A Beginner’s Guide to Shooting in Black and White

A Beginner’s Guide to Shooting in Black and White

Black and white is a great tool to use in your photography. It can impact and really take your images to the next level. That being said, there are times when you should convert your images to b&w, and there are times when you should not. Have you ever converted an image to b&w and it just didn’t look the way you wanted it to? Chances are, that image just wasn’t a good candidate. So, let’s dive into what makes an image a good candidate to black and white photography.

check out my 5 Reasons to Convert an Image to B&W post


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

what makes a good black and white

Let’s really dive into what makes a good b&w. Because, believe it or not, not every image makes for a good black and white. I have 4 reasons images will make a good b&w.

  1. Light – if the light is good, the b&w will most likely be good
  2. Contrast – whether you have high contrast lighting, or your subject is dark against your background, contrast creates a good quality for b&w images
  3. Texture – converting a image to b&w that has awesome texture is a win!
  4. Color – when color isn’t an important part of the story, black and white it is!

reasons to not convert your image to black and white

I believe there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t convert an image to black and white. Not all of these are solid rules, they’re just general guidelines I like to follow in my own black and white.

  1. Flat light – I feel like sometimes we convert our images to black and white because the light isn’t interesting. This is not a good reason. It will leave your black and white looking very flat
  2. Distractions in the background – don’t take an image with distractions in the background, and convert to black and white to try and ‘cover’ up those distractions. You should be removing distractions before you ever press that shutter speed – this is important in any setting
  3. Color – when the color IS important to the story, don’t convert!

a beginner’s guide to shooting in black and white

I want you to consciously think about an image in b&w. Shoot for b&w. Think about ways an image will work if it’s in b&w. You can even turn your camera to a certain setting that actually only shoots in black and white. I’m so nervous to do this, but if you have the guts, do it! It will definitely improve your b&w images! When you shoot with black and white in mind, your images will turn out better.

1. when the light is pretty

I think we sometimes convert our images when the light isn’t beautiful. It should be the other way around! If you have beautiful light in your image, you can bet that the image will look good in b&w. When you are out shooting for b&w, aim to have gorgeous light.

That said, when there isn’t beautiful light, other factors and contribute to a beautiful black and white image that has dull light.

2. contrast

Think about it. You want your black and white images to have contrast. Below, the two images are edited exactly the same way, except for the left has all contrast removed, and none added! Which one looks better to you? Most likely the right one, right? Why is that? It’s because of the contrast! It makes your black and whites look deeper and richer, which is definitely what you want. That being said, if your color edits tend to have a more matte look, then your black and whites should as well. The key here is to stay consistent in your editing.

Black and White Photography Tips and Tricks

3. texture

Images with a lot of texture tend to look good in b&w. Texture could be so much as water droplets on your flowers or even a fluffy rug. Why is texture important in black and white? It helps create a sense of feeling to your viewer. When we incorporate textures into out images, it helps the viewer feel like they are there with us.

4. color

Like I have previously stated, when color doesn’t play an important part, convert to black and white. When would color play an important part? You can use color to compose your images. If you had a blue wall and a girl in pink with a pink balloon, that image wouldn’t look good in b&w, it would look washed out. You need the color to add pop and interest. However, if you have a bunch of brown in your image, like the image below, then converting to b&w can make your image pop more than what it was in color.

A Beginner's Guide to Shooting in Black and White

black and white conversion

Why do you think an image will turn out good in b&w? Please comment below!

Last thing I wanted to say is, if you’re not sure if an image will look good in black and white or not…just convert it and see! I’d love to see your creations, #alydawn_blackandwhite so that I can see and comment on your creations! Happy shooting!

