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My Favorite Lenses (Canon)


My Favorite Lenses (Canon)

I think it's safe to say that every photographer has a favorite lens or two - or, at the very least, a lens or two they use more than the others to achieve a specific look and feel!

There are TWO lenses that I use most often when I'm photographing weddings, engagement sessions, senior sessions, and family sessions - both of them have been strong work horses for me and help me achieve the look and style that I have created for my brand! The first lens is my favorite (and one that I love so much that I actually have two of, just in case something happens to one of them!):

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 art dg hsm for Canon

What I Love:

The thing I love MOST about this lens is how versatile it is! I use this 50mm for senior portraits, couples, wedding details, and pretty much everything in between to achieve a sharp focus point with a dreamy-creamy background. I used to use the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM, but I've actually found this one to be more reliable when it comes to lens sharpness and overall image quality.

What I Use it For Most:

I use this lens most for portraits, especially for close up senior portraits. I love to set the aperture to the widest it will go (f/1.4) and completely knock out the background of my photos - or at least, create a dreamy affect!

Sample Photos:

If you're searching for a more cost effective way to test out this focal length, I would recommend giving the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens a try. Priced at $125, it's a great way to try out the 50mm focal length at a reduced price! (This lens isn't as sharp or as fast as the Sigma 50mm 1.4 ART, but for those just starting out, this is a great lens to try!) And if you'd like to go a step up from the 1.8, give the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens a try! It's a bit more expensive and a step up in quality from the Canon 50mm f/1.8.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon

What I Love:

This lens is another one of my favorites for its far reach, which is something I especially love when photographing couples! I love having the option to back super far off from a couple, but still get those intimate, close up shots while they're interacting, or even wider shots that are clear and crisp!

Another thing I love about this lens is how SHARP it is. This is by far the sharpest lens I have ever owned!

What I Use it for Most:

I definitely use this lens most for couples and for wedding ceremonies so I can stay as far back as possible! I also love being able to create wider shots by manipulating backgrounds and scenes with this lens through lens compressionwhich is when elements in the background of a photo appear larger and closer to the subject (almost compressed looking, opposed to looking at the scene through a wider lens or with the naked eye), resulting in a different sort of composition.


Get a Dose of JHP Straight to Your Inbox!


Get a Dose of JHP Straight to Your Inbox!


JHP FINALLY has an email list and I couldn't be more excited about it!! Over the course of the last year, I've had numerous current, former, and soon-to-be clients ask if there is a way they could stay updated on a monthly to bi-monthly basis with things like mini-session dates, cancellations, print specials, the latest blog posts new offerings, discounts, and the like, and I'm finally excited to open up this email list to anyone who would like to join!

With all of that being said, let me tell you a few things this email list is not:

  • Spam (I cannot STAND when people send me useless emails!)
  • A constant sales pitch (who wants to be sold to all the time?! Not me!)

If you are someone who is looking to stay updated on all things JHP, then this email  list is certainly for you. Sign up below!


Photography Gear for Beginners


Photography Gear for Beginners

Besides asking what gear I use, the second most frequently asked question I get is “what camera should I buy if I’m just starting out?”  And today, I wanted to take a second to answer! If you’re just starting out and buying your first digital camera, know that all of this is a process. It’s best to start on what’s called “entry-level gear,” learn it inside and out, then work on upgrading to pro grade equipment. Trust me – every photographer who has started has been there, including me!

And, as a side note: truth be told, it’s not the camera that makes the photographer, it’s what the photographer does with the camera that really makes the photo (though, high end gear does help as you start to progress after learning your basic gear inside and out! ;) ). Even as you’re starting to learn photography, do not be discouraged. Don’t focus on comparing your images to someone else who’s been working as a pro for years. Focus on learning and growing from where you are.

I should also note that since I currently shoot in Canon, I'll be recommending all Canon gear below! There are some wonderful pieces of Nikon gear out there, too, but unfortunately, Nikon isn't in my wheel house, so I'll stay away from recommending anything I don't have any personal experience with!


