photography tips + tricks

5 Easy Steps to Getting a Blurry Background

So you finally have that nice camera that allows you to switch the lens (also known as a DSLR camera) thinking you’re all set to take beautiful pictures. And, for the most part, you will get beautiful images. However, you’ll start to realize that you can’t get that blurred background you see all these other photographers get.  I know when I first started photography, I really wanted to get blurry backgrounds. But, I was shooting on auto mode and didn’t understand anything about manual mode. When I discovered how to get that blurry background, my photography literally changed for the better and it just got better and better from there. Getting a blurry background is easy. I’ll break it down in five easy steps.

need some inspiration? check out my 5 Ways to Shoot the Same Subject post.

5 Easy Steps to Getting a Blurry Background (1)This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!

I suppose the number one tip is to learn manual mode. Learning manual mode is the very first step. Manual mode is great because it allows you to control everything. It allows you to get the images you really want. And, yes, it will even allow you to get those blurry images you so desire. I really enjoyed Clickin Moms Mastering Manual Exposure class. It taught me all I needed to know about manual exposure, plus you get to keep all the material they give you for reference. After mastering manual exposure, here’s the steps to getting that blurred background you so desire.

1. get the right lens

When I first started out, I only had a kit lens. A kit lens is usually the lens that comes with the camera. They typically have a name of Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G. The part that makes this lens not the greatest is the aperture. Because it says f/3.5-5.6 it means that the aperture could change depending on the focal length (18mm versus 55mm and so forth). This makes it extremely difficult to learn manual, so if you’re trying to learn manual with a kit lens, I suggest you take the plunge and upgrade. A great first lens is the Nikon 50mm 1.8 for Nikon and the Canon 50mm 1.4 for Canon. They are literally the cheapest lenses out there. But they are good quality and great for starting out. These lenses allow you to have apertures of 1.8 and 1.4 which is what you want in order to get that blurred background.


2. aperture

Getting the right lens will allow you to use a wider aperture (the lower the number, the blurrier the background. The higher the number, more of the image is in focus). When setting up your shot, make sure your aperture is about a 2.5 or lower. Shooting wide open (the lowest number your lens can go) will definitely give you a blurry background, however, it will be hard to get what you want in focus to be in focus. So I usually like the aperture to be around a 2.


3. pull your subject away from the background

Yes, that’s right, pull your subject far away from that background. I’m talking a few feet, if not more. The farther the background is from the subject, the blurrier it will be. Which brings up my next point of depth of field.


4. depth of field

Depth of field is basically what we’ve been talking about this whole blog post! The distance to you and your subject, the distance from the subject to the background, lens focal length (50mm, 24mm, 85mm), and aperture all play a part in depth of field. So, for me, I like to practice being far away from my subject and being close. Since I usually have my Sigma 24 1.4 lens on (literally the best lens in the world and everyone should own one!) I tend to stand pretty close to my subject if I want to blur the background. The reason I would have to stand closer is because the 24 is a wide angle lens, which means more of the scene can be captured. By standing far away from my subject, I won’t get as much blur as an 85mm lens would. I could literally write a whole blog post on depth of field. There’s so much to it. But for this post, try standing close to your subject (while the subject is far away from the background) and then try standing a little further from your subject. Look and see how the background changes. Is one way blurrier than the other?

5. practice

Practice, practice, practice! First get good at manual exposure. Then buy yourself a new lens (I give your permission!). Then make sure your aperture is wide open (or close to it) and have your subject move far away from the background. You’ll get those blurry backgrounds you so desire in no time.


Like what you read? pin it for later!


editing tips + tricks · photography tips + tricks

10 Must Read Photography Books

There are so many things to learn when it comes to photography. Which is one of the reasons I love it so much. But trying to learn these concepts on  your own can be quite the challenge. There are plenty of wonderful books out there to help you learn new techniques. From editing, to taking the picture, to even blogging, there are tons and tons of books out there. Here are my must read books regarding anything related to photography.

need some help setting goals? check out my Settings Goals post.



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

1. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5: Classroom in a Book – I am very slowly making my way through this book. But just within the first 40 pages I have learned so much! If you are a newbie to Lightroom like I am, this book is definitely the one for you. I love how it has exercises that you can follow along with. It has a hands on approach and I love it. I’m excited to continue going through it and learning more about Lightroom.

