my camera & lenses

by | Sep 20, 2011 | Photography, Running a Business | 43 comments

I get a lot of questions about what camera and lenses I use as well as how I process my pictures.  I received a bunch last week, so I thought it was time to share it all in a post.  Well, a few posts.  This post is about what gear I use. 

My camera body is a Nikon D7000 digital SLR.  This picture is from Gear Patrol, because it’s hard to take a picture of your own camera when that is the only camera in the house.  I could’ve done the “mirror shot”, but I’m not exactly photo ready today.  So, anyway, there she is…

You can whistle at her.  It’s okay. 

I really love this camera.  The body is around $1200 (without a lens), so it’s definitely expensive if you’re just starting out.  If you are looking for a solid mid-level SLR, the D7000 is a great option.  If that’s out of your budget, don’t dismay.  Until a few months ago, I was shooting with a four year old Nikon D50 that I bought refurbished for around $300. 

It took me a few weeks with the D7000 to feel comfortable with it.  I was really discouraged that I didn’t pull it out of the box and instantly take better pictures.  It took me a while to get the kind of photos I wanted.  I still have a lot to learn about it, but I love using it now.  It has a crystal clear view finder, a large viewing screen, it takes two memory cards and has all of the functions I need.  On B and H Photography, it has five stars after 340 reviews, so I’m not alone in my love for this camera. 
So, for the lenses…  I have shelled out a lot on lenses over the past year, but they are all totally worth it for what I do. 
The lens I use most is the Nikon 18-200mm.  If you’ve never shopped for lenses before, get ready to gasp at some price tags (and these aren’t even crazy expensive lenses!) This one is $800.

I can get some nice, tight shots with it…

…as well as full room shots…

…and everything in between.  It’s the lens I keep on my camera, because I know it will do almost anything I need.  If you can only buy one lens, this is a good one to consider.

My next favorite lens is my Nikon 60mm Macro lens.  This one is $550.  It is known as a “prime” lens, so it doesn’t zoom in and out like the 18-200mm does. 

I was having a really tough time getting the super tight shots I needed for tutorials, so it was time to get a lens that would allow me to get mere inches from what I was shooting. 

This lens is awesome and is my primary “tutorial” lens.
If you can’t get close enough with your current lenses, you may want to look into a macro/micro lens. 
This lens is the Nikon 35mm.   It is $365. 

The Pioneer Woman made me buy this lens.  I was looking through her photography blog as I was lens shopping and I was convinced after about five minutes that I needed this lens.  It’s another prime lens, so the picture is crisp. 

I use it for a lot of my “beauty shots.”

The last lens in my bag is the Sigma 20-10mm Wide Angle Lens.  It is $480.  (The Nikon is $650 and I was buying the 35mm at the same time, so I went with Sigma to save some money.  I also don’t use my wide angle lens a lot, so it wasn’t worth the extra money at this point.) 
The wide angle lens allows me to get full-room shots.  I have small rooms, especially in the front of my 1940’s house, so I was finding myself setting up my tripod in the hallway or next room to get a full room shot.  I was having a terrible time getting my full dining room table in a picture for the tablescapes I was shooting for, so it was time to invest in a wide angle lens. 

(I still need to work on that chair, desk and shelf…)

The pictures look a little stretched when the lens is all the way out, but it looks normal when it’s zoomed in a little.  A wide angle lens is a great option if you’re shooting in a tight space and you always find yourself plastered against the back wall or squished in a corner. 

I’ll finish by saying a few things.  First, I am not an expert in photography or equipment.  I’m just sharing the gear I use and how I use it and I encourage you to do your own research on what will work best for you. 
Second, there are a lot of sketchy online camera stores out there, so I only buy my equipment from B and H.  They don’t sponsor me.  I’m not paid to say that.  That is just where I have bought all of my gear for years and they are known as being the professional source for anything photo and video.  Don’t be lured by crazy low prices from sketchy stores.  This is a big purchase and it’s worth the money.  If you are curious as to what kind of sketchy stuff can go on, read Beth’s recent camera buying story.  Just trust me on this one. 
Lastly, don’t think you need to drop a ton of cash to get great pictures.  Also, don’t think that shelling out a bunch of cash will make your pictures great.  YOU are the main factor in a great photo.  YOU are smarter than your equipment.  YOU are the one who controls the dials and the lighting and the staging and the angles.  AND, the best part, with some basic knowledge about those things, you can take magazine quality photos.  Really.  Yes.  YOU. 
I’ll share the “anatomy of my photo shoots” and how I process my pictures soon. 