12 Photography Projects to Start in 2018

12 Photography Projects to Start in 2018

Photography projects are probably the best thing you can do for your photography. Especially if you are in a photography rut. I have done a handful of photography projects over the past two years. They have really helped to push my creativity. Some of them I finished, other ones, not so much. But! I keep on keeping on, and that’s what counts, right? I am excited to try these out this next year. As I reflect back on all the photography projects I’ve done, I am so proud of the one’s that I finished. I am also proud of the ones that I got half way through, even doing them half way, I learned so much. So, what are you waiting for? Start a photography project today!

check out my 6 Things I Did That Changed My Photography For the Better post

12 Photography Projects to Start in 2018


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

photography projects 101

So, first. I want to go into big detail about how it’s totally ok to fail any photography project you start and attempt. I have started and failed a 365 every year for the past three years. But each year I get a little further. This year would have been a winner, if I hadn’t had a baby half way through! I made it 6 whole months. All my other 365’s lasted only a month or two. I call this progress. I don’t want you to feel bad about yourself. That being said, actually completing a photography project really gives you a great confidence boost.

after you complete a project

So, after you complete a project, what should you do? Here’s a few ideas for you…

  • Share on social media – Instagram is a great social media platform to share you photography projects
  • Print your project! Nothing better than seeing your wonderful pictures throughout your house
  • Share on your blog – I do this with my Letters to My Little One project, I’ve been sharing those since 18 weeks in the womb 🙂
  • Start another project!

12 photography projects to do in 2018

1. 365 project

So, I already told you a little bit about my 365 project. But I really did enjoy doing it up until my little man came. I really learned a lot, and my images changed drastically from month to month. Looking back at my January photos to the photos I take now, in December, there is BIG improvement. I highly recommend completing a 365 project. Who’s with me in 2018?

2. black & white

Shoot only black and white images. There is a way to make it so that the images you take, are only black and white. I’m soooo nervous to switch my camera to do this because I love color. However, when you shoot with black and white in mind, think about the light. The light should have depth and dimension in it. Then pick a number, say 10, of how many images of black and white you should take. This will really help you see what makes a good black and white image.

3. one subject, 10 photos

I am itching to do this project. I just have to pick out the perfect subject! So, basically, all you do is pick a subject (an egg, a flower, a toy, anything!) and take 10 different images of it. Get creative. Make each image completely unique. If you try this one out, let me know how you did!

4. work through a book

I need to do this one. There are some great books out there. Like this composition book. I have that one and it is great. So basically, as you read, you practice. The best thing about books is that they’re always there once you buy them. I love adding books to my bookshelf, so if you have any photography book suggestions, please comment below!

5. self portraits

Doing a self portrait project is the perfect way to push your creativity. Not only do you get photos of yourself, but you have to really think and plan out each shot, since you won’t be behind the camera for these. I love doing self portraits. I do them monthly with my son! Make it a monthly goal to get in the picture. Why? Because you were there too. You’re important, too. Don’t forget it!

6. letters to my little one

I love this photography project! I started it when my little was only 18 weeks (in the womb) old. What you do is write a letter to your little one. Tell them how they’ve grown. Tell them what they’ve accomplished that month. Tell them things that they like. This doesn’t just have to be for babies, it could be for older ones, too! But obviously you wouldn’t do as many. You decide the rules here. I do a letter every month for my cute little 5 month old.

7. monthly color grid

I’m doing this one in 2018! Would anyone like to join me? What you do is pick one color each month. For example, January could be light blue, then you strive to take pictures featuring that color. You would take a total of 9 images and make a grid out of it. So fun, right? Let me know in the comments if this sounds like something you’d like to do and I can type of a color prompt list + free printable!

8. monthly grid

I did this project all of 2017. It’s actually a really easy photography project if you’re looking for an easier one. You take images throughout the month. Then at the very end, you pick 9 of your favorites and make a grid from them. I use Blogstomp to make all of my grids. Super quick and easy.