For beginning photographers, I recommend an entry-level DSLR camera. “DSLR” simply means “digital single lens reflex,” which Wikepedia defines as “a digital camera that combines the optics and the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor, as opposed to photographic film.” Okay, let’s be real: that’s a little confusing, but basically that definition just has to do with how the camera makes an image. The technicalities behind how a camera works can be somewhat confusing, so today we’re just going to stick with the basics for the purposes of this blog post!

In the simplest terms, I always recommend beginners buy a camera that can:

  • Switch lenses, so you can experiment with other lenses.
  • Has 18+ megapixels, to create photos with higher resolution than your phone.

My very first DSLR Entry-level DSLR was a Canon Rebel T1i, which I don’t even believe they make anymore – haha! But if you’re looking for a DSLR line that is easy to learn on, I would recommend one of the newer versions in the “Rebel” lineup, the Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera. With the ability to change lenses, 18+ megapixels, and wifi capabilities, this is a great camera to start out on! I also recommend buying the camera as a “kit,” which simply means that a lens and different accessories are included. This will give you a lens to start with so you can start practicing right away (most cameras and lenses are sold separately).


As I mentioned above, a “kit” lens (which just means a lens that comes with a camera!) is a great way to start out. With this kit from Canon (including the Canon EOS Rebel T6), you can also get a starter lens! Most kit lenses are a shorter focal length, which means you’ll have to be really close to your subjects. If you’re looking for a zoom lens (to photograph further away subjects), I would recommend this Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto!

Truth be told, starter or “kit” lenses aren’t that great. They certainly get the job done and are perfect for learning, but if you’re interested in taking your photos a step further right away, I would HIGHLY recommend the Canon 50mm f/1.8, which you can purchase for just around $125 (definitely a steal for a lens)!


Now that you’ve decided on your camera body and lenses, there are a few accessories you might want to consider investing in:

A cross body strap is helpful and, trust me, your neck will thank you! Most cameras come with a strap that allows to camera to hang around your neck, but investing in a cross body strap that will sit on your shoulder is worth every penny. Your neck will thank you! There are a few on Amazon (a floral one here, a black one here, and another floral one here), and even some on Etsy that can be customized with your name and style (my camera strap has a llama on it!).

A bag or backpack to carry your gear is ESSENTIAL! Make sure you keep your gear safe by buying a bag with padding (unless your camera kit comes with one!) A few of my favorites include:

Also remember: unless you buy a camera kit, you’ll also need to make sure you have a battery for your camera, a battery charger, and a memory card. Here are a few recommendations based on the Canon 6t recommended above:

Below is a wrap up of all of the gear discussed in this blog post! Have any more gear related questions? Feel free to drop me a note in the comments below! And best of luck on your photography journey!


Tired of Awkward Senior Photos?


Tired of Awkward Senior Photos?

I've heard a lot from seniors and soon-to-be high school seniors over the years about how painfully awkward senior sessions can be. And let me be the first to say raise my hand and agree  because MINE was!  But I truly believe that having your photo taken is mean to be a fun, encouraging experience from start to finish! Can senior photos be awkward, and boring? Absolutely. But you'll find that the mom and senior's experience below was the complete opposite! This review is to show you one thing: pictures can (and should be) be fun!


I just want thank you from the bottom of my heart, for making this one of the best days ever for Meg. You made her feel so beautiful and confident during your session, she felt and looked like a movie star. I looked through these amazing photos, shedding tears of happiness and pride as to what a beautiful young woman Meg has become. I am also thankful that we picked you to share this day with all of us to capture her senior year and savor it forever. You are truly gifted and I will recommend you to everyone I know. Thank you so much. Love my Megpie - Lincoln High Class of 2018!!"

A huge thanks to this sweet mom for her incredibly kind and encouraging words. They mean so much!


How Can I Make Sure My Wedding Photos are Safe?!


How Can I Make Sure My Wedding Photos are Safe?!

My mom used to always say "if our house was burning down, the one thing I would make sure to grab (of course, after the kids!) would be my wedding album."