  1. Brandi

    I love Nikkon too! I've shot with Nikkon for the past 8 or 9 years….

    Still DYING over the armoire….seriously, I want one! 🙂

  2. Miranda

    Thank you! I do love your photography. It is so real, and much less "done up" than other blogs I see. I have a D50 right now, and it does a good job, but I need to do better with it. It's not the camera, it's ME!

  3. Twice Nice

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I know I need to work on the photo aspect of my blog. I'm just not convinced yet that I'm "smarter than your equipment"! Deb

  4. freckled laundry

    Thank you for the lens tips, Marian. Your craft room is looking gorgeous. LOVE LOVE LOVE the armoires!

  5. MyChampagneTaste

    I used to like my pictures but for blog quality I hate them 🙁 I should read the book that I got : Canon rebel xsi for dummies yes yes you heard it for dummies I didnt want to buy anything from the dummies series, but I had to confess Im so dumb in relation to Mr.ISO Mr. Aperture and Mr. Shutter speed 🙂

  6. Megan

    jealous of all your new lenses this year! too bad im a canon girl, or Id have to come borrow them 😉

  7. Funky Junk Interiors

    Awesome… I need that macro!

    So what does the 35mm prime lens do that the 18-200 doesn't? Can you get in abit tighter or ??


  8. Revi

    Dear Miss Mustard Seed –
    You never cease to amaze and impress with your quality content and generous how-to information!

    Your posts have inspired me to jump in and begin my own blog a month ago. It's been so fun! Though it probably would have happened eventually, your information made seem very do-able.

    Your information about how you began was the tipping point for a new adventure – one that allows me to use my skills and talents and hopefully turn them into additional income in the near future.

    Thanks for everything,

    Revi –

  9. Farmer's Wyfe

    Thanks so much for posting this. I dream of owning a great camera, and you helped really put it in perspective of how to go about it. I just did a post on what I don't use Chalk paint for, and it took me a lot of time to find the right pictures and string my thoughts together, and I can see you've done that here. Great photos to explain EXACTLY what you were talking about. Again, THANK YOU!! 🙂

  10. cheltenhamroad

    Thanks very much for this! I'm looking forward to the whole series as cameras, photography and staging are the current bane of my existence. Your pictures are always top-notch and I can't wait to learn more about your process. Thanks again.

  11. Cailan

    I admire your photography so much and often think of it when I'm trying get my own shots. Wondering if you could answer One question for me – what White Balance setting do you usually use? This seems to give me the most trouble of all the manual settings. Would so appreciate your answer!

  12. Ruby Jean

    Oh, thanks for all the GREAT information…My husband has been wanting to buy me a new Lense I have a Nikon d5000 or is it 500 well it's one of those… : ) I am new to this whole DSLR thing…

  13. Jessica @ Nuchey's Mommy

    Hi, thanks so much for sharing! My little old camera (almost 6 years old & was free) I must say needs to be given to my 5 year old! I NEED a new one FAST! Did your D50 serve you well? Would you recommend for a beginner like myself?

  14. cityfarmer

    a girl and her tools …
    you rock, honey!

    I'm over in the Canon Camp

  15. Team Jenkins

    thx for this! i have a nikon d5000 and love it, but i'm considering a micro/macro lens. yes, it's pricey. but i always think, 'you can't go back in time to take a good pic. get the equipment now – it's worth the investment!'

  16. michele

    i so appreciate your generosity of spirit, marian. i am clueless about cameras because i consider them a machine. i don't DO machines. pretty much a granny bout machines and still like to think there are little people inside my car's radio singing just for me.

    so for pic taking i just use my eye, natural light, and click. i honor that you know how to use these lenses! someday!