2. Adobe Photoshop CC Classroom in a Book (2017 release) – I do not have this book, but I assume it’s similar to the one above. I have Creative Cloud (CC) and would most likely benefit from this book. If you need help with Creative Cloud and need a little more help than just with Lightroom, this is the book for you.

3. The Design Aglow Posing Guide for Family Portrait Photography: 100 Modern Ideas for Photographing Newborns, Babies, Children, and Families – This book has so many great ideas and tips to creating images. Not only are there tips on every page, but every photograph has the settings that were used and what type of light was used. Reading through the book is easy and fun. The pictures are beautiful and the tips are so helpful. A must read!

4. Mastering Exposure – This book takes you through the basics of exposure – ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. It breaks each one down and explains them better. Then after that it goes through and explains how to achieve certain effects with specific settings. It’s a great read and will definitely help you if feel like you are struggling with exposure.

5. Mastering Composition – Just like Mastering Exposure, this book will also take you through the basics of composition and then go more in depth on how to get certain comps.

6. Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies – I haven’t read this book but it is definitely on my list! I have heard great things about it. Skin in photographs is probably one of the hardest things to get correct. This book will help you do just that each and every time you edit your images! Going along with this book, another great guide is Flawless: The Secrets of Skin (Sarah Wilkerson) from Clickin Moms.

7. Photographic Composition: A Visual Guide – I’ve had my eye on this book for quite a while, but I need to finish a few books before buying any more! This book has beautiful photographs, with an in-depth breakdown of the photographs and why the composition works for it. Definitely buying this one next!

8. Capture the Moment: The Modern Photographer’s Guide to Finding Beauty in Everyday and Family Life – This book is next on my list of books to buy. Created by Clickin Moms, this book goes through natural light, composition, storytelling, fine art, black & white, low light, and the technical aspects of photography. Along with having beautiful images for each category, there are also creative exercises to try and perfect. This book is perfect for getting out of a rut and being inspired.

9. Mastering Macro Photography – This book comes out October 1, 2017 and I am beyond excited about it. It is similar to Mastering Exposure and Mastering Composition – made and written by the same company. This book is sure to have beautiful photographs along with ways to achieve certain macro effects. Looking at Amazon, it will also explain the best equipment to use to get macro photographs. I’m really excited to get this book, I know it will help my macro photography.

10. Mastering Landscape Photography – Landscape photography is something that I dream of becoming better at and this book will help me do just that. I love the images in this book and the beautiful ways David Taylor explains things.

There are so many books out there. What photography (or editing, writing, blogging) books do you recommend? Post in the comments below!


photography tips + tricks

Why You Should Take Pictures at Different Times of the Day

We all have that one time of the day that we just love to photograph. For most, it’s probably the golden hour. For others, it’s probably mid-day inside. Lighting is really important in photography. It helps define your style. It also helps bring your photographs to life. Flat lighting is still fine, not every image has to be award winning. Life happens around all types of lighting, and as a photographer, you just have to learn how to use that light. There’s some hard lighting, soft lighting, tricky lighting, artificial lighting, natural lighting, the list goes on. Learning how to use each type of lighting will definitely benefit you as a photographer. Keep reading to see why.

need some ideas to shoot the same subject? check out my 5 Ways to Shoot the Same Subject post.


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

All images in this post were posted on my Nikon D610 with my Sigma 24mm lens.

it helps you learn how to use each light

Taking images through-out all different types of light helps you learn how to use that light. When I first started photography, I got stuck ONLY photographing at the golden hour for a few reasons. One being that I just loved the images I got. The light was so pretty! Another reason being that it was easy. I knew how to work the golden hour. Around this time last year I bought a breakout from Clickin Moms (Discover the Magic in Everyday Light by Gina Yeo) that forever changed the way I looked at light. It challenged me to get out there and photograph different types of light, not just back-light. I hope this post does the same for you.

you’ll get more variety in your images

Just like I mentioned above, you won’t just be photographing the type of light you know and love. You won’t just have back-lighting, you’ll also have side light, butterfly light, harsh light, full sun, directional light, overcast light, and so forth. You’ll have to much more to add to your portfolio. It’s important to practice and learn about all types of light.

Here’s a good exercise to try. Take a picture of the same subject at different times of the day.  I often go on walks around my neighborhood around the same time everyday. That time is around the golden hour time. I would always take my camera, but I wouldn’t always come home with images. I was just fresh out of ideas. I finally went on a walk earlier in the day, when the sun was higher. I was inspired again and got different images than usual.

