6 Things I Did That Changed My Photography For the Better

Photography is a long journey of trail and error. But one of my favorite things about photography is that there is always something new to learn. There are so many different photography techniques to learn. There are so many ways to develop those techniques. I think some of the best things I did for my photography was learning to learn. What I mean by that is accepting that I have something to learn, and letting go of perfection. Allowing myself to be taught and to learn from it. Photography is a journey. If you’re ready to take the plunge into the journey, you won’t regret it.

check out my How Instagram Made Me a Better Photographer post

6 Things I Did That Changed My Photography for the Better
6 Things I Did That Changed My Photography for the Better
This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!

1. switching to manual mode

Take your camera off auto mode. Manual mode allows you as a photographer to capture exactly what you want, how you want it. It allows you to have full control over your photography, instead of letting your camera be the brains. Let’s face it, the camera is pretty smart, but you’re even smarter. Making the switch to manual mode just two years ago has literally changed my photography for the better. Learning manual mode by yourself can be challenging and sometimes frustrating. I recommend taking a class, buying a book (if you’d like more book suggestions, check out my 10 Must Read Photography Books post), or searching on YouTube how to switch. Learning how to use your camera in manual mode is the best thing you can do for your photography. If you take nothing else away from this post, remember that manual mode is the way to go.

2. join a photography community

I joined a community of photographers called ClickinMoms. You don’t have to be a mom to join, you don’t even have to be a woman! It’s a great community of photographers that lift each other up. There are amazing tutorials, classes, and even just the photo shares can help inspire you. Joining ClickinMoms has led me to so many other great opportunities, like Instagram pods, Facebook groups, and making friends with photographers around the world. They’ve got my back, and I have theirs. Making friends in this business is a great way to learn and to also ask for help when you need one. I highly recommend finding a photography community and joining. You won’t regret it.

3. experiment

You might have a certain technique you love to use (for me it’s back lighting) and those images probably look amazing. But you won’t grow unless you try something new. Try incorporating shadows into your shot. Try a different composition technique instead of a center composition. Use leading lines, a different perspective, or the rule of thirds. Try shooting just the hands. Only include the feet. Change it up! Experiment! Have fun! GROW! I experiment all the time and I find new things that I love. It was through experimenting that I grew to love macro photography.

4. learn how to edit

I started out using a editing system that was free on the web. I am never going back to that! I upgraded to Photoshop in 2015. It was definitely hard to learn and I still don’t know all there is to learn from it. Then recently this year, I switched to Lightroom and I have never looked back. Lightroom is so easy and has all that I need to edit my images. If I ever need to clone something out, or anything else that LR can’t handle, I then upload my images into Photoshop and do some magic there. But, LR is all that I need normally and it doesn’t take me long to edit each image. I highly recommend trying Lightroom. If you need a good book, I recommend this one. It’s pretty cheap and teaches you a lot about Lightroom.

5. switch to raw

Switching to RAW was a big step in my photography journey. I had been shooting in JPEG for so long, when I switched to RAW I was literally amazed at the difference in quality. RAW images come out of your camera, well, for lack of a better term, raw. Your camera does slight adjustments to your JPEG images making them appear pretty when you first upload them. RAW gives you free choice as to how you want to edit you image. It captures so much more detail in each image. I NEVER shoot in JPEG, only RAW. I recommend looking into why RAW is better and decide for yourself if you should make the switch or not. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

6. let go of perfection

I’ll be first to admit that my photography is not perfect. It’s not even where I want it to be right now. But, that’s the beauty of photography, there’s always ways to improve. When I learned to let go of perfection, to accept my photography for what it was, my photography improved. I was able to start photographing for me instead of for anyone else. I was able to enjoy my photography and I was able to accept the flaws in it. I have a long ways to go on my photography journey, but honestly, we all do. So, let go of that perfection, and let the learning begin.

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Orange Rose by Alyssa Ahern

I did it. I bought myself flowers. I love taking walks and bringing my macro lens with me. I feel like I get some beautiful shots of the wild flowers I find. But there’s just something about buying a bouquet of flowers for yourself and photographing those. For one, I now have beautiful flowers to put on my table. And for another, I love being able to use my third hand. It comes in so handy for shots where I want to isolate the flower. Such a nice tool to use for macro and it’s pretty inexpensive!

