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Link Party, Photography

The Amateur Photography Tools that Make Me Look Like a Professional

This page includes affiliate links as I am a part of the Amazon affiliate program.


I hate that I just said I look like a professional photographer. It made me throw up in my mouth a little.

But since realizing I love photography, I have learned that you can be a semi-professional photographer without having to spend big bucks, waste lots of time and learn tools that are hard.

PHOTOSHOP IS HARD. If you are trying to learn, you really need to take a course.

I read a very angry retort on Pinterest a few months ago in relation to a funny meme (written most likely by a “photographer”), that just because you have a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) and a Pic Monkey app, that does not make you a photographer.

That’s like me telling someone just because they buy a domain, create a WordPress account and start writing words in a blog that they aren’t a blogger.

See how stupid that sounds?

So shove aside those negative comments and let me help you to become the best semi-professional amateur-ish photographer that you can be!



 Pic Monkey 

I have said it before and I will say it again, Pic Monkey has been saving my ass since 2012 and if you haven’t bought the upgrade, what on Earth are you waiting for? You can choose to get a once a year amount (under 40 dollars) taken out or pay monthly, but it is completely worth it. All of my blog pictures are edited via Pic Monkey almost exclusively and the pictures I take outside of the blog are always edited with Pic Monkey.

photography, pic monkey

That above is one of Anna’s senior pictures edited with Pic Monkey.


photography, Utah, Pic Monkey


As was this picture of the beautiful Utah sky.


It is the best user-friendly photography tool out there and you don’t need a Masters Degree to learn how to use it.



Camera case 


I have gotten more compliments on this bag than any other bag or purse I have owned. I needed a camera bag when I started taking pictures for more than just my immediate family, so after my first “real” photography gig, I bought myself this bag on Amazon. Everyone thinks it is a purse when I wear it which I love but it has pockets for everything from lenses, extra’s like memory cards and accessories. I can even fit my wallet, hand sanitizer, and any other extras I need for heading out to take pictures intentionally or not.



I have used Blurb for the past several years to make photo books for my parents of my girls for Christmas, Birthdays and even Mothers Day. It is so much easier than other places to make beautiful books and there are always coupon codes to be used to save you lots of moola.

Women's Sleeveless Lightweight Pure Color Vest Jacket with Zipper & Button & Drawstring & Pockets (S, Army Green)

A jacket with pockets 

If you aren’t a camera bag kind of person, you’re going to need pockets for things like lenses, distractions for kids, and snacks. Snacks are always important.


FUT Newest Blue Four Wooden Doors & Wooden Floor Vinyl Wedding Backdrop Background for Wedding, Baby, Newborn, Personal Photo 5x7ft

Trendy backdrop 

So you can look like those cool AF food and DIY bloggers. Not at all like me. Non-pro tip- I use extra planks of our laminate flooring that were laying around the basement as a backdrop for my food pictures.

You can also use foam poster board too for backdrops as well as using a white foam board to divert light from outside on your subject!



Camera, duh. 

I have had my Canon Rebel DSLR since 2014 and have been in love ever since. At first, though, I was afraid of my camera. It sat and sat in a cabinet in my dining room because I didn’t think I deserved to have one and felt like maybe I needed to take a night course to learn how to use it. I finally picked it up one cold January day and just started playing around with it and the rest is history. You deserve a good camera because life moves fast and you need a fast camera to catch up with those fleeting moments. My camera has been discontinued but this one is very similar and comes with way more accessories than mine did.


Coffee Mug - Camera Lens Travel Thermos - Stainless Steel Insulated Cup with Easy Clean Lid - 13.5oz - Black - Go with Premium Stainless Steel Spoon Bonus_uHome

Coffee Mug

Okay, so it’s not a “need”, no, it is a need. I need this coffee mug.



Smartphone Photography Kit - Flexible Cell Phone Tripod, Bluetooth Remote Control Camera Shutter and 5in1 Lens Kit - Universal Octopus Pod - Telephoto, CPL, Fish Eye, Macro and Wide Angle Lens

Phone Photography Kit 

Don’t want to invest in a DSLR camera just yet? I don’t blame you. But I have taken some seriously amazing pictures with my smartphone, and this kit would take it to the next level. Can you imagine if a photographer showed up to a shoot with this instead of a big camera? EPIC. Also, maybe not hire your photographer on Craigslist next time. But if I want to take pictures and not lug my big girl camera around, I always use my phone.


Photography Photo Portrait Studio 600W Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit by LimoStudio, LMS103

Your Own Portrait Studio

I want this little set up if only to take great family pictures.  At only 52.99. this is a steal. Have you seen how much some photography studios are charging? You can take your own beautiful pictures in the privacy of your own home, In fact, Amazon has amazing accessories for photo shoots at low prices. I am not trying to put photography studios out of business, but most American families just cannot afford to go get their pictures professionally taken on the regular. In fact, last fall was the first time EVER our family got our pictures taken and only because we bartered with our dear friend Rosemary. So if you have the tools, by all means, use them!

What are you waiting for? Get out there and take those pictures!

Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments! 



This page includes affiliate links as I am a part of the Amazon affiliate program.

28 thoughts on “The Amateur Photography Tools that Make Me Look Like a Professional”

  1. Great post Kari! Had to double check to make sure that camera lens was really a coffee mug. That’s pretty cool. Totally agree with your points. Picmonkey is great. I use it too. Who wants to spend hours trying to learn how to use Photoshop, Lightroom, or Gimp, which is like Photoshop, I hear, but too hard to understand or see all the little icons, then figure out what they mean.