All of the following images were taking at the same location, different times. (I even checked the times in Lightroom to confirm!)

This first image was taken at around 11 am.


This next image was taken at 7:30 pm (my normal time to walk around the neighborhood!)


And these last two were taken at 4:30 pm. For me, these last two have the most ideal lighting (it looks closer to golden hour than the 7:30 pm one!).



you’ll be able to take great images anywhere, anytime

You won’t be limited to just that golden hour light. You can take an amazing picture anywhere, anytime! You can make any light work for you.

Here’s another fun exercise you can try. Get a subject (a person, an animal, even a stuffed animal will do, just get a subject and stick with it). Next, pick different times and locations. Now, try and photograph this subject with different light. The reason to have the same subject is to see how the image changes.

I picked my sister as my subject.

Shade light


Mixed lighting – artificial and natural


Dappled lighting


Open shade/dappled lighting


Back light


It’s so fun to see the different images you can get with the lighting. Go out and practice!

Light is the heart of a photograph, it brings it to life. Learning to use it is essential. Another exercise (similar to the one above) is to pick one location and photograph the same subject during different times of the day. You’ll get all different types of light. Pick one outdoor location and one indoor location, and one subject. You’ll see how the different light effects the subject in different ways. For the indoor location, be sure to pick one with a window to work with natural light. Have fun experimenting, and be sure to share them!


photography tips + tricks

5 Ways to Shoot the Same Subject

I’ll be first to admit that I am an overshooter. I take a lot of images of the same thing, just to be sure I get the shot that I first set out to get. I usually start off with a simple perspective, my perspective. Then I’ll move from there to shooting down. Shooting up. Stepping to the side. You name it. It’s important to try different perspectives. I tend to find that I can get two completely different shots of the same subject if I just change my camera angle a little. And I tend to like them both for two different reasons. Read on to see why you should take more than one image of the same subject and for a few examples of different perspectives.


A great way to add variety to your portfolio is shooting the same subject in different ways. There’s many more ways to do this than what is suggested below. Experiment and have fun with it.

2017-05-15_0001shoot far and up close

Include the environment in your shot. Take a wide angle shot. Then get in close and take a picture. This is a great way to get a variety. You can tell I shot in the same place in the images above, but they are two very different images. I love both of them for different reasons. I love how the first one shows the environment. It shows a run down shed. Then the second one completely focuses on the girl in the image, shaking her head. Both are beautiful and both tell a different story.

2017-05-15_0002shoot up

In the next two examples, I show both straight on and shooting up or down. For shooting up, it tends to work better to make an object seem big. This could work for dogs, for children, something that is already small. I don’t shoot up often, especially now since I’m 8 months pregnant, but I do love the variety of shots I can give from shooting up. Shooting up on these blue berries (I am actually not sure what these are!! I wonder if they are poisonous?) shows many more blue berries than shooting straight on.

2017-05-15_0003shoot down

I am obsessed with shooting down on my subjects. Usually because my subjects include dogs, children, and flowers. I think it adds a fun twist to the image. Shooting straight on can be fun as well, but I just love the way images that are shot down look. I love the catchlights I can usually get in my subjects eyes, because light is coming in from above. I also love including my feet in images where I’m shooting down. This can be a fun way to get in the frame.

2017-05-15_0004blur one of your shots

I purposely blur some of my shots sometimes. I think it adds a cool effect to it. Both of the shots above are great and I love both of them for different reasons. But I love the blur one because I think it adds mystery and makes you linger just a little longer. Blurring my shot is especially easy since I use Back Button Focusing, I can just simply twist my focus and take the picture, without having my camera re-focus. It’s a great little effect to use. I tend to still try to make the objects in the frame recognizable, like in the blurred shot above. You can still tell it’s a girl riding a bike. When blurring your shots on purpose, just make sure your intent is clear (for example, don’t have a blurry subject and a crisp clean background, that makes it look like you missed focus).

2017-05-15_0005shoot straight on

I’ve mentioned shooting from below and above, but shooting straight on can also be an option in adding variety to your portfolio. Shooting straight on can help include the environment and help tell a better story. In the shots above, I love both of them. But the second one with the environment tells a story more than the other. You can tell with the one shot straight on that it’s someone’s yard, the sun is starting to set (based on the light), and there are more flowers than just the one being photographed. I love including straight on images, especially with children or dogs.


liked this post? pin it for later!