Lucky for those of us who tied the knot in the digital age, most of the time our photos are backed up on a cloud, or even to social media pages, allowing memories to live on even after disaster strikes. But I think there's something to be said about my mom's sentiment, and the importance of printed photos. Those photos in her wedding album tell the story of the beginning of her life with my dad, and of our lives as a family. They're precious, and priceless. They are the family legacy - an heirloom that, God willing, will be handed down generation after generation so everyone can see where, and how, it all started.

So, as a bride, what's the best way to go about making sure YOUR wedding images are safe? Below are a few tips for backing up your precious memories that will ensure - no matter what happens - that you will have them for years to come!

1. Invest in a professional wedding album.

I know what you're thinking: but they're so expensive! Trust me, I was a bride not too long ago and I can completely understand hesitancy based on price when it comes to professional wedding albums! Wedding albums are not only expensive for brides to invest in, but are also pricey for photographers to order, due to the high-quality materials used. A professional album will have thick, professional archival photo paper with the highest quality leather or linen, built to last for years to come. Some even go the extra mile to include a high quality storage box to keep it even safer! A wedding album is not only another great way to "back up" your wedding photos, but is a physical heirloom to pass down from generation to generation. That CD or USB drive you have might be great for making prints, but are you sure you'll be able to show your kids and grandkids your photos in 10, 20, or even 50 years? Technology will be much further then - you never know if those storage devices will even be around!


2. Store your photos on a cloud server.

With so many options for cloud storage nowadays, it's easier than ever to make sure your photos are somewhere safe outside of your home, in the case of fire, flood, or damage. A few of my favorites for online storage are: Dropbox, Google Drive, and Carbonite.

3. Spread the love to parents, grandparents, and other family members!

What do I mean by this? Well, in addition to investing in an album for yourself, consider investing in an album for your parents, your spouse's parents, and even your grandparents! Not only do albums (or coffee table books!) make nice gifts, but in the case of a fire or flood (God forbid!) your wedding photos are safe somewhere else. Plus - albums and coffee table books make great (and easy!) Christmas and birthday gifts after your wedding day!


4. Check to see how long your photographer keeps your wedding photos.

Some photographers keep all of the photos from your wedding day long after the event (I fall into this camp!) and some toss them after the event is over. Check with your wedding photographer to see how long they hold onto your digital files, and even ask how they back them up. Personally, I back up every wedding to two external hard drives, an online gallery system, and a cloud storage backup - mainly because I would want someone to do the same for me!

If you are interested in creating a wedding album, shoot me a message or send me an email at to learn more about the albums we offer!



What's in My Bag (Part 3): Accessories


What's in My Bag (Part 3): Accessories

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from fellow photographers (or those looking to get into photography) is “what’s in your bag?” I decided to finally write a series of blog posts detailing the current gear that I use because, when I was starting out, I knew how much it helped to know what gear those in the field found useful, because, let’s be honest – there is SO MUCH gear out there. How are you supposed to know what will work best for YOU and the type of photos you love to shoot?

So if you just so happen to be interested in the tools I use to create photos, you are in luck! Last but not least in the "What's in my Bag" series are my favorite random accessories!

Expo Disc (White Balance Filter)

This has become my new favorite accessory that I take with me everywhere! A white balance filter allows you to easily set a custom white balance for any lighting scenario – for example, in a church with  mixed lighting, etc. It has saved me from some pretty ugly lighting many a time this year!

Fotocreat 5 in 1 43” Reflector

I cannot go to any shoot or wedding without my little pop-up reflector! I find such a HUGE difference in my work, especially for senior portraits, when I use a reflector! It just adds that extra “pop” to images by bouncing light into people’s eyes. I would go as far as to say that consistently using a reflector has been the biggest game changer in my work. I love this reflector in particular because it has a handle, so I can use it on my own if need be!

Neewer 150x200 cm Reflector

Call me crazy, but I love my reflectors so much that I invested in TWO! I love having a larger reflector because, as you may be able to deduce, it reflects more light – I can easily use it for couples, bridal parties, or full-body senior shots. I typically need an assistant to help me with this one, though, which is the only downside!