9. project 52

I like to think this one would be an easier one, but I have never tried it! Photography project 52 refers to having 52 weeks in a year. You would take just one photo a week following along some prompts. For example, week one could be a self portrait. I don’t want to fill my plate up with photography projects, but I might consider giving this one a go. Maybe in 2019. There are plenty of project 52 prompts on Pinterest.

10. try something new

For this one, all you have to do is try something new! Try a new genre! Macro, food, still life, lifestyle, dramatic, documentary, so many different genres to choose from. Pick a genre every month and try to get 9 images each month. This one sounds SO fun!

11. still life

Tackle still life photography each month. The only way to get better at it is to practice! What do I mean by still life photography? I am talking about anything that doesn’t have a human or living thing in it. So this could include toys, dishes, books, any object you can think of. Why is this task challenging? Because to make still life photography impactful, you need to give your objects emotion. This photography project is perfect to push your creativity to the max!

12. print out your images

Yes, this counts as a photography project! Print out those images! Finished a project? PRINT THEM OUT! It’s so fun to see your work printed out! You could even make a book of your photography projects. Have fun doing this project. It is a big one, but so worth it!

What is a photography project you have completed in the past and just love? Share it in the comments below! What is a photography project you’ve struggled with? Please leave a comment about it! I’d love to hear.

Happy photography project making!

3 Tips to Get Started in Photography

3 Tips to Get Started in Photography
Get started in photography and take control of your camera. I think it’s pretty obvious that I am passionate about photography. And trust me when I say, that I’ve been in your shoes before. Starting out, not really sure where to even begin with my photography journey, stumbling along without any help. Well, I would like to give you something I never had: help! I want to give you 3 tips on how to get started in photography. I started off with no knowledge and just a cheap point-and-shoot camera. Now, I have a lot of knowledge, a fancy Nikon D610, and a beautifully sharp Sigma 24mm 1.4 lens. But it took time to get here. And I want to help you get started!

check out my 100 Photography Blog Post Ideas post for ideas to get you started

3 Tips to Get Started in Photography - FREE guide to beginner photography!

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

my photography journey

I have discussed briefly different parts of my photography journey. Allow me to go into a little more detail. I have always loved photography. I remember one time my mom got me a little cheap film camera (the disposable ones – everyone had them!) and I took about 20 pictures of a ‘deer’ in our backyard. Only, you couldn’t see the deer at all. Alright, so I might not have always been the most amazing photographer out there, but I have always loved photography. My dad got me my first DSLR as a graduation gift from graduating high school – I was hooked. I thought I was taking fantastic images (looking back – yikes! I have improved a lot!) with my beginner camera, the Nikon D5100. I loved that camera – and still do! It took fabulous pictures. I recommend this camera to every beginner photographer out there. It’s a great first camera. But I still wasn’t learning anything.

It wasn’t until December of 2014 that I finally realized I knew nothing. I couldn’t even tell you what type of camera I had! Umm….a Nikon? I had no idea what any of the numbers on my lenses meant – I didn’t even know that I only had ‘kit’ lenses, which are the lenses that come with your camera and  – news flash- they are not the greatest.  I also had no idea about manual exposure, what’s aperture? What’s shutter speed? I am happily taking pictures on auto!

the best thing I did for my photography!

Well, January of 2015 changed everything! I took a leap of faith and signed up to be a Clickin Moms member. I want to point out, I was not a mom at that time. You don’t have to be a mom, or even a woman, to sign up! Give it a shot – it’s a wonderful community. After that I signed up for my first class, Mastering Manual Exposure. I was determined to learn more about my camera and photography. I have not looked back! That was the greatest decision of my photography career!