5 (2)



photography tips + tricks

3 Reasons to Buy Phone Lens Clips

If you’re like me at all, you really have a hard time taking pictures with your phone. You just feel like no matter what you do, the phone images look terrible. Even though you have that fancy DSLR camera and those images are fantastic. Once I realized that my phone was not my camera, my phone pictures started improving drastically. I realized that I would not get the same type of images with my phone as I did with my camera. Simply because my phone’s camera was not as good. I even have an android. Iphone seems to be the most popular when it comes to phone photography. But this article is for android users or iphone users. After I realized my phone was not my camera, I decided to buy phone lens clips. At first I thought it was a joke, they were so inexpensive! But once I received them and tried them out for myself, I instantly fell in love with them.


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

All images in this post (except for the first, which was taken on my Nikon D610 with my 50mm lens) were taken on my Moto X.

These Aukey phone clips are really well made. They have a great design that allows them to clip onto any phone. Even my not-so-slim Moto X. I did have to take my phone case off for them to work properly, but that’s not a big deal for me. You literally just clip them on to your phone and adjust the lens so that is covering the camera correctly. And instant magic happens. Let me tell you the three top reasons I can think of for buying these lens clips.


1. they are cheap

Ok, probably my favorite part about these lens clips is that they are cheap. But they are not poor quality! I was hesitant in buying them at first because I wasn’t sure how durable they would be since they were so cheap. But I promise you, you get a lot more for your money. You get two lenses and one of them is a 2-in-1! All for about $12. You really can’t beat that when it comes to camera equipment (can I please get an amen?!). Lenses range from $200 to thousands of dollars! So I’ll take $12 any day.


2. they allow you to have a variety of shots

So, before, you were just taking photos on your phone and they all looked the same. Now with these clips, you can have a variety of shots with just your phone! The three different types of lenses you get are fish eye (my favorite!), wide angle, and macro. I love using the macro one to blur my shots. The fish eye is so fun because of the distortion it causes. And the wide angle is extremely nice because it allows you to get more in your shot. And of course the macro is fun for close ups of tiny objects (and it works like a charm!). And then you have the normal view from your phone. So, that’s 4 different ways to photograph on your phone now. Endless possibilities.


3. no need to lug around that heavy gear

We all know that photography gear can get heavy and inconvenient at times. There have been countless times where I left my photography gear at home simply because I didn’t want to carry it around. BUT you always have your phone on you. And the clips are small enough they could fit in your purse! It’s easy to transport and easy to use. I’m seriously in love with them and I am loving the images I’ve gotten with them. Now, wherever my phone goes, you can bet these beautiful lens clips go to. I really think you should just try it (it’s only $12, after all!) and see what images you can get with your new gear.

What are some subjects you love to photograph using your phone? Comment below.

like what you see? pin it for later!

aly dawn photography blog

photography tips + tricks

3 Tips to Get Started in Macro Photography

I don’t claim to be an expert in macro photography. But it is definitely one of my favorite genre’s of photography. It’s very soothing and relaxing. I also love the beauty of nature and I love capturing that. I am that crazy person that is always outside scouting out beauty in my own backyard. I am that lady that asks for flowers when someone asks me what gift they should get me. And I am that lady that steals your flowers (sorry mom!). But I don’t only find beauty in flower. I love buds, grass, leaves, anything nature. Just give me my camera, macro lens, and nature and I’m good to go.


So first and most important is your equipment. Sure, you can take pictures of nature with a normal 50mm 1.8. But you won’t be able to get that detail and that texture you so crave with just a simple lens. You’ll need a macro lens. The one I have is an older version, Nikon 105mm 2.8, it doesn’t have the nice vibration reduction (VR) like the newer lenses have. I will one day upgrade to a lens that does have VR. I’ve heard that they are so much easier and nicer to use. Now, if you’re not sure you’ll like macro photography (like me) and don’t want to spend a ton of money on a macro lens only to find out you really don’t like it, I would suggest buying macro extensions first. I bought them first and decided, yes, I really do enjoy macro photography and then moved on to buy my Nikon 105mm 2.8 lens. I will point out that macro extensions do not work as well as macro lenses. They don’t get you the clarity a macro lens would. But they do allow you to see if you really want to splurge on a macro lens.