What's in My Bag (Part 2): Lighting & Accessories


What's in My Bag (Part 2): Lighting & Accessories

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from fellow photographers (or those looking to get into photography) is “what’s in your bag?” I decided to finally write a series of blog posts detailing the current gear that I use because, when I was starting out, I knew how much it helped to know what gear those in the field found useful, because, let’s be honest – there is SO MUCH gear out there. How are you supposed to know what will work best for YOU and the type of photos you love to shoot?

So if you just so happen to be interested in the tools I use to create photos, you are in luck! Second up in the "What's in my Bag" series are my favorite lighting tools and modifiers!

These are probably some of the least expensive lighting products on the market, but I LOVE them. These Yongnuo speedlights and transceivers are SUPER easy to use, and have always been very reliable in terms of firing (for me). I usually have to replace these every one to two years, but they are so cheap that I don’t even mind!!


Lighting Equipment:

(3) Yongnuo Speedlight YN 560 III for Canon

These speedlights can be used on Canon cameras or off camera, using a receiver or transceiver (see below for more info on those!)

(3) Yongnuo YN-622C Wireless ETTL Flash Trigger Receiver Transmitter Transceiver

These transceivers are inexpensive and work with the above speedlights!

Light Modifiers & Stands:

(2) Westcott  43" White Shoot Through Umbrella

I love these white shoot through umbrellas for clean, evenly spread light, and typically use one or two of these with speedlights for family formals at weddings!

(1)  Westcott Rapid Box 26" Octa Softbox

In addition to having a few shoot through umbrellas, I love having at least one softbox I can bust out if need be! This softbox is incredibly easy to set up and is perfect for photographing portable, on the go sessions and events. In contrast to umbrellas, softboxes provide more concentrated light. I love using this one in particular for couples or individuals!

(3) Ravelli ALS Full 10' Air Cushioned Light Stand

These air cushioned light stands are my favorite for lighting receptions and dance floors! Their height allows me to place speedlights high above guest heads for less disruption during reception activities.




What's In My Bag (Part 1): Cameras & Lenses


What's In My Bag (Part 1): Cameras & Lenses

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from fellow photographers (or those looking to get into photography) is “what’s in your bag?” I decided to finally write a series of blog posts detailing the current gear that I use because, when I was starting out, I knew how much it helped to know what gear those in the field found useful, because, let’s be honest – there is SO MUCH gear out there. How are you supposed to know what will work best for YOU and the type of photos you love to shoot?

So if you just so happen to be interested in the tools I use to create photos, you are in luck! First up in the "What's in my Bag" series are my favorite cameras and lenses!


(2) Canon 5D mark iii’s

Why two, you might ask? When photographing weddings, I like to make sure I have one fully functioning camera, and one back up (just in case!) - you never know what can happen, and I would hate to be left without a camera on the biggest day of someone's life!

(1) Canon 70-200 f/2.8 USM ii

This is most certainly one of my favorite lenses. I often use this lens for couples and families because of the compression (here is a great article about compression, for those of you who are interested!). I also love to hand this lens off to my second shooter to grab super tight close ups of couples and bridal parties while I am getting the main “safe” shot!

(2) Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4

This lens is by FAR my favorite lens for photographing seniors. I love the low aperture (more about that here!), which lets me create an almost dreamy-like backdrop! I also love using this lens for couples when I want to get super close up!

(2) Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4

These are my standard go-to lenses many a time for getting in large backdrops (buildings, church ceremonies, etc.), as well as for tight spaces, like getting ready photos for wedding days in small hotel rooms! I also love using my 35mm for detail photos (wedding invitations, usually!) on wedding days!

(1) Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro

In my bag, this lens really has one sole purpose: the ring shot! For wedding days and engagement sessions, I always love to have my 100mm on me to ensure I can get an epic ring shot! I also love having this lens, because it has a similar compression style to the Canon 70-200, so it can act as a backup if need be for that specific lens!



The Pros & Cons of Scheduling A Photo Session During the Winter Months


The Pros & Cons of Scheduling A Photo Session During the Winter Months

Have you ever considered having family, senior, or engagement photos taken during the winter months? Here in Western Pennsylvania, where winters can be long and cold, not quite as many people venture out on location for photos in the dead of winter when they can curl up in front of the fire with a cup of coffee instead (I’m totally putting myself in that group of people!!). BUT if a winter photo session has ever peeked your interest as a possibility, I’ve put together a little pros and cons list to share the good and the not so good of scheduling a winter photo session!