  2. Good tips! Though I had to laugh at your comment about what the professional photographer said in that meme, because my son (yes, a professional photographer) has said pretty much the same thing, though referring to everyone with a phone camera. I tend to agree with him, because there’s a lot more to photography than just the right tools and learning to use them. It’s an art – and not everyone has that in-born trait.

    I have my son’s first DSLR camera and admittedly, I’ve been such a procrastinator with learning how to use it. My camera phone is my crutch. Maybe this should be the year I learn how to use my “real” camera. 🙂


    1. I agree if someone is calling themselves “professional” without putting in the time. It is not an easy job and there is LOTS of education (continuing even after you think you’ve got it nailed down) that goes into it. So that would irritate the crap out of me as well. But as far as making people feel bad about themselves, yeah, not happening.

      Mine is my crutch too! It is so much easier just to take my phone out and admittedly, they take really good pictures too. My old Android had the best camera; my iPhone is good but never as good as that Samsung. 😦


  3. We have a camera that is exactly like yours and every now and then I would attempt to learn how to use it properly you know, more than just pointing and shooting. It is frustrating. My new phone takes amazing photos (Pixel 2). It’s easy and I take it every where with me so why not just use that instead of our camera.Right? I do want to learn at some point because I know it can do so much more than a cellphone camera.


    1. It is frustrating and at times, I don’t know what the hell I am doing. I am a firm believer that there are always more buttons that I would ever need on most appliances and camera’s fall into that category. I think you should just draw everything. 🙂


    1. You sound like spam in this comment, and I mean that in the best possible way.
      Maybe I need to go down and give you lessons.
      Or we could just sit on your porch and eat.


  4. I have a DSLR but my husband broke the lense it came with and the only one I have now is a 50mm which is really only good for taking a very specific type of dramatic shot. I need to get a new lense, and I have been procrastinating on that for over a year.

    Also I need those lights! My food photography suffers from poor lighting. Which is super disappointing because I love posting about food, and for me there is nothing more satisfying than a well composed food photo that I created. I took a picture of tortellini soup probably four years ago and I still look at it every once in a while like “damn, that’s a great shot.”


    1. I bought that exact lens when I made money at my first photo shoot and I NEVER use it. I should sell it on FB Marketplace and get a lens I will use.

      Me too especially when I take my girls annual pictures. Our home gets great natural light but with that kit I wouldn’t have to be dependent on time of day.

      And now I think you need to share the tortellini soup picture with me. 🙂


  5. I need to try harder! I need to make friends with pic monkey (and should have done it before senior pictures, although I haven’t had mass quantities printed or anything I couldn’t re order) ?


    1. I didn’t do mass amounts of pictures yet either. I will just print them out via Walgreens. But it saved me so much money and she loved how they turned out, so I am happy.


  6. I own a couple DSLR cameras but need to take the time to learn how to use them to the fullest.
    I actually bought that Coffee Mug that’s pictured for my oldest step-daughter and gifted it to her for Christmas last year.


  7. I need one of those cameras Kari. I bet if I had one my life would be so much cooler and sharper. Seriously, all of your tools are great for someone like me who is looking to get better at photography. Your post is my feature tomorrow at Sweet Inspiration.


    1. I love my camera so much but my phone is just as good at times. Skip the DSLR and just get the mug. 😉

      Thank you so much for featuring me! That is SO cool. 🙂


  8. Well darn it Kari, you just made me go and buy a coffee mug – so awesome and so were your tool list. I really need to up my photography game. All I’ve got is my little Samsung and, oh and soon a new lens coffee cup 😉


    1. I love that I made you buy something BUT I really love that it was the coffee mug!!
      I feel like you don’t even need a DSLR now that you got that mug. 🙂


  9. Hi Kari, thanks for sharing life saving tips! Although, I am not quite sold to using picmonkey, I got so used to using Photoshop on my laptop, or if I’m using my phone, I use snapseed. But, hey one of these days, I shall try it nevertheless. And if I find it more helpful than PS and Snapseed, I will be forever grateful! You mentioned food blogging. If I may add, you can DIY a mini reflector or highlighter just to enhance the lighting during the shoot. In my case, I use a cardboard, half or even a quarter a size of a bandpaper, cover it with aluminum foil. to keep it standing you may use that big binderclip and aim it to the front side of the product. that should light up the face of the product, escpecially if you have some light adjacent from behind.


  10. A friend of mine spent 2 years traveling the country. He took a ton of photos and posted them up on his blog. They were all taken with his iPhone. You would have never guessed they were taken on a smartphone. Unfortunately, if he had taken them with a higher resolution camera he could have sold some of them. He was approached several times. Just goes to show you what can be done with a smartphone camera.


  11. I bought a camera kit for my phone but have yet to take it out of the box. I looked at a few light boxes and light stands to try and amp up my photography a bit but found that undoubtedly they got 50% great/rave reviews and 50% awful… I finally just gave up! LOL. But I am trying to be more intentional about lighting and composition. I’m just so impatient that I don’t often take the time to really set up my shot.


    1. That is like me and this lens I bought myself years ago when I took engagement pictures for friends. They gave me an Amazon gift card as a thank you, and I used the money for the lens.
      I’ve never used it.


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