1. don’t be afraid to change your aperture

I’ll be first to admit that I love wide open images. Even in macro photography. But just like in your normal everyday photography, I would suggest experimenting with different apertures. The image above is shot at an f stop of 8. That is quite a bit higher than what I would normally do. But as you can see, since it’s a macro lens and the compression is greater than a normal lens, the background is still blurry. Experiment and see what type of aperture you like best. I do a variety of apertures to get different effects. If you have a wider aperture (lower f stop number) you’ll come to find it a little challenging to get what you want in focus, but it can create a beautiful effect that I sometimes go for.


2. add water droplets

I have a squirt bottle that my husband got me as a gift (us photographers ask for the weirdest things!). And I love using it for my macro photography. I also love going out in my backyard right after a rainfall to capture the beautiful natural water droplets. I love adding water because it gives you something else to focus on. It adds texture and dimension to your macro work.

3. use a third hand

If you don’t have one already, I highly recommend going out and buying a third hand. I use it when I get flowers and for when I just want to isolate one flower. It is so great. Plus you can move your flower to any background you want, it doesn’t have to be the bouquet of flowers that came with it. Like the image above, I used a third hand to isolate the flower and get it with a plain background to really exaggerate the flower and water droplets.

Macro photography, once you start, is very addicting. It’s one of my favorites things to photograph. So, I dare you to start. You’ll be forever grateful that you found such a beautiful genre of photography.

like what you see? pin it for later!



photography tips + tricks

3 Ways to Capture Spring

I was born in spring time (actually, today is my birthday!) and it is my favorite time of year. It’s almost like the new year. It’s a time of rebirth. It’s a time to reflect on how the year is going. It’s a time a beauty. It’s a time of nicer weather (FINALLY!). It’s just a beautiful time. I love the way spring looks and feels. I love the feelings I get when spring time gets here. I love spring cleaning. I love the smell of spring. I just love spring.


1. capture the gorgeous colors

Spring is full of color. From pink to blue to red to yellow. There is color everywhere. I believe the beauty of spring comes from it’s vibrant colors. So make April an all color month. No black and whites! Pick a color and do a photography project of all the colors of springs. There are so many different ways you can capture the colors of spring. And on the plus side, they’re ALL beautiful. Embrace the color, the bright color. Because that is what spring is all about. Bright beautiful colors.


2. capture the light

Finally, the light is beautiful again. When it’s not raining (because, it’s spring, there HAS to be rain) go out and find the light! The weather is beautiful and the sun stays out a lot longer, it’s much easier to find the light. For me I find anywhere form 5-7pm is beautiful light. Find the light and make it work for you.

3. capture the details

There are so many details of spring. The flowers. The bugs. The rain. Pick a detail of spring and focus on it. Focus on the new life all around you. Take out that macro lens, dust it off, and start capturing the little things. Spring is a wonderful time to get inspired in your photography. Try something new.

Embrace the rain, also. Because there will be rain. But that can also be beautiful in your photos.

photography tips + tricks

Why I Switched to Back Button Focusing

I must admit, when I first switched to using back button focusing, it was really hard. It wasn’t clicking for me and I quit after about 5 mins. I went back to my old ways for a while. But I kept missing focus, I kept missing the moment. And I knew something had to change. I decided to switch once again, but this time I was determined to figure it out. I have loved using it ever since. Back button focusing is super easy once you get the hang of it. But, like anything in photography, you have to practice.



So, what is back button focusing? It’s when you assign a certain button (in most cases, I believe it is the AF-L button for Nikon and AF-ON button for Canon) to be your ‘focus’ button instead of having the shutter be your focus button. I use my thumb to focus, and then my finger to take the picture. Sounds weird at first, doesn’t it? Why would you want that? Keep reading to find out why I wanted to use back button focusing and how it could actually improve your photography. (For a more detailed guide on how to switch your camera to back button focusing, read this article from ClickinMoms).


refocusing isn’t an issue

You know how you hold the shutter button down half way, it focuses, you take a shot. Then you go in to take another shot, and it has to refocus again because you pressed the shutter button down half way? It’s super annoying and sometimes makes you miss the shot! The reason I love back button focusing is because you can focus using your thumb (usually the AF-L button for Nikon users!) and then press the shutter speed. If you stay in the same position and your subject doesn’t move, you don’t have to press the AF-L button again to refocus, you can just press the shutter button. This allows you to be quicker at taking photos, and helps you miss less shots. Win win in my book.


