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Sentimental Senior and Family Photographer based in Glen Allen, VA

meet laura

Every November through December, emails start to trickle in asking the all-familiar question, “Which camera do you recommend?” or “What kind of camera do you use?” Here’s my very honest answer to that seemingly simple but very loaded question:

I will always ask that you examine the reason for buying a DSLR or what many call a “fancy camera.” If you want to take better images, that’s awesome! Want to be able to zoom in for kid’s sports? Yay! However, I will be honest and tell you most people who purchase a DSLR use it for a short period of time and may like it, but then they become easily frustrated and don’t learn to use it properly to create stunning images. It then sits in the bag it probably came with and collects dust.

The truth. The real benefits of a DSLR camera begin when you learn to use it how it was intended, and that’s shooting in manual mode by learning aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to create proper exposure. The magic of a DSLR happens when you learn, put the pieces together, and practice, A LOT. This takes a huge time commitment. Otherwise, using a DSLR on its automatic setting is really producing nothing more than what your phone’s camera can create, but with a larger file. A “fancy camera” is nothing more than a tool but you must learn to USE it! In other words, my camera doesn’t create great images, I DO!

There’s a small minority of people I will encourage to purchase a DSLR:

  • budding photographers who’ve outgrown their iPhones or point-and-shoots and are passionate about learning more
  • adults who display a passion for photography but truly understand the camera is a tool and must be learned
  • serious photography students who have taken more than one introductory course or workshop

Many consumer-level DSLRs have lots of attractive bells and whistles, fun flip screens, automatic settings, and more. But beware, these are sales tactics. Because I use a professional level camera that lacks any automatic setting options (meaning I’m always choosing my aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance), I don’t have much advice on a specific consumer DSLR because I don’t research them and they change so much from year to year. I highly recommend Ken Rockwell’s advice on the latest consumer models and you can find his site here.

Lenses. Your lens choice will make a bigger impact on your images than your actual camera. Those fancy-looking, zoom lenses that come with a camera kit are nothing more than plastic trash (harsh, I know, but true!), so I do not recommend purchasing a dSLR “kit” that comes with one. You are SO much better off purchasing a camera body and a nice lens separately. DO not fall for the sales tactic of the all-inclusive kit, TRUST ME! The quality of the lens on the end of your camera is what will help you create art. I prefer prime lenses, or a lens with one focal length. If you’ve had a session with me, you know I MOVE to create my images. I only use a professional zoom lens for my personal sports photography. I highly recommend purchasing a great 50mm or 35mm f/1.8 lens to start. If you need to save some cash, I’ve bought several refurbished lenses from Nikon here and have always been pleased.

A word on Mirrorless. I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but know several photographers who have changed to mirrorless technology. I’ve heard mixed feelings, so I’m sitting where I’m happy with my traditional equipment as long as they serve me well.

How to shoot manually. I wish I was good at explaining the “techy” side of photography, but I’m not. It’s one of those things I can do very well, but can’t explain to you how I got there other than through practice and knowing what role each of the settings plays in creating an image. 🙂 Google is your best friend in this case. There are endless resources on YouTube, KenRockwell.com, KelbyOne, and more!


Technique and manual settings are only one part of the equation. One must learn composition, the rules of photography, and how to break those rules effectively. This is where I thrive in teaching and created The Sentimental Photographer Workbook many years ago using my tried and true methods. I’ve trained dozens of photographers using my method. But the commitment to learn and practice is always on you. Purchase my composition workbook HERE!

What I shoot with. I shoot with Nikon professional camera bodies and lenses. Here is my current gear list and links:

Camera Bodies

Nikon D850

Nikon D810


Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 (tight spaces and children)

Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 (most used for families and children)

Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 (used 98% of the time for seniors)

Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 (sports)

Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 (landscapes or events)

Update: You can find my recommendations for beginning photographers HERE!


Questions? Feel free to get in touch! Happy shooting!

senior, richmond, glen allen, laura matthews, high school, downtown, rustic, classic


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"The photos definitely represent the best version of myself and give me a great boost of confidence..."

-Abigail, LMP Senior

-Beth, Family Client and Mom to two LMP Seniors

" Laura was easy to work with, flexible, and so artistic. Working with her was a great experience..."

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-Amanda, Stepmom to LMP Senior, Ayrin

" I hope I get to work with you again someday. You are truly talented..."

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"Laura went out of her way to make sure my daughter felt comfortable and to ensure we captured this milestone perfectly. Our photo gallery was exquisite and delivered to us so quickly..."

-Andrea, LMP Senior Mom

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