Another nice little trick I like doing with my macro shots is adding water. I use a spray bottle and just spray it right on. It adds a nice effect to it. Sometimes, if you get it just right, you can make the water sparkle. I love experimenting with different light and angles. Macro is so so enjoyable. If you need help getting started, check out my 3 Tips to Get Started in Macro Photography post.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!

check out my Macro Photography: What Lenses to Use post


image taken by: Nikon D610 and my macro lens
my settings were: ISO 500 | f/4.2 | 1/400ss

Letters to My Little One | 2 Month Old


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

To my little peanut,

So many things have happened in this month! First, you rolled from your tummy to your back like a champ. You did it three times, showing off for your parents. We loved it, of course! You moved right on up to one diapers, too! Your cute little thighs are getting so chunky – I LOVE it! It’s so cute! You’re wearing 0-3 month clothing and almost to the point where you can wear just plain 3 month. You’re getting so big at 2 months old. I really can’t believe you are 2 months old. Somedays, it feels like forever ago that I gave birth to you. But then other days, it feels like just yesterday.

Time is, of course, going too fast. You really won’t stay little forever, will you? It makes me sad, but at the same time, I am so proud of all the little things you do each day. The little things you learn each day. You are growing and maturing so quickly!

You hate waking up in the morning and it’s adorable. I just giggle at you as you grunt and try to open your eyes. Don’t worry, I think we all have those days. Once you’re awake, though, you smile and talk so much! Your little form of talking is just so adorable. You also love to kick and wiggle a bunch right in the morning. Mornings are one of my favorite times with you. You’re too cute.

I’m so proud of you, little one. For all that you are accomplishing. For all that you will accomplish. For all that you’ve already accomplished. You’ve come so far, but you have so far to go. And don’t worry, mommy + daddy will be right there with you, cheering you on. You have blessed our lives for the better. We love talking to you, seeing your big eyes fill with happiness as you smile and laugh at us. And you love talking to us. You smile and grin every time you see us. We can tell how much you love us, and our hearts are full. We love you. We love you so much.

Things you love: daddy! You smile the biggest when daddy is around. No joke. But you talk the most for mommy. You love to blow spit bubbles (gross!). You love to kick. You love to sleep but hate waking up. It’s really cute. You love bath time. You love spending time with your family. You love back time and tummy time. You love taking walks with mommy + daddy. You love talking. You love to lift your head. And of course you love to eat! You basically just love life. You’re a happy baby which makes this mommy happy.

Things we love about you: how much you are talking! After you nurse you sometimes just stare up at me and coo. It melts my heart it’s so darn cute! You do this funny thing with your hands where it looks like you’re trying to fight, it’s too cute. We love the way you look. I didn’t think it was possible, but you’ve gotten cuter. You still have so much hair! That is probably the number one thing people comment on. So. Much. Hair. And we love it!  I love watching you try new things, like rolling over for the first time, reaching for that toy, and even laughing! You laughed this week for the first time and it melted my heart! It was so cute. I love everything about you. Your little thighs, your little toes, fingers, hands, nose, ears, lips….I could go on and on. You are just too adorable, I can’t get enough.

I am blessed to be your mommy.

I love you so much!

Love, mommy


read month 1 here

Baby Naps by Alyssa Ahern

There’s something so peaceful and beautiful about a baby napping. My son refuses to sleep in his crib. He loves sleeping on me all day every day. Which I love the snuggles, but it would be nice to put him down from time to time! The longest he’s gone down in the crib was ten minutes. I’ll take it. It allowed for me to photograph him sleeping for once, it’s something I want to remember. I want to remember the way he dreams about nursing, his sweet eyes closed revealing his beautiful eye lashes. I want to remember how limp and cute his little body is when he’s asleep. I love the kicking he does during the day, but he’s just so peaceful and calm when he sleeps. I want to remember how his tiny feet and legs curl while he sleeps. I want to remember all the details.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!

check out my Yellow Flowers post


image taken by: Nikon D610 and my wide angle lens
my settings were: ISO 5000 | f/1.4 | 1/200ss

Macro Photography: What Lenses to Use

You might be questioning me on this. “What lenses to use?” Well, a macro lens, of course! But just because you have a macro lens or don’t have one, doesn’t mean that’s all you should use for your macro photography. I am a firm believer that you should use the equipment you have to it’s fullest advantage. Don’t have a macro lens? Use the lenses you have with a few modifications to achieve the effect you want. Don’t feel like you need to go out and buy an expensive lens (especially if you’re not sure you’ll even like macro photography). Let me show you the different lenses I use to achieve beautiful ‘macro’ (or flower) photography.

need help getting started in macro? check out my 3 Tips to Getting Started in Macro Photography post

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!


taken with: Nikon 105mm 2.8
my settings were: ISO 640 | f/4.8 | 1/250ss

the nifty fifty

The nifty fifty is great for taking nature images. I have the Nikon 50mm 1.8. I love using it with macro extensions to get some nice macro shots. The best thing about this whole combo is it’s the cheapest. The nifty fifty is one of the cheapest lenses out there and macro extensions are really cheap, too. If you don’t have the money to buy any great macro lenses, check out the macro extensions.