The best thing about photography for me is that there is always something new to learn. I am constantly learning new things.

my 3 tips to get started in photography

1. the gear

I loved loved loved my beginner camera, the Nikon D5100. Oh my goodness do I love that camera. It was an excellent tool in learning manual. One of my favorite features is that it has a screen that you can pop out and move around, which is fantastic for above shots. Buying good gear (and not just having a point-and-shoot) is really important. After buying your first beginner camera (and I do recommend getting a beginner camera first) then you can buy a beginner lens. I love the 50mm 1.8 lens. It is perfect for learning manual exposure. Which brings me to my next tip…

2. take classes

Definitely take classes. Learn manual exposure through a class. I would recommend against trying to learn manual exposure by yourself. I tried it and thought I had a handle on it, then took a class and realized I knew nothing. Classes really help you take control of your camera and take the images you want to take! After you take a class for manual exposure, expand your knowledge with more classes! Try composition, natural light, and storytelling classes.

3. shoot (everyday)

I will be first to admit that taking a picture as often as you can (everday, preffered!) will help you so much. You might not notice it at first. But compare your images you took in January to the images you took this month. Big difference, right? I can definitely tell a difference in my images! And guess what? I love the images I took this month 10 times more than the ones I took in January. I got better.
Shoot as often as you can. Take your camera with you everywhere. Photograph everything and anything. Experiment. Have fun. This is all a learning process and you need to practice in order to get better. I promise you will thank me one day for making you take pictures as often as you can! Shoot what you love, and love what you shoot. Don’t give up. Ask for help. Take classes. Seek out a mentor. Photography is an excellent hobby to get into and I hope you start!

free eBook!

As an added bonus, I have created a Beginner Guide to Photography for you. And yes, it’s FREE! (I know, I’m so generous!) If you download it and read it, please leave a review down below in the comments. Also, please comment something that is holding you back in starting photography. What is something you need help with? I would love to hear all about it in the comments!

what’s included

  • 28 PDF
  • 4 exercises to help you learn
  • Beautiful images
  • Feedback


A Simple Guide to Beginner Photography


21 Perfect Gifts for the Photographer in Your Life

21 Perfect Gifts for the Photographer in Your Life

Holidays are just around the corner. No, literally. I can see them. As I’m getting together my own Christmas list, I started thinking about how sometimes it can be hard to figure out exactly what someone would love. If you know a photographer (let’s say she’s your wife) then this is the perfect list for you. Get anything off of this list and the photographer in your life will be extremely amazed and happy. You want to be able to present your favorite photographer with the perfect gift. That’s why I have put together this list of 20 perfect gifts for the photographer in your life.

need some inspiration? check out my 10 Must Read Photography Books post.

21 Perfect Gifts for the Photographer in Your LifeThis post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!

21 Perfect Gifts for the Photographer in Your Life

You really can’t go wrong with anything related to photography. But, let’s get real. There are a ton of things related to photography. Where do you possibly begin? This list of 21 perfect gifts for the photographer in your life is the perfect place to start. You can thank me later when your photographer is grinning from ear to ear.