recomposing is easier

So, I know for Canon users, they recompose a lot. As a Nikon user and one who toggles her focus points, I don’t do this little trick very often. But I definitely do it more now that I use back button focusing. Recomposing simply means you focus on your subject, and change the composition of your shot afterwards. This can come in handy if you want to just leave your focus point in the center, and then recompose to get the composition you want. For me, I usually toggle my focus points, though. But it’s a personal preference and something you should practice and figure out which method you like better. I recompose A LOT for my dog images.


locks focus

It locks focus! I think I have touched on this a little throughout this blog post, but once you press the AF-L button and lock focus, you can take all the pictures you want with pressing the shutter button and never once will your focus change. This is PERFECT for self portraits, and I mean perfect! I simply stand where I want to stand, focus on my tripod or where my camera will be, lock focus using back button focusing, then set the camera on the tripod. I don’t have to switch my lens to manual focus, because the focus is locked. Then I can press the shutter button (again, focus is locked, I don’t have to worry about it refocusing on me!), after turning on self timer mode, run to where I was standing, and I’m in focus. It’s simple and easy. (I wrote another blog post about self portraits that you can read about, Because You’re Important Too).

miss less shots

Since I started using back button focusing, I have missed less shots. Of course, I still get some shots where I miss focus (please tell me I’m not the only one!) but since switching, I have noticed a significant difference in the number of shots I miss focus on. Back button focusing is perfect for action shots. Instead of having your index finger do all the work, you add in your thumb and will be able to press the shutter button quicker, resulting in an in focus shot.

If you haven’t tried back button focusing, I seriously recommend it. It does take a little while to get used to. And you might get frustrated (like I did, when I first tried) at first, but don’t give up! In my opinion, it is worth it. The number of missed focus shots I get has gone way down since using back button focusing.

What is one reason you’re hesitant to use back button focusing? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

photography tips + tricks

Setting Goals : Why it Will Improve Your Photography

I am a goal setter. I love setting goals and completing them. I am constantly thinking about goals in my mind. But, if I just think about my goals, I tend to have a problem with never completing them, or worse yet, forgetting about them completely. So, my new secret to staying on top of things is writing my goals down. Yes, it’s really that simple. I bought myself a planner and it is amazing. I love it! In my planner I write yearly, monthly, weekly, daily goals. It keeps me motivated and inspired. Let me share with you why setting goals is so important to your photography (and life, even!).

2017-03-26_0001Taken with Nikon 50mm 1.8

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

All images in this post were taken with my Nikon D610 and the Nikon 50mm 1.8.

setting goals give you focus

Sure, you could just go around and photograph whenever you wanted, whatever you wanted (and you can still do that with goals). But setting a goal will help you focus on something specific. For example, I set yearly goals, monthly goals, and even weekly goals. One of my yearly goals this year is to complete a 365. While one of my monthly goals would be to focus on light. Or composition. You get the picture. A weekly goal could simply be that I get 7 images that week. Looking at the 365 head on sometimes terrifies me. But if I look at it as a weekly goal, it’s much more manageable. The 365 goal is for me to grow and develop as a photographer this year. All of my goals have purpose and reason behind them. And they all help me focus on something so that I can grow and develop even further.

2017-03-26_0002Taken with Nikon 50mm 1.8

setting goals holds us accountable

Ok. You can’t just set goals and keep it to yourself. Share with your photography friends. Share on your blog. Share with your family. Then make those people hold you accountable. Then, you’ll actually do it! Setting goals allows you to put yourself first. These goals are you for you. No one else. But still enlist the help of your family and friends to hold you accountable. If you’re like me, you like writing down goals so that you can cross. them. off.

2017-03-26_0004Taken with Nikon 50mm 1.8

setting goals gives you motivation

I know I’ve sat there before thinking, what should I photograph? That’s where my weekly and daily goals come in handy. I know I am going to take a photo every day. That can seem daunting. When I really try to focus on a specific thing that week, it makes it easier. So I will set a goal for the week. Like, work on getting in the frame more this week. Then that week, I will really try to be in the frame in every image, or most of the images. That helps me work on my 365 while also working on my self portraits. I am no where near perfect in this category, hence the reason for my goal!

