldn’t tell any difference in the image itself.”

This is a great opener into me explaining the difference because that’s just it: on the back of your LCD screen you won’t see any difference at all.  Shooting in RAW is more of post processing tool.  It does not affect your snap of the shutter at all or the immediate results of your image.

Let me explain more.

The RAW format in your camera (which Nikon calls NEF Data) is a shooting format that when you snap your image, all of the information within that image is recorded…as opposed to the JPEG format is a compressed version of that same information, so in theory, the JPEG file contains less data.

Why is a JPEG image compressed:  to give you more space on the memory card.  RAW simply means uncooked or unprocessed, so all of the information that was required to record your image is there for you to work with during post processing or editing.

While for the every-day photographer, JPEG is a great format to shoot in–the file size is still small so you can get more on your memory card, it still renders a good quality image and you won’t require specific software to read it.  Your image is pretty much ready to view, upload, print or whatever you want to do with it.

RAW is a also a great format because, once again, it gives you full control of your image…not so much straight out of the camera, but for your editing needs.  White Balance, exposure, saturation, etc.  is way more easy to correct in the RAW image.

On the other, the RAW image is a huge file so you won’t be able to take as many pictures on your memory card and also requires specific software, such as the upper-end versions of Photoshop, Bridge, Capture One, or Lightroom etc.  The RAW image must also be converted to another format before other programs can read it straight out of camera (Windows Media viewer will not read it).

So which is better for you?  Only you can answer that.  Consider your goals as a photographer and/or how comfortable you are with editing.  An argument can be made either way, but ultimately, it’s your choice dependent on your needs for your image.

What do I shoot?  I knew that was coming….  🙂

I shoot both.  Wuh?  Professionally, I shoot RAW, but for my personal, every-day stuff around the house, I shoot JPEG.  Shooting in RAW professionally is pretty self-explanatory, while shooting personal stuff, I just don’t need those large files, I usually don’t want to take up alot of time editing and I’m usually in a hurry to post somewhere.

Oh, and another FYI is that some cameras allow you to shoot in both  RAW + L (large JPEG) simultaneously.

I hope that helps!  Happy Monday and Happy Shooting!

Here’s one of my favorite E-Shots taken on the Fairhope Pier in Fairhope, AL.

Hailey and Robert | Alabama Wedding Photographer

Here are some favorites from Hailey and Robert’s wedding.
One of my favorite ring shots ever.  Hailey has “I Do” jewels on the sole of her shoes.  Love that!The First Look.

A daddy’s moment with his girl.

Robert’s cake was 100% Alabama Football.

Can you say Diva?The reception at the beautiful Joseph T. Smitherman Historic Building.

Hailey Dolbare - July 29, 2010 - 8:29 pm

YAY!!!! They look amazing!! Thank you so much for everything you did that day … and bearing with us even though it was 110 degrees outside!! You and Clark are wonderful photographers and have a true talent and gift. Thank you again for everything!!!