  1. Mastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for Photographers – You can’t go wrong with a good book. This book is filled with beautiful images and gets you thinking. I own this book and really enjoy looking through it when I am in need of composition guides. I love this book!
  2. ClickinMoms Membership – Since joining ClickinMoms back in 2015, my photography has literally changed for the better! This site is amazing! I also want to say that it’s NOT just for Moms! I wasn’t a mom when I joined. I have also seen many, many dads/men on there as well. So don’t be afraid to get an account just because it says Mom in the name!  It has so much chance for growth and learning. I love the forums, you don’t have to take a class to learn. The forums themselves have many, many tutorials along with beautiful photo shares to help inspire you. And speaking of classes…
  3. ClickinMoms Class – Photographers love to learn. And what’s a better way of learning than a class? I love the full participation option, but the study along seat is just as nice! I highly recommend their Mastering Manual Exposure class or their Foundations of Composition class. Both were excellent first beginner classes.
  4. Coffee & Editing Tshirt –  How cute is this shirt?? Perfect for your favorite photographer. I’m not a coffee drinker, otherwise I’d totally get this shirt! I need one that says Cider & Editing or Hot Cocoa & Editing. Maybe I’ll design one myself sometime!
  5. Camera Necklace – Excuse me while I go purchase this adorable necklace for myself! Talk about cute!! I would totally wear this all. the. time. if I had it! I’m seriously adding this to my Christmas list. So cute!
  6. Macro Extension Tubes – These are perfect for beginner macro photographers. If you’re not sure if you would get into macro and want to try it out, but don’t want to spend a fortune on a lens you won’t use, I recommend these inexpensive macro extension tubes. Also be sure to check out my 3 Tips to Get Started in Macro Photography post. It’s my number 1 pinned post!
  7. Flowers – These are to go along with the macro extension tubes. Because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want subjects to practice on!
  8. Amazon Gift Card – A lot of the thing I link to on here are from Amazon so why not get an Amazon Gift Card so your photographer can buy whatever she/he wants?!
  9. Camera Strap – I LOVE this camera strap! So comfortable and I have gotten so many compliments about it! I have the blue one with white polka dots. I love it! I want to get the flower one next – so cute! I highly recommend upgrading your camera strap from the standard that Nikon or Canon give you. You look more professional with an updated strap and they’re usually more comfortable. Win-win.
  10. ExpoDisc – An ExpoDisc is a perfect way to help with your white balance troubles. I’ve never actually used one, but I have heard it’s great! It sets your white balance in any situation so that you don’t have to worry about it.
  11. Camera Bag – ShutterBag makes the cutest camera bags! And best yet is that you can pick your color!! If I didn’t already have a fabulous camera bag, I would totally be buying one of these. In fact, I’ll probably start saving up for one of these adorable bags. Bonus, they look like they could fit all of your needs! If you don’t have a camera bag, I expect this to be on your list. They are great for when you want to go anywhere with your camera. And plus, I mean, just look at how cute they are!
  12. Lensbaby Velvet 56 – If I had the money for this I would buy this right now. No joke. I have had my eye on this lens for such a long time! If you are looking for a creativity boost, this is the lens for you. It creates such beautiful bokeh.
  13. Lensbaby Sweet 35 – Again, if you want a cheaper lens to buy, but that still creates beautiful images, the Lensbaby lenses are the way to go! I love the neat effects this lens creates. It has a nice slice of focus that you can use creatively.
  14. Manfrotto Tripod – I’m literally drooling over this Tripod. I have a cheap tripod from Wal-mart. And I’ll be honest, it gets the job done. But man would it be nice to have a nice Tripod like this Manfrotto Tripod! Just look at how professional it looks. If your favorite photographer doesn’t have one, a tripod is a really good gift.
  15. Remote – I love my nifty remote for my camera. It has helped me take so many of my self portraits. It’s great if you want to get in the frame. I also love how small it is, so that it’s easy to hide in your photos. A remote is an inexpensive, yet thoughtful gift for your favorite photographer.
  16. Adobe Creative Cloud Subscription – This is literally the best thing I have ever gotten myself. I love creative cloud. It is so nice to have any and all programs that I need. I love Lightroom, it’s the easiest to learn and use. There is so much you can do with Lightroom. I also love Photoshop for some of my more advanced photo editing. If your photographer doesn’t have the Creative Cloud subscription, this is the perfect gift!
  17. Phone Camera Lens – There are so many camera lenses out there. This is the set that I have and I love. You can read about my experience with them here. They are fun to use and they give you a little more freedom with your phone pictures.
  18. Macro Lens – Macro is a great creative outlet! I love turning to macro when the weather is cold and grey (perfect for winter!). This lens is amazing. It will fulfill all of your macro needs. If you’re new to macro, check out my 3 Tips to Get Started in Macro Photography post. It has great advice for the beginner macro photographer.
  19. Nifty Fifty – This lens is a go to lens. It creates beautifully sharp images. You can read my review for it here. This lens is the perfect lens for a beginner photographer. AND it’s the cheapest lens out there! Perfect for gift giving!
  20. iPad Mini – Every photographer needs an iPad Mini. They are the perfect size and can fit in your camera bag! I have so many apps on my iPad Mini that I use for photography. Apps like Prime and Instagram. Plus it’s fun just to have an iPad Mini. 😉
  21. Cute Mug – Us photographers need our coffee/cider/hot cocoa while we work. What’s a better way than to get them the perfect mug? This mug from Target is oh so cute. I might just get it for myself! I am a mug-a-holic!


