Macro Photography: How and Why You Should Use a Third Hand

If you follow my blog at all, you know how much I love using a third hand in my macro photography work. Using a third hand is useful in many ways, including, it gives you the freedom to pose your flowers the way you want. It allows you to have whatever background you want (more on that later!) and it also allows you to isolate your flowers. For these reasons alone, you should buy a third hand. They are so handy (pun intended) and I love mine! Also, it’s very affordable. This makes it the perfect gift for photographers. The holidays are coming up, so make sure you get one for yourself or a fellow photographer friend!

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 800 | f/5.0 | 1/400ss

the setup

First of all, what is a third hand? It’s this fancy little metal thing that allows you to clip things on it. It has two on each end. My third hand came with a magnifying glass that I just removed (it can get in the way, but it’s really easy to remove!). Once you have your third hand, and a bundle of flowers (I buy mine from Kroger, but I may one day upgrade to something else), you’re ready for the setup. The image below is nothing fancy, I just really wanted to show you how I set up my shots for macro. I have a nice white table (find one similar here) that I took the legs off of and then for added effect and color, I used a scarf I had laying around. That’s one nice trick to do. Use a scarf, a shirt, fabric, anything that can add color to your macro image. You can see my setup in the image below.


Based on this setup (I also want to point out the water bottle I used, that comes in very handy to add texture to your macro images. And the clothespin, those can help isolate your subject, like in this case where the flowers are on the same stem) I got the image below:


taken with: Nikon 105mm 2.8
my settings were: ISO 800 | f/5.0 | 1/400ss

get creative

So with a third hand, you don’t have to keep the flowers upright. You can get creative to get different type of shots. Turn your flower upside down. Have it far away from your background, or up close. The third hand is great because it can also be placed on ledges and wont fall off. I really really love the third hand, if you can’t tell. It allows you to get such amazing images at such a small price.



taken with: Nikon 105mm 2.8
my settings were: ISO 1250 | f/5.0 | 1/320ss

why you should use one

I feel like I’ve already pointed out why you should use a third hand. But in case you need another push to buy one, here it is. Photography accessories are usually expensive. The third hand is not. It’s under ten dollars. You really can’t beat that. Another reason is because it will take your macro photography to the next level. I definitely believe once I bought and started using the third hand, that my macro photography got about 10 times better. Once you start using the color wheel to your advantage and adding in backgrounds that will help make your flower shine, your images become more professional. At least in my opinion. 😉

Having a third hand will make your life easier. Who wouldn’t want that? So, do yourself a favor and go order one now. Your macro photography will thank you for it. Get creative and see what you can do with it.

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

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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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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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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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Waiting for Mom by Alyssa Ahern

Last week my husband decided to take me on a date. We went for a nice long 2 mile walk across the River. It was so nice to just talk, take pictures, and enjoy my son and husband. I love how patient my husband is while he waits for me to take pictures. The sunset was so beautiful, I kept stopping to take pictures! I needed to practice my landscape photography. I have a feeling my boys will wait for me a lot in the future. And I’m so blessed to have them support my photography.

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

check out my Morning Rain Drops post


image taken by: Nikon D610 and my wide angle lens
my settings were: ISO 500 | f/1.4 | 1/4000ss

5 Reasons to Create a Photo Book

I was legit jumping up and down when I saw that a package came for me. I knew exactly what it was – a book I had made from Blurb! I LOVE using Blurb to create my photography books. Blurb makes it extremely easy to make and upload a book. I’ve made three different books so far and I love each of them. They’re so fun to look through and reminiscence. So far, the three books I have made consist of my wedding images, some personal images, and my sons newborn pictures. I plan to eventually make a book of more of my personal images and a year one book of my baby. Photography books are great for so many reasons. Keep reading to find out why you should create a photography book.

need a new book to read? check out my 10 Must Read Photography Books post.

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

1. it’s easy to create

Lightroom and Blurb have made it extremely easy to create a photo book. All you have to do is import your images into Lightroom and click on the ‘book’ tab. It creates layouts automatically for you. You can even add text to your pages. I love that it’s extremely easy to make a book. Once you’re done and everything looks the way you want it, you just simply upload it to Blurb.


2. it’s a great way to display your images

I love printing my pictures. But let’s be honest, they can stack up fast! With photo books it’s great that they’re all in the same place. Have a ton of macro photos you need to print? Create a book, they’ll all be in the same place. There’s just something about your work being printed in a book that makes you smile. Having them in a book makes it easy for the viewer to view your images in the order you want them to. Plus they just look so beautiful laid out that way.


images of my son taken by Kelly Akers Photography

3. it’s a great conversation starter

I’ll start talking about my wedding and then remember that I actually have a book of ALL of my wedding images – yes, all of them. That makes for an even better conversation as we look through my wedding book. And just think, if you have a book of your own images (I only have one so far), then your friends can look through all of your favorite images all in one place and ask you about the memories you’ve captured.


4. it’ll help you grow as a photographer

This step is for if you are creating a photo book of your own images. As you go through and pick images for your book, you’ll check to make sure they’re consistent. You’ll really evaluate each image and determine if it’s worthy of being printed in your book. Going through your images will make you a better photographer. You’ll take note of what you could do better or even go out and try to take a better image so that your book can look professional. I know when I was making my Disney book, I went through and made sure all of my images were cohesive. It made me work at editing to get that cohesive look. It helped me get my editing the way it is today.

5. it’s just plain fun!

Seriously, it’s so fun to look through your images and decide which image to put in your book. Lightroom makes it so easy to pick a layout and put your images in your book. I could create books all day long.


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Morning Rain Drops by Alyssa Ahern

Lately our morning routine has included walks. I like going in the morning when the weather is nice and cool. And it’s been pretty cool lately, so those morning walks have been wonderful. I really like the cool air on my face as I walk, being able to spend this time with my son. I don’t take my camera every time because I really just want to enjoy the walk. But when I do take my camera, I feel inspired. The light is so different in the morning, I’m really not used to it! On this one particular morning, about a week ago, I happened to bring my camera. It had rained the night before and everything was covered in rain drops. Mix that with some pretty morning light and you get magic.

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

need some inspiration? check out my 5 Easy Steps to Getting a Blurry Background.


Image taken by: Nikon D610 and my wide angle lens
my settings were: ISO 160 | f/2.0 | 1/400ss