We’ll get to utilize breathtaking and unique backgrounds. When I’m driving past a mountain of freshly snow covered trees, I often stare in awe. There’s something so beautiful about freshly fallen snow that makes for a clean, gorgeous backdrop, not just when you’re driving to work but when you’re having your photos taken!

You’ll have that “cozy feeling” in your photos. There’s something about having your photos taken in the winter that immediately creates a “cozy” feeling, especially during engagement and couple sessions where you are going to be close and cuddled up anyways!

You’ll have more times to choose from with a higher probability of weekend dates being available! Because there’s less demand for photos in the winter, I usually have more timeslots available, both during weekdays and on weekends. Essentially, scheduling in the winter means you’ll get a fast pass to the front of the scheduling line!



The obvious one: it’s COLD! Consider this test: does thinking about being out in the cold for 60 to 90 minutes make you want to never leave your house again? Then a winter photo session might not be the best choice for you. While some people don’t mind being out in the cold for an extended period of time, others would much rather wait until the warmer months (which is completely understandable!).

There’s a higher chance that your session might be cancelled or postponed due to extreme temperatures or inclement weather. Flexibility is key for winter sessions. There’s a chance your session could be snowed out (while snow is beautiful in photos, it’s not worth endangering your life for) or postponed due to freezing temperatures (who even likes to walk to their car in -5 degree weather?!). Being flexible is KEY!

It might not be the most enjoyable hour/hour and a half of your life. This one kind of speaks for itself – hanging out in the park in 15 degree weather isn’t nearly as fun as watching the sun set on a 70 degree day. The truth is, having a photo session the winter means you might be cold to your core!

What do you think? When considering the pros and cons - where do you fall? I write none of this to persuade anyone out of a winter session, but only to educate based on what some clients wish they would’ve known in the past. If you’re still interested in a winter photo session, be sure to check out my blog post “How to Prep for Your Winter Photo Session” for tips on preparing for a cold weather shoot!


How to Prepare for Your Winter Photo Session


How to Prepare for Your Winter Photo Session

There are SO many things I love about photographing people in a winter setting. There are lots of unique and picturesque backgrounds, and the photos always end up having an overall “cozy” feeling to them! But what does it really take to have your photos taken in the dead of winter when it’s 20 degrees (or less!) outside? There are a couple of tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that have helped make winter sessions more enjoyable for those who are brave enough to step in front of my camera. So if YOU are planning on having family photos, couple photos, or senior photos taken during the winter – these are my best tips for you!


Make sure the first thing you’re thinking of when planning your outfits is WARMTH!

  • Add accessories like scarves, hats, jackets, long boot socks and boots.
  • Consider actually wearing a coat for your photos!
  • Add layers underneath your chosen outfits – socks, long johns, an extra t-shirt – anything that will insulate you a little bit more!
  • If you’ll be walking around in the snow, consider bringing a pair of snow boots for walking between locations so your “nice” boots or shoes don’t get ruined!

Bring some EXTRA warmth with you for in between shots!

  • I always bring a blanket or two with me to my sessions in the winter, but I highly recommend bringing extra for yourself if you think of it! This can be a lifesaver while walking between locations or even just between shots!
  • Hand warmers are a LIFESAVER for cold winter shoots. You can put them in your gloves, shoes, and pockets without the camera picking it up (for the most part!)

Be willing to be flexible if the weather calls for it.

There’s a higher chance of inclement weather, especially in Western Pennsylvania in the winter months, which means that a session could easily get snowed out or cancelled due to extreme temperatures. It’s not fun to have your photo taken in negative degree weather, which can make the session (and memories associated with it) somewhat unenjoyable, which is the very LAST thing I would ever want!

As a firm believer that photo sessions can be (and should be) enjoyable, incorporating these tips and tricks into your winter photo session will ensure that you stay somewhat warm and toasty throughout your entire session!