Lisa Leonard Designs

capture something beautiful.

August 2nd | photography



hello friends, and hello monday!

i hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

i have lots of pics to share this week.

and, since i’ve received so many questions about my photography lately,

i thought i would take a post to share some of my tools and techniques.

* * *

{just a disclaimer, these are my opinions and i’m an amateur photographer!}


i started out with a nikon d40 {which i loved}

and my husband surprised me with a nikon d5000 for valentines day.

{and i love it even more!}

if you’re starting out, the nikon d40 takes excellent pictures

and it’s so easy to use.

i highly recommend it.


i have an 18-55 lens–it comes with most nikon d40 and it’s a great basic lens.

i also have a 55-200 which is great for long distance shots. excellent clarity.

the 55-200 is terrible if you are trying to shoot at close range. sometimes i get annoyed with it.

i also have a 50mmf/1.8 that takes great pics, but has no auto-focus. it’s definitely tricky, but fun to use.

my favorite lens is the 55-105.

it’s a great everyday lens. it’s great for close up and allows quite a bit of zoom.

love it.

…speedlight flash…

great investment. allows you to direct the flash away from your subject and diffuse the light.

…other stuff…

tripod. i bought a cheapy at our local camera store and i love it!

remote. again, it was about $20 and totally worth it.


**i take a lot of pictures and i carry my camera everywhere.

practice has helped me improve.

**have fun. play with settings.

i think photography is about figuring out what shots YOU like.

discover your own style, even if it isn’t ‘technically’ correct.

**learn how to use your camera.

i set ISO and white balance with each new shoot.

sometimes i play with f-stop (thank you, kami bigler!)

**i edit my pics with iphoto (for macs) and

* * *

share with us!

do you take pics for fun or professionally?

what kind of camera do you use?

what are YOUR favorite tools + techniques?

24 Responses

  1. Talysa says:

    Canon Rebel Xsi

    My favorite lens is my 50mm Prime Lens

    I use my Telephoto Zoom Lens to capture my children without them knowing it. :-)

  2. I take pics for my blog. I only have a point and click camera for now, but I have been able to improve the look of my photos quite a bit with practice. I think the my best tools are good natural light and the macro setting. One day I will save up for a really nice camera! Thanks for the recommendations :)

  3. Southern Gal says:

    Thanks for this! I’m leaning towards getting a Nikon D5000 soon. I’ve been researching and comparing. I don’t think they sell the D40 or D60 anymore. The info on lenses is very helpful. That always confuses me. I love your style of photography, but I like to let the color shine in mine. My favorite subject right now is my granddaughter. Love baby rolls and baby smiles.

  4. Sam says:

    These are great tips! I love reading about photography. I take photos for fun, definitely not professional, but I would love if I could learn more and be able to do it somewhat professionally. I don’t have an SLR camera yet. I do plan on getting one once I am settled with a job and new place! So for now, I take my own fun photos with my Canon SX120 IS. Great hobby!

  5. what camera bag do you use?

    where did you get your strap cover?

    these are the stylish things we need to know! 😉 xoxo

  6. Amanda says:

    Practice, practice, practice has been my biggest learning tool. I am really enjoying my camera and learning it inside and out. I took classes at the store where I bought my camera and that has helped. My three little girls are my subjects. Thanks for the info Lisa. It was very helpful (and thoughtful of you to take the time to write it out for us).

  7. lisa says:

    my camera strap is shey b (
    and my camera bag/purse is ephiphanie (

    love them both!!

  8. Tanya says:

    Thanks for sharing, I found your info very helpful. I am also looking into getting a Nikon D5000 and appreciate your opinion….especially since your pictures are also so beautiful :)

  9. Camera Strap – my camera strap is shey b (
    Camera – Nikon D40 (Lisa, you are so right… perfect beginner/trying to aspire to photographer camera
    Subject – anything and everything – it helps me figure out what I enjoy
    Software – Picnik! It has been a lifesaver while trying to slowly learn Photoshop
    Photoshop Tutorials – Pioneer Woman! Thank you PW!

  10. Kristi says:

    Wonderful tips Lisa! I love to hear about what lenses others use and what works for them and what doesn’t…thanks so much for sharing!

  11. valerie says:

    just geting into it… you now of any classes on photography for the beginner? southern california area? I usually jus tuse the easy setting but want to learn how to use the other stuff…..and going to a class might help and encourage me to learn more!