  17. Dentelline

    Superbe appareil photos = superbes photos!
    Belle réussite!

  18. MommaHen

    I just wanted to stop by and say," tttthhhpppp!" for making videos of yourself look so darn easy. haha! I just tried my very own vlog-It's terrible! Who knew it was so hard to be yourself , just because a camera is pointing at you. sheesh.

  19. Maddie Kertay- The Domestic Anarchist

    Excellent write up and thank your for the stress on the fact that shooting comes from the shooter not just the camera. The whole camera competition thing out there in the blog world is a bit crazy to say the least.. love your very level headed approach to it. Good job! 🙂

  20. Beth

    I wish I could say that I would benefit from this beneficial camera enlightenment, but only IF I were to find any of these in "used condition" somewhere, and even then, my hubby probably still wouldn't spring for the used price. LOL! I KNOW you have helped a ton of people with this, so it's all good! I will say that I wouldn't mind having a wide angle lens. I have huge rooms with no good angles to get full shots of them. Not that anyone needs to see them in their current condition. LOL!!

  21. allymacster

    I just got a nikon D3100. I love it, its a perfect camera for just starting out. x

  22. Lisa

    I have the D7000 and still need to sort it out. I have 70-300, 18-2?? (kit lens), and a 50mm.

  23. Cindi @ Rustique Art

    Forwarding this post to my husband. He's always asking what I want for Christmas…well here ya go baby, this is what I want 🙂 I could just squeeze you Marion! Thank you for posting this, it's great information to have for newbies like me, I love taking photos.

  24. Gwen@theboldabode

    This is the one area of blogging that scares me a little bit. Thanks so much for posting about your equipment, and, especially, your source for purchasing it. I've learned the hard way to find a reputable dealer for electronics… Thanks again!

  25. Tammy @ Type A

    i have a totally unrelated question. lol but i know you are a lover of ASCP and i need some advice. i'm changing the colors of my home from red, yellow, orange and green to something cooler. i've already fallen in love with Duck Egg and have painted one piece, the next color I'm going to get is Chateau Gray, love the green gray and I think it'll look great with the Duck Egg. Now for the question, I need a third or even fourth color, something neutral and light, but not white. (and not graphite) and it doesn't even have to be that light, i can mix it with the old white, i just need another good color to coordinate with these two. if you are still reading thanks! i look forward to your ideas.

  26. Beth

    I have a Nikon D3100 and I LOVE it! I took a 3 hour photography class a few months ago to learn how to shoot in manual mode, and it was the best money I've spent (other than on the camera)! No more flash/auto mode for me! My next purchase will be the "Nifty 50mm" lens!

  27. Floppin Flower

    Thanks for sharing. Funny because I was just wondering what camera you used a couple of days ago!!!

  28. the brown shed

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was JUST searching your blog a couple days ago for camera info. This is perfect! And it has clarified some things for me, too.

    My neighbor is a professional photographer, and I have asked her about lenses from time to time. She recommended the 18-200. She said it was a great all around lens…just as you said.

    Thanks again! I am looking forward to future photography posts!

    You are awesome!


  29. Shell

    B&h; is awesome plus if I remember correctly they offer photography lessons somewhere on their site. I might be mistaken since I haven't spoiled my camera in a really long time.

  30. Tardevil

    Tardevil said…
    I debated between Canon and Nikon and went w/ Canon Rebel, but the lens info. is very helpful. I had no idea they were so expensive. Now, if I would just take the time to actually read the directions, that might get me somewhere. ;o)

  31. Mitzi Curi

    I have upgraded recently to a Canon Rebel, and love the improved photos I've been taking. This post is timely, because I'm hoping to reach your level of proficiency someday. I keep a "Miss Mustard Seed" file with all of your helpful info for future reference. Thanks so much!

