How to Document your family | Phone vs DSLR

phone vs dslr

Often moms ask me what type of camera they need to photograph their children. They are expecting me to tell them a specific model of DSLR camera. I can honestly say I don’t think a DSLR camera {aka the big black camera with bulky lenses} is for everyone.

I’m going to talk about to phone vs DSLR camera. The pros and cons of both options. Then you can decide for yourself what fits your needs best.

how to document your family
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Phone Pros

Having a camera on our phones is AWESOME. How cool is it that we have a camera at our fingertips for all those unexpected moments. I have my phone with me almost all the time. If I leave the house I grab my phone.

Using your phone as a camera is super convenient, it’s small and easy to carry around. Phone cameras are also simple to use and accessible to almost everyone.

Phone Cons

When comparing to a DSLR camera the phone has less manual controls. It’s always in AUTO mode meaning you can’t customize shutter, ISO, or aperture. You might be able to tap the screen and adjust the exposure or what is in focus but it’s extremely limited.

No zoom, well you can zoom but you will lose quality since it’s a digital zoom not an optical zoom.

The shutter response time is slow compared to a DSLR but still adequate. Try using the burst mode when trying to capture your speedy toddlers.

The biggest con is that most people don’t do anything with their phone pictures other than share them on social media. This isn’t the fault of the phone just user error. We take too many pictures and we don’t have a plan for what to do with them. See Lesson 1 to start fixing this.


A DSLR is bulky, inconvenient and not user friendly. You have to plan to use it since most of us don’t carry it around with us as often as we do our phones.

It can’t be used in auto… well technically it can but why would you? I’m about to insert my personal opinion that many may not agree with. If you are going to use your big, fancy, DSLR camera in AUTO then what is the point? Leave it home, save yourself the hassle and use your phone.


Using my DSLR camera gives me FULL control. I become the master creator and I determine the outcome. I get to choose how fast I want the shutter {avoid motion blur or add it for creativity}. Deciding the aperture and how much I want in focus is all up to me. I choose the ISO and adjust my settings to avoid grainy pictures.

The shutter response time is crazy fast. I can shoot 8 frames a second and it’s easier for me to anticipate and capture my kids expressions.

I have the ability to choose different lenses for close up, wide angle, more distortion, less distortion etc.

Of course every lens comes with a price tag and again if you don’t know how to use the lenses or change the settings then it’s probably not worth the extra hassle and investment.

Final Answer

If you love the convenience of you phone then learn how to take better pictures by controlling the light and environment. More on this coming soon so subscribe at

If you know or are committed to learn all the technical aspects of photography then you will love having the creative control of a DSLR although at times is does compromise on convenience.

In the end it doesn’t matter what camera you use. Learning to maximize the equipment you have is your best option. There is absolutely no reason you can’t take amazing pictures with your phone that can be enlarged and proudly hung on your wall.

The Mirrorless

Random side note: The camera world is always changing and mirrorless cameras are quickly becoming competitive with the DSLR. The camera body itself is much smaller but the lenses can still be bulky and heavy. Here is an example of an entry level Mirrorless.

taking better picture of your kids


Use your phone camera to take a picture at an unexpected time and place. Post it to Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtag #thecharlsiechallenge. I would love to see your posts. If you have a private account on Instagram or Facebook you can also email me at

#thecharlsiechallenge Riding a bike to the mailbox is part of our daily routine. It’s not something I think much about so I never take pictures. Having my phone and the ability to quickly capture a moment I wouldn’t normally capture is a huge benefit to today’s technology. I also love how this captures Canon’s excitement every time he opens the mailbox. Side note: He had no idea I was taking a picture, I didn’t make a big deal about it and I didn’t ask him to do anything.

How to Document Your Family Series

Part 1: Being Intentional

Part 2: DSLR vs Phone

Part 3: Digital FIles: Part 1



Do you have questions you would like me to follow up on? You can ask via comments on this blog post, by email, on Instagram or Facebook.

How do you organize your photos when you do a photo book? By year? By activity?

I do a yearly photo album so for me it makes sense to organize it chronologically. In the front I put a table of contents that lists the month, location and activity for each spread. I keep each spread to a single activity. For example, I don’t put a skiing picture next to a lifestyle picture. I also avoid putting too many pictures to a page and I always have a feature picture every 1-2 spreads.

What is the difference between albums and books?

When I talk about albums I’m not referring to the photo albums that you slide all your 4×6 prints into. Those are also a good option but they aren’t what I use. The albums and books I use are custom printed.

Books are press printed and will have the print quality and thickness of a really nice Christmas card they usually start around $50.

Albums are printed on photographic paper such as Kodak or Fujifilm and then mounted for durability and thickness. Albums are usually at least 3x the price of a book starting around $175.

Are phone pics high enough quality to print?

Absolutely, I print mine using Chatbooks which is inexpensive and lower quality. However you could print them on a much higher quality medium if you choose. The quality of your image isn’t limited to the megapixels in the camera. If you have good lighting and learn to use your camera effectively there is no reason you can’t enlarge a phone picture.

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  1. How to document your family | Being Intentional | Charlsie Oliverson Photography

    April 2nd, 2019 at 4:28 am

    […] Part 2: DSLR vs Phone– […]