For those of you who don’t know me, I am a MOPS mommy through and through.  Four years ago when I walked into my first MOPS group I was in a very dark place emotionally.  I had started staying home with my daughter six months prior, and let’s just say it was not going as I had fantasized it would for all of those years I’d been working in the corporate world.  After my first meeting, I cried.

Not because it was bad, but because it made me realize just how alone I had been.  I was living in complete isolation, and the fact that I didn’t need to be, was now right there in my face.

Fast forward, and we are getting ready to kick off my fourth year in MOPS, and this is my third year serving in leadership.  My hope is that it will reach a point where no mommy feels the way that I felt that morning.

All of that to say that my time in leadership has helped me not only grow as a mommy, but as a photographer … and it eventually led to launching More Sugar Than Spice Photography.

This month, I am writing a multi-post series called Going From Mom, To Moment Master, which I would like to dedicate to the many moms I have served, and will continue to serve this year.  My prayer is this series will empower you to do something for your family that only you can do – preserve the little moments that typically only a mommy gets to see.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

With that, let’s start at the beginning … {Choosing A Camera}

After looking at photographers rates, have you decided hiring a professional just doesn’t fit into your do-it-yourself budget?  Do you want to document every day happenings with your precious little ones before they are no longer little (and precious)?  Is your camera so old that the expense to have the film processed, combined with the disappointing result, makes you rely on others to capture special days?  If any of those things sound familiar to you, it may be time to budget for a new camera.  Don’t worry, even small budgets can secure your perfect camera … when you shop smart.

To get started, ask yourself these questions:

Who will be taking the majority of the pictures?

If the answer is you, then you need to be the one to go and purchase the camera.  Do not put this on the holiday shopping list for your husband, unless you know exactly which one you want!

That sounds silly, but when I was making my camera purchase, I had narrowed it down to a Canon or Nikon and I was having a hard time deciding between the two.  Off to the camera store I went, where reps from both companies admitted their products were pretty comparable for what I needed, and they agreed the best thing for me to do was pick it up and see which one felt better in my hands.

The same is true with a point and shoot camera.  These days the cameras keep getting smaller and smaller.  This is great for portability, but I have a hard time trying to press a button the size of a pencil tip when I have a baby on my hip and a 20lb bag on my shoulder.

When it comes to camera brands, a name is just a name.  For the most part, the major players (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus and Kodak) all have a camera that compares with their counterparts in each category.  There are slight differences among them, but for the most part, you can’t go wrong with the name brands you’ve heard of in the camera industry as long as you get a camera geared towards your needs.

Bottom line: The main user of the camera needs to make the trip to the store and pick up as many cameras as possible before making a final decision.  Don’t just buy the camera your neighbor has because she says it’s great … because it probably is great – for her.  You need to find a camera that is great for you, and that requires you shop around.

What will the camera be used for?

If you are like me, my favorite photos are ones I’ve taken of my kids … and I can’t have too many!  We’ll talk about how to store all of those images later in this series, but for now let’s stay focused on the camera.

When I am on the prowl for new equipment, I want something that can move FAST, like they do.  Be sure and check out the specs on shutter lag because nothing drives me crazier than pushing the button, and having the kids run off before the camera does its job.

If you are more of a landscape mama, perhaps the shutter lag isn’t as important to you, but a good zoom or a good macro feature (or lens on a DSLR) will work wonders.  You may also need to budget for a tripod, but we’ll talk accessories later in the series.

When you are checking out these camera stats, avoid the store specs if possible.  Those are provided by the manufacturer … which is great, but I prefer to look at what real users are actually getting out of the camera. and are two of my faves for the low-down, although there are many sites out there that can provide great information.

Be sure and check out what kind of batteries the camera takes.  There is something to be said about being able to stop at the corner convenience store for standard sized batteries on the way to the school play, as opposed to having to find a place to plug in once you arrive.  This is something that often gets overlooked, but can really make (or break) the mama-camera relationship over time.

Whether you are a soccer mom, or you just have to capture every single nose crinkle your child makes (like me!), a burst mode can come in very handy.  This means you can press the button once, and the camera will take several sequential pictures.  This is a very fun feature for making things like storyboards and scrapbooks, and most cameras have some version of this feature.

I absolutely love my DSLR.  I know that is the right camera for my business.  However, I have to say that there are moments where I wish that I could just throw it in my pocket or purse and get out of capturing the moment, and back into living the moment!   With DSLR prices dropping, it’s tempting to run out and buy one.  Just know when you do, you’re going to need to also purchase some new luggage, because they are large, heavy and require a little more tender loving care than point and shoot camera.

Are mega-pixels mega-confusing?  They don’t have to be.  While this will be one of the first stats thrown at you, keep in mind most mamas get by just fine with about 7 megapixels.  Anything close to or over 15 is far more than most mamas need.  There’s a good chance you won’t notice the difference in your typical print sizes.  You will however notice how fast you fill up your computer with those large image files, so try to avoid thinking the more mega-pixels you have, the better.

Bottom line: The best camera on the market (or the most you can afford) may not be the best fit for you.   Just because a DSLR is in your price range, you should not run out and purchase one tomorrow. Think about what you are hoping to capture, and make sure your equipment is in line with that goal.

How will the camera be used?

No matter how you plan to use your camera, keep in mind your camera will at some point be abused.  If at all possible, spring for the titanium case instead of plastic.  When you catch your kids using your camera as a hockey puck on the hardwood floor, you won’t be sorry.

Even now, when I want to capture a quick picture, I will use the full auto mode on my camera.  This feature takes most of the guess work out of taking pictures.  However, you can skimp on some of the other features (like flash lighting) if you purchase a camera that can go at least partially into a manual mode.  That way you can force your camera into capturing the shots you’d like, even when in less than perfect conditions.

Bottom line: Size and toughness matters.  Going manual can be intimidating, but some manual features will help you preserve those moments that are normally hard to capture due to poor light.

No matter what camera you purchase, I cannot stress enough how important it is to read the manual.  I know that sounds daunting, especially when you have little ‘helping hands’, but nothing says you can’t read it while waiting in the carpool line or while walking on the treadmill.  The fact is, no matter how great of a camera you purchase, if you don’t know how to use it, you may be missing out on something that can take you from mom to moment master.

Already own a camera?  Stay Tuned for our next article next Wednesday, in the Going From Mom, To Moment Master series, titled {Working With What You’ve Got}.