  32. April

    Wow, I have so much to say! First off, I found your blog through The Virgnia House. But I didn't realize we were "blogging" from the same area until I saw your reference to 'AndGeorge'. What a small world!! I am from Charlottesville, VA. I remember when the store AndGeorge first opened. Crazy! I used to work for Andrea Davidson years ago at Sunnyboy Gardens. Also, about the camera, I TOO shop only at BandH photo. Love love love the prices on their used stuff:) I am so glad to read a blog post on what lenses to use becuase i am just starting out and have been wondering what lenses to buy next. I have the Nikon D3000, and honestly i've been thinking of upgrading to a better body. I love to shoot photography and not crazy about people. Shooting stuff is more fun:) I am glad to meet a fellow blogger who is near by and loves to do what I love to do:) Take care!

  33. Vikki

    I think the wide angle shots which capture the whole room are priceless! Making me feel I need to invest in more lenses. We have a Nikon too but only the standard and one other zoom lens.
    Loving your website by the way! Tutorials are fantastic!

  34. kelly

    Thank you so much for sharing! Now I know what to put on my christmas/birthday/anniversary/mother's day/whatever else i can think of list!!!
    I have one other question… how do you make your fun glitter letters? I know you use the real glass glitter, but do you actually cut all of those letters out? I can't imagine doing that so perfectly…
    Thanks for all of you ideas and pictures etc. I look forward to you blog each day!
    Kelly Starr

  35. Amy Marshall

    This is great info. Your photos are the kind I wish I were taking, and I'm ready to upgrade from my pocket digital camera. The macro lens would be a great benefit when it comes to doing product shots of my jewelry. Sending this post to hubby!

  36. Anonymous

    Thank for you this information…'s great is and presented in a such a way that even the novice like me can understand! You take some amazing pictures, real "candy" for the eye

  37. Cathy @My 1929 Charmer

    I had a horror story when I purchased my refurbished Nikon D40. I bought an on-line "package" for $500, camera, 15-55 lens, bag, 2 batteries. I know the D-40 isn't the best, but it was a DSL that I could afford. What I like is that Nikon lenses are interchangeable. So I grew up in camera I could take my lenses along with me.
    Well to say I know nothing about photography would be an understatement. When I received my camera I was so happy. But found it "freeze" taking pictures. I thought it was me, then a girlfriend came over with her D90 and had not problems taking the same photo. Called and took my camera (under warranty) to Nikon authorized dealer. They called me back and said it wasn't covered under warranty because it was "impact damaged. What you say? I only used it a few times. So needles to say it cost another $200 to fix it since where I bought it only gave a "30" day warranty. In other words, I was scr…..! Thanks for your great article on lens. I need to buy a few. The macro lens takes great pictures.

  38. Suzanne

    Hi everyone. I know MMS is really busy and thought I might be able to help out by answering a few photo questions since I know a little bit about photography.

    First, if you are a newbie, read the book, "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson. It's a must! It will really help tie together aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

    MyChampagneTaste – the reason you don't like your pictures on your blog probably has to do with sharpening. When you put photos out into cyberspace, they benefit from a little extra sharpening that would look weird if you printed them, but they look just right for the web.

    Donn from FJI – the 35mm lense will open up wider than the 18-200mm which allows for a more shallow depth of field. I mean the aperture of the 35mm probably goes down to a lower number than the 18 – 200mm.

    One last comment…I highly recommend the nifty-fifty if you are just starting out. Both Nikon and Canon sell a 50mm 1.8 lense that is great for letting in a lot of light. It's not so fabulous for wide, interior shots but great for almost everything else. And the price is only around $100!

    Good luck and I hope this helped a little!

    • Kathy

      This was really helpful. I had some of the same questions and to find them answered was wonderful!

  39. Kim @ Sand and Sisal

    I'm bookmarking this post in my Favorite Articles folder! Wonderful explanation and visuals of the lenses. Thank you!!!

  40. Mike Kieffer

    Great photography. Your insight on lenses is very helpful information. I use a canon, but the info applies as well.

  41. leelee

    I found myself laughing at the wide angle lense portion of this because I totally find myself “plastered” to the wall trying to get my room…and it is always a “fail”. LOL.

    leelee @



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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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