taken with: Nikon 50mm 1.8
my settings were: ISO 320 | f/2.5 | 1/4000ss

lensbaby velvet 56

I have my eye on this beautiful lens. I have heard great things about it, especially for macro photography. This lens creates such beautiful images with dreamy effects. And best part about this lens is it’s on the cheaper side. The lensbaby velvet 56 is great for macro, nature, any genre of photography, really. It’s a great investment and one that I am personally saving up for.


taken with: Sigma 24mm 1.4 ART
my settings were: ISO 500 | f/1.4 | 1/320ss

wide angle lens

One of my favorite lenses to use for my macro/nature photography is my wide angle lens, the Sigma ART 24mm 1.4. It creates such beautiful depth in the images. I love shooting wide open to create some beautiful dreamy images. The wide angle is a perfect lens to use when taking pictures of nature. Not only does it do well with flowers, it does well with landscapes. So you could get close to a flower and then step back and take a picture of the whole scene. This is probably my favorite flower lens other than my macro lens.

macro lens

And of course, the best type of lens to use for macro would be a macro lens. I personally use the Nikon 105mm 2.8. Although, I hope to upgrade to a better lens in the future. Taking images wide open on this lens is sometimes hard to get a lot of the flower in focus. I recommend closing down to at least a 5 if not higher. That allows for more of the flower to be in focus. Now, of course, I love shooting wide open and only getting a sliver of the flower in focus. It just depends on your vision and how you want the picture to turn on. Practice and have fun.

Just because you don’t have a macro lens, doesn’t mean you can’t take beautiful flower images. Use what you have. If you’re curious about whether you’d like macro photography or not, try renting a macro lens or using lens extensions. Macro photography is so soothing and relaxing. I often call it macro therapy. It helps me relax and it makes me happy. Go out there with what you have and experiment with different apertures, distance from the flower/plant, angles, etc. There’s so much to learn from macro photography.

What questions do you have about macro photography? Comment below!

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Yellow Flowers by Alyssa Ahern

Flowers always get my attention. And when they’re in a bunch like this? It’s amazing. I love the beauty in nature and I love capturing it. I have a macro lens that I love to use, but there’s just something so rich and deep about using my wide angle lens. It creates such depth and beauty that I am really addicted to. I could photograph flowers all day with either lens, though. I love the simple beauty of flowers. Plus it’s a good excuse to get myself flowers all the time. Go out and buy yourself a bouquet of flowers and have fun and let go of perfection. Nature is so beautiful by itself, it’s hard to mess up photos. If you don’t feel like going to the store, you can have your flowers mailed to you from BloomThatBloomThat has beautiful selections that make me burst with happiness! They are really well made and quick to ship. Treat yourself and buy some flowers.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!

check out my Waiting for Mom post

Aly Dawn Photography - Yellow Flowers

image taken by: Nikon D610 and my wide angle lens
my settings were: ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/400ss

How Instagram Made Me a Better Photographer

If you don’t see me on Facebook, it’s because I am more on Instagram. I love Instagram for so many reasons. I have met some really awesome ladies on there that help and support me. I really love the new ability to post multiple images if I wish, because I sometimes find it hard to narrow it down. Instagram is a growing, great social media site for photographers. But one of the main reasons I love Instagram is because it made me a better photographer.

check out my 5 Reasons to Convert an Image to Black and White post

instagram (1)it encouraged my style

My style has evolved and developed over the past year or two. I owe a lot of the growth to Instagram. I wanted my feed to look cohesive. Therefore, I would always make sure the image I post next looked similar to the last one. It helped me a great deal in editing all my images so that they looked like mine. Once I started using Instagram, my photography changed for the better. It started off with a matte look, then went on to a more clean edit with vibrant colors. I’m excited to see where my style goes next, but one thing is for sure, my Instagram feed will look cohesive.

great community of photographers

I have met so many photographers because of Instagram! There are great communities for each genre of photography. I love all the macro communities. The more you interact with other photographers, the more they will interact with you. Making photography friends is fun and very beneficial to your photography. Community is important.

encourages constant shooting

I am encouraged to shoot because I want to post to my Instagram daily. I like the idea of having new content to share each day. This helps me as a photographer because constant shooting is also considered practice. And practice is essential in order to improve. It takes 10,000 hours to become a professional in something. So shoot everyday and practice!

helped me learn how to critique

Often times people ask for critique on their work. Not only did Instagram help me critique others work, but it helped me critique my own work. Like I said above, I wanted my work to be cohesive. I wanted to share only my best work. Put my best face out there. Which lead me to critiquing my own work and making sure everything was cohesive.

Instagram is the perfect tool to making you a better photographer. Go out and follow photographers. Learn how to use hashtags and get your work seen. Have fun and learn and grow.

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