  12. Tira J says:

    I am a professional portrait photographer in Southern California and I would say first, practice your heart out. Go online and learn from people you admire. Ask a ton of questions, we are all here to help you. And if you want to step into the “dark side” and move into it professionally, there is a lot to consider before you can even charge for your services. My favorite lens is the Canon 85 1.2/L Also, there are a few places online for you to learn. and

  13. My hubby bought me a refurbished Nikon L100 on ebay. It arrived Saturday afternoon and I used it Sunday afternoon at the park with my girl. I so love how it takes pictures and changes to the right setting. Its just perfect for me.
    I used to have a point and shoot camera and i had been hinting to the hubby that we need a new camera. So i am very happy with it.
    I take photos for fun but hope to learn how to edit the photos so they look professional.

  14. Julie says:

    Thank you so much for this post!! Your pictures are gorgeous…I swoon at them everyday. I take pictures for fun and memories but I love to try out new angles, focus, etc. I have a Sony a200. I’m so going to check out the strap covers…LOVE them!!

  15. stephanie says:

    Lisa, your blog never ceases to delight me and warm my heart whenever I drop by. Your photographs are beautiful and your words are honest and true. All the best to you and your family and thank you for sharing!

  16. Claire Hill says:

    A million zillion thank you’s for answering these questions. Now just a couple more. Do you have a set formula to edit your pictures so that they all have this same ‘cast’ (don’t know what other word to use here)? Really curious about that. I have a Nikon D40 and would like to move up and I’ve taken some classes but I want to learn more. Thanks.

  17. Philippa says:

    Great tips Lisa. I love taking photographs and my Dad used to develop his own photographs and even had a colour enlarger way back in the 1970’s before the age of digital, so I guess it’s in my blood.
    I adore taking botanical shots and I use a Sony Cybershot DCS-H9 with 15x optical zoom. I find it takes great shots. I also have my Dad’s old Fujica camera with a mammoth macro lens. Yes I have to insert films and everything! I have to confess I haven’t used it for ages. smiles…

  18. Claudine says:

    I have a Nikon D70–which has gotten a work out the past 6 years–over 40,000 pictures! Though the absolute best investment I have made is the 18-200 VR lens — it is AMAZING! I have taken some pictures for others for pay (several weddings and senior portraits) and am always considering going a professional route. I take pictures of family life and the world around me — mostly for myself and for blog posts.
    I love your camera bag and am saving up for one myself! My birthday is coming, so fingers crossed!

  19. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ditta Dara, lisaleonard. lisaleonard said: do you take pics?? tell us about it… […]

  20. I love your blog!!! If you don’t already, shoot in RAW and AP mode! It opens up a whole new world for you! Of course Nikon is the best! Between my husband and I there are three digital SLR’s in our house! Also check out We do a little bit of “pro” work but mostly we are just a Dad & Mom to our special needs adopted 7 year old:). Older children are grown:)
    Thanks for your blog!

  21. Ewa Morphy says:

    Thank you so much, Lisa, for all the info … I felt so much better to see that others had asked the questions I had asked last week and I now see that we all find your feedback extremely valuable! I so appreciate it! I have much more information now as we head out camera shopping this week! Not sure we are yet ready for the full SLR jump, but we are looking at a Canon and Nikon that will be great transitions to that future move. Wish us luck! I can only hope that I can one day take pictures that have as much personality and heart as yours do. Keep on treating us to them every day…

    Enjoy the rest of your summer!

  22. Roxy says:

    I was just wishing for someone to give me all the information you just posted! How timely and how thoughtful for those of us dreaming to update! I think I’m going to send this link right on over to my husband and entitle it “Christmas Gift for Your Wife’. :-) Thanks!

  23. Susan says:

    I have the Nikon 5000. Love. It. I bought it earlier in the year, so I’d have a good camera for Marching Band season (I didn’t get many good pictures last year with my point and shoot camera). Lens-wise, I think I have an 18-55 (came with camera), and a 55-200. I’m still learning how to use it and I use the auto settings alot, but I played with the manual settings on our recent trip to Daytona Beach, FL and got some really great shots (and some equally not-so-great-shots). I don’t have an extra flash or the remote, yet, but I do have a tripod. I hope to invest in those items soon. Any specific recommendations for the speedlight flash (particular one – if I remember correctly, there are various ones…)

    Thanks for the great post!


  24. Holly says:

    I just bought a D90! I’m in LAHV with it… Still trying to figure out how to adjust my shutter speeds and whatnot, but I’m so happy with this Nikon that my Canon G11 (high end P&S) is starting to collect dust. I’m hoping to get that remote speedlight next. Oh! and I just got a Kelly Moore bag for the fall… but after looking at that pic of you in your yellow scarf, I’m wishing I would’ve bought the mustard colored one instead of the grey :-/

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