Other goals for the week could include…

  • focus on a certain color (example, yellow for the month of March)

  • work on your compositions

  • work on your side light

  • work on your back light

  • work on your self portraits or portraits

The list, literally, goes on and on. This really helps motivate me weekly to get my photo in for the day! I try to start out on Monday with what I want to photograph for the week in mind.

settings goals encourages success

Of course it does! You are working towards something. It doesn’t matter if the success is big or small, it’s still success. Did you complete one of your small goals? Mark it off and celebrate! Did you complete one of those big goals? Mark it off and DEFINITELY celebrate! When you set goals, write them down, and cross them off, no matter how little or big the goal is, that’s a success. And if you’re like me, you like crossing that goal off your list.

I am a total believer that goal setting will help you improve any aspect of your life, and not just photography. When I started this photography journey I didn’t set goals and it took me awhile to get to a certain point in my photography. I was taking snap shots for a long time. When I finally plunged and decided to learn manual mode from Clickin Moms, I learned the importance of goals. My photography quickly became what it is today, and it is still evolving into something even greater. Goals saved my photography. Literally.

So, go write some goals.



photography tips + tricks

My Favorite Time of Day to Photograph

When asking a photographer what their favorite time of day to photograph is, the usual response is “GOLDEN HOUR!”. I absolutely love the golden hour, and when I first started this photography adventure, that would have been my answer. No questions asked. The golden light that comes from golden hour is to die for. It was usually the only time I had available to photograph, due to working a full time job. But, after experimenting with light and learning how to use it a bit better, I’ve come to realize that golden hour is not my favorite time to shoot. I still love every shot I get from my golden hour sessions, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve come to love a different time of day. That time is from any where from 10am-12pm.

2017-03-13_0001Taken with the Nikon 50mm 1.8

I still find myself photographing mostly in the golden hour. But that is because I get home from work around that time. If I stayed home all day, I would definitely photograph more in the 10am-12pm slot. There are just so many different pictures you can get. And I feel I am most inspired around this time. Here are a couple of reasons why I love this time frame to photograph in. All images in this blog post were taken in that time frame.

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

All images in this post were taken with my Nikon D610 and the Nikon 50mm 1.8 or the Sigma 24 1.4.

2017-03-13_0002Taken with the Nikon 50mm 1.8

the light

I love the light that goes on in my home at this time. It inspires me a lot! I also tend to love this time in other people’s homes. The light inside is ideal. There are catchlights, pretty highlights, nice definition. I just love it and I am drawn to it. I can create depth from the light. I can add shadows or highlights, just by messing with blinds and curtains. There are also usually some pretty light shapes going on at this hour. I love the brightness this light can bring, but also the shadows I can get. This hour is especially good for natural light, which is mostly what I use in my images. I just turn off all artificial light in my home and watch as the light changes (and it changes so fast!). It always inspires me when I see light leaking in from the window at this hour!

2017-03-13_0003Taken with the Nikon 50mm 1.8

the comfort

I find photographing inside much more comfortable than outside. For one, it’s not hot or cold. You can be in your pjs for all anyone cares (been there, done that). And you don’t have to wait for that perfect light like when shooting at the golden hour. You can sit back, watch some tv, and just observe the light, and then once you are inspired by it, photograph it. Then you can go back to your tv watching! I just love this time of day because it’s easy and comfortable. This could definitely be the lazy side of me, but I will admit first hand that I prefer comfort over almost anything. Plus I find this time to be best for indoor sessions with clients. The clients are usually awake, but relaxed. They haven’t had a long day yet. The kids aren’t completely crazy yet. They’re comfortable at this hour.

2017-03-13_0004Taken with the Sigma 24 1.4

sunny or overcast – it doesn’t matter

This time of day is great on a sunny day or an overcast day. Yes. That’s right. It really don’t matter what the weather looks like. The light will either be soft and creamy, or slightly harsher. You can even photograph this time of day outside (I prefer overcast for that). I can’t seem to find a limit to this time. Outside, inside, sunny, overcast, cloudy, it doesn’t matter! You can still make beautiful images at this time of day no matter what. And for me, that means that this time beats the beautiful golden hour any day.

If you don’t normally photograph at this time of day, go do it right now. I’m serious. Go experiment with this time of day! It’s fun. The light is awesome. The subjects aren’t tired, they’re usually comfortable, and it doesn’t matter what the weather is like!

What is your favorite time of day to photograph? I’d love to hear all about it.