Dawn Michele
Dawn Michele

Frequently Asked Questions from Photographers


"What camera(s) do you use?"

The camera I use professionally is the Nikon D3s. For snapshots here and there the iPhone 4s serves me just fine as a modern point & shoot.

Prior to January of 2007, I worked with Canon cameras and lenses.


Which lenses do you prefer?

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G

This is by far my most used lens. The focal range is perfect for documenting families and I love that I don't have to sacrifice on color and clarity like other zooms. It sits right up there with my primes.

By far my most favorite and most frequently used lenses. In general, I use the 50mm for indoor portraits and the 85mm for outdoors portraits. You can't beat the ability of a f1.4 lens to capture light. Both lenses have beautiful bokeh, but the 85mm is especially exceptional in this area.

135mm f2 - Great for outdoor portrait sessions where the subject is especially independent. I don't use this one very often. Every now and then I have a toddler who needs more space and I switch to this lens until they are ready for me to be closer or until they are worn down from all the running around! More often than not I have the opposite problem ... a toddler who won't stop crawling on me or better hugging me.

24-70mm f2.8 - IMHO, this is one of the best lenses available. It produces image quality that one would expect from a prime lens. It's that good.

70-200mm f2.8 - Big + bulky and rarely with me. I only still own it, because my husband asked me not to sell it. He likes to play with it in the backyard. Great for bird and chipmunk closeups.

105mm f2.8 Micro - Perfect for closeups of tiny baby hands, feet and belly buttons. Also decent for portraits, but a little slow to focus for fast toddlers.

60mm f2.8 Micro - Ok for closeups, but you have to get really close to the subject. I prefer to give a little distance using the 105mm micro. I find this lens excellent for detail portraits. I like it for infant portraits to really bring out eyes and eyelashes.

"What type of lighting do you use?"

I shoot 98% of my sessions with only natural light. No flash, no light switches flipped on. On stormy or extremely dark days, I'll pull out one of my speedlites . Sometimes I use the flash attached to my camera and other times I'll attach it to a light stand and operate it remotely using a commander.

"Can you recommend a camera?"

Ok, here's how to decide which DSLR to buy:

  1. Determine your budget.
  2. Go online and read reviews on the Canon & Nikon in this price range.
  3. Go to a store. Hold each. Put the camera up to your eye. Press the buttons. Fiddle with the switches.
  4. Which feels best to you? (Hint: There is no wrong answer.)
  5. Buy that one.

Done. If you stick to Canon & Nikon for a DSLR, I'm convinced you can not go wrong.


"How do you do it? aka, What's the secret to [insert topic]?"

There is no secret. I promise. If you are using your time looking for the secret to great photos think about what would happen if you used that time to take more photos. That's the secret. Take photos every day. Then, take some more. It's the only way to get better no matter what anyone else tells you. Learning photography, like anything else, takes time and lots and lots of practice.

Know how exposure works and learn how to shoot manual without your eye leaving the viewfinder. Then, once you've got it down don't be embarrassed to use the creative modes. There's a lot of unnecessary hype regarding manual these days. It's not the end all. Shooting manual doesn't give you better tones and clarity ... knowing light and understanding how your camera sees the light does.

Aside from ridiculous amounts practice, most of my photography knowledge was gleamed from books. Here's a list of my favorites ranked in order of importance:

Professional Secrets of Natural Light Portrait Photography by Douglas Allen Box 

Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson 

The Annabel Williams Book of Wedding & Portrait Photography by A. Williams 

Photo Idea Index by Jim Krause 

Take Better Family Photos by Steve Bavister 

Nat'l Geographic Photography Field Guide: People & Portraits by Robert Caputo

The other side of the question usually relates to Adobe Photoshop. I am a strong believer that you need to get as close to the desired final output as possible inside the camera, but sometimes it's fun or necessary to go beyond that just like a film photographer would do in the darkroom. Tools like Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture are your digital darkroom. Step inside.

The Photoshop CS2 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby 

Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2by Bruce Fraser 

The Photoshop Channels Book by Scott Kelby 

Adobe Photoshop CS2 for Photographers by Martin Evening

"What lab do you use?"

I use WHCC, ProDPI, Mpix Pro and Pinhole Press.

"Who designed your website?"

I created my site using Squarespace.

"Who hosts your websites?"

Squarespace hosts my main site while Dreamhost hosts my proofing galleries and other behind the scenes things.

"Are you hiring?"

Not at this time, thank you. Please do not send me resumes or portfolio samples. Save your time.