I hope this post has inspired you for your Christmas shopping. Christmas is literally right around the corner. Yikes! Get going! A lot of these gifts would be perfect for any mom. But all of these are perfect for the photographer in your life. *hint hint* The holidays are just around the corner!


3 Easy Tips to Take a Self Portrait

If you’re a photographer, you know one of the hardest techniques to conquer is self portraiture. Let’s be honest, our hearts skip a beat when we take pictures of our kids or clients. But when we see a photo of ourselves? Well, we start to critique and we start to critique hard. Perhaps it’s because you haven’t lost those 40 pounds you so wish you could lose. Perhaps it’s because you really have no self love for yourself (and if that’s the case, stop reading this right now and go do something for you because you deserve it and you are beautiful). Or maybe you find it hard to get in the picture. Whatever the reason is, stop it. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are cherished. Your kids will want pictures of you one day. They will want to see what you look like. And you know what? They WON’T care about that 40 pounds you never managed to get off. They just won’t. They will care that you are in photos with them. I have 3 tips to help take self portraits and to make it easier.


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

1. focus on the tripod

I love using a tripod. But if you don’t have one, anything will work! I have set my camera on books, my desk, tv stand, mantel, stairs, counter, table, anything stable will do. Make sure it is stable, I don’t want any camera’s breaking! The trick here, and it’s a favorite of mine, is to stand where you want to stand, camera in hand. Then, and here’s the magical part, you focus on where you are going to put your camera (the tripod, the counter, the stack of books, etc). Focus on where your camera is going and set your focus to manual focus. Not sure how to do that? Look it up in your manual! Mark the spot where you are standing, sitting, etc. Make sure you go back to that same spot. Next, set your camera on your tripod, table, etc. and go back to where you marked your spot. Use your timer or remote shutter and ta-da! You are in focus in every shot. Such a fun trick.

2. hand the camera over

This is probably the number one thing I do when taking a self portrait. Whether it’s really considered as a ‘self’ portrait or not is entirely up to you! But, hand the camera over to someone. First thing you want to do is have them model for you. Get the settings the way you want them. Take a test shot and make sure the image looks the way you want. Then I like to show the person helping me the image I took. I’ll tell them, “focus in the middle” or “put the little square on my face” etc. I will tell them EXACTLY what I want! That’s the key here. I show them how to focus. I give them pointers on how to get the shot that I want and what I would do. I also fully encourage taking a lot of images. My husband has a hard time with this. He sometimes only takes one image and then that one image doesn’t turn out. Since they are new to a camera this big, I really encourage them to take as many images as possible. Then, ONE of them will for sure turn out.

3. do something in your photo

 What I mean by this is don’t just smile at the camera. Sure, it’s fine to have photos like that. But do something else in your other photos, as well. Hug one of your children. Show yourself doing the dishes. Show yourself playing with your kids. Do something in your photo. It helps make self portraits less stiff and more genuine. It helps you photograph who you are. I love holding my baby boy. It gives me something to do and helps my arms look less awkward.
I really encourage each photographer (and mom, for that matter!) to get in the frame. Not only does it encourage creativity (trust me, try getting in the frame and you’ll see what I mean) but it also helps photograph you. You’re important, too. You were there, too. Hand that camera over. Set up the tripod. But the camera on a ledge or counter. GET IN THE FRAME. I cannot stress it enough. It is so important in your photography career. The more you do it, the better your self portraits will get.