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.

Aly Dawn Photography | 3 Easy Tips to Take a Self Portrait

 

equipment needed

Before we get started, I thought I would talk about the necessities you need in order to take a successful self portrait. Some of these are not essential to your success, they just make the job a lot easier. I’ll show you what I have.

  1. A DSLR – I have the nifty Nikon D610. I absolutely love this camera, it definitely does what I want. It has a lot of buttons to control your settings. I especially love how easy it is to control my white balance and ISO. But a simple DSLR will work, like a Nikon D5100. Whatever you have as your camera (assuming it’s a DSLR) will work!
  2. A Tripod – If you don’t have a tripod, you can use anything else that is sturdy to hold your camera up.
  3. A Remote – not a requirement, but certainly helps. I like using my remote to enable the self timer. Then I don’t have to constantly get up and push the button, I can stay in my spot and just simply push the button on the remote. Makes it a much more enjoyable experience.
  4. Your lovely self – this should go without saying … in order to take a self portrait, you need yourself! A few things to note: You don’t have to look amazing. Sometimes the beauty of a self portrait is the honesty behind it. That being said, it can be fun to dress up sometimes and get in the frame!

Alright, now that I got the list of lovely things you need in order to take a successful self portrait, let’s dive into some nifty tips on getting the look you want.

my 3 easy tips to take a self portrait

I love taking self portraits for so many reasons. One of them is that it’s actually calming to me. And it’s always a challenge to figure out how to compose an image when it’s a self portrait. These tips will help get you started, but remember that self portraits take time. If you were to see my self portraits from my earlier years of photography to now…you would think it was a completely different photographer. My self portraits from years ago just look like snapshots, now they look like art. Give yourself time. Practice. Patience. I can’t stress this enough! If you try out self portraits and these tips helped, please let me know in the comments.

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.

Aly Dawn Photography | 3 Easy Tips to Take a Self Portrait

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.

Aly Dawn Photography | 3 Easy Tips to Take a Self Portrait

3. do something in your photo

I know when I first started taking self portraits, I felt really awkward (let’s not even talk about how weird that word is!) and I didn’t know how to pose myself. I would sit there and stare at the camera, sometimes smile, and they always looked forced. Not the natural looking self portraits I always saw! I would suggest to do an activity. For example, in the above image, I am helping my son get dressed. My face isn’t even in the image, so it doesn’t matter if I’m making a funny face or not! In my images, I usually like to hold my son. It gives my hands something to do and usually makes for fun pictures (because my son is adorable and I can’t help but smile when he’s in my arms!).

If you don’t have kids, you could try something else. Like baking, reading, writing, working on the computer. Mix it up. I also suggest that you don’t always have to look at the camera. If you DO look at the camera, a smile usually looks less professional than a beautiful stare. I have a rule, if I want to smile, I can’t look at the camera! Try it and see if you like the results better.

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!

thirdhand2

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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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!

macropin

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.

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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.

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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!

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

instapin (2)

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.