Please tell me exactly what camera equipment you use.
My camera is a Canon 5D Mark II. (You can read all about how I agonized over switching from Nikon to Canon here.) The lens that rarely comes off my camera is a 24-70mm 2.8, but I do have a telephoto lens that I pull out for sports and recitals (70-300mm 1:4-5.6), and a 55mm 1.4 fixed lens I should probably pull out more for portraits.
I want to upgrade my camera so that I can get great pictures. What would you recommend?
My answer is that you can use any camera and get great pictures. Sure, an expensive camera with all the bells and whistles is a wonderful thing and I often refer to mine as my "sixth child," but I believe you can get good shots even from a little point-and-shoot if you really use your eye. My good photographer friend always says it's the "eye" that takes good pictures, not the camera. Be aware of composition and find good lighting. Also, spend some time figuring out post-editing. It makes a world of difference with the low-contrast images digital cameras tend to roll out.
More tips on this here and here.
How did you first get interested in photography?
I have always been a record keeper. I wanted to preserve the moments that made up who I was so aside from keeping countless journals I was always pretty avid about taking pictures. But my passion for photography came with the birth of my first baby. He was so, so tiny but he grew so quickly. I wanted to bottle him up in every stage and photography was the only thing that seemed to quench my need to capture life as I knew it right in the moment.
So I invested in my first SLR camera. It was a film camera and I am still in love with that thing. It has a special spot in my heart because with it I fell in love with what pictures can do to your heart.
Have you had any formal training/schooling, or has it mainly been trial and error?
After years of trial and error I finally took a class with a friend of mine through a local photography shop. I loved it. Through what I learned I gradually shifted over to manual mode and haven't looked back. I love to be in control of my lighting and depth of field.
Aside from my one class, I have the best "teacher" in the world: my brother. He has taught me more than I can ever explain in terms of photography equipment and all the technicalities. I am so grateful for him!
Do you shoot in RAW?
Yes. It took me a while to switch over but now RAW images have me hook, line and sinker. They just hold so much more information.
What kind of post-editing software do you use?
I use "Lightroom" almost exclusively. For more details on this go here.
Please tell me about your availability and rates.
Although I used to be heavily involved in family photography, I gave it up a few years ago so I didn't miss out on time with my children after school. They need me right now (especially Lucy) and I wasn't good at finding a balance so I quit cold turkey. (Click here for more on that.) I miss the rush of capturing families' connections and love, but I would never trade the other things I have gained by letting it take a back seat for a little while.
Some day I will delve into having a photography business again but for now I just drive my children crazy taking non-stop pictures of them :)
To see some of my family photoshoot archives click here.