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


Lightroom Shortcuts You Should Know

Lightroom Shortcuts You Should Know
Shortcuts make everything easier, am I right? I am about things to make my life easierLightroom shortcuts are amazing. They help get your work down in half the time. No joke! I love using these shortcuts to quickly edit pictures. And who wouldn’t want to quickly edit pictures? I love Lightroom for so many reasons. One of them is because of how easy Lightroom is to use. I will be honest, I started off a Photoshop only girl. But one of my friends convinced me to switch to Lightroom and I’m hooked. I don’t know what I’d do without Lightroom! Lightroom shortcuts make Lightroom my go to editing software. I only take an image into Photoshop if I have to. Like if I need to clone something horrendous out! But that doesn’t happen often. I hope you find these Lightroom shortcuts helpful and I hope they speed up your Lightroom and editing time!

check out my Why You Should be Comparing Your Images in Lightroom post for ideas to get you started

Lightroom Shortcuts You Should Know

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

lightroom shortcuts you need to know

why lightroom

As I stated above, I love Lightroom! It is so easy to use. That is my number pro. It’s also easy to learn.

Allow me to give you 4 good reasons why you should use Lightroom:

  • It’s easy!
  • You can cut your editing down by 50% from using it
  • It allows you to edit your images beautifully
  • You can make presets to make your work flow even faster

And now, without further ado, I give you my handy list of shortcuts! I have tested and made sure each of these work! I use Lightroom Creative Cloud – if you have a different version of Lightroom, and these shortcuts don’t work, let me know in the comments below so I can update my list!

general shortcuts

Press Tab to hide side panels.

Press Shift + Tab to hide all panels

Press to show/hide toolbar

Press F6 to show/hide filmstrip

Press to enter in lights out mode.

library module

To switch to Library Module press Ctrl + Alt + 1 (Cmd + Option + 1).

1. show the shortcuts

I just found this neat shortcut. If you press Ctrl + / (Cmd + / for Mac users) it will allow you to view a full list of shortcuts for each module. How neat is that? This shortcut expands beyond just the library module – it’s for each module that you are in. If you want to see a list of shortcuts for the develop module, make sure you are in the develop module! Easy peasy.

2. import + export photos

Here’s a nice little shortcut that can save you about 2 seconds 😉 If you press Ctrl + Shift + I (Cmd + shift + E for Mac users) it will allow you to import your photos. I love using this. I sometimes get distracted with all the buttons available that it takes me a little while to find a certain button. With this shortcut, I don’t have to, and it really does help to save 2 seconds of my busy editing time!
Just like with importing, if you press Ctrl + Shift + E (Cmd + Shift + E for Mac users) it will allow you to export your images.

3. set ratings, color labels, and picks/rejects

I use these shortcuts on a regular basis!! They help me when I cull my images. To set star ratings, simply press 1-5. I usually rate my images a 1 if I am unsure and a for keeper. Of course, you can come up with your own work flow. To set color labels, press 6-9. This will change the boxes around your images to certain colors. My favorite is 9 – blue, which is my favorite color! I change all my editing, finished, and ready for export images to blue.
Here’s one of my favorite tricks for Lightroom! I love setting my images as  picks/rejects. How you do this is simply press for a pick and X for a reject. I ‘reject’ any images that are for sure ones I need to delete. Missed focus, doesn’t tell a story, etc. Then I can go to Edit > Select by Flag > Rejected and have all of the ‘rejects’ highlighted and then deleting them all. Really quick & easy and now all of my complete rejects are gone!

4. different view modes

I love using the different view modes in the library modules. If you press it will enter into Grid Mode, showing all of the images in that library in a grid. Get to look through a lot of images. If you press E it will enter into Loupe view, which is basically viewing one image at a time. If you press it will enter into compare mode, where you can compare two of your images. This is great if you are trying to get your editing to be consistent. If you press it will enter into Survey mode, which will allow you to press as many images as you’d like to survey and make sure they are consistent. I love this view. After I am done editing, I press all of my images and then to see if they all look the same. Then if I need to tweak any, I can click on that image, switch to develop, and edit, then switch back to Library to see if the changes look more consistent with the other images.
If you press = or – it will change the size of your grid thumbnails.

develop module

To switch to the Develop Module, press Ctrl + Alt + 2 (Cmd + Option + 2).

1. crop shortcuts

By pressing R it will bring the crop tool up, allowing you to crop right away. Then while in the crop tool, you can press X to rotate your crop view from landscape to portrait, and vice versa. Then if you would like to change the overlay of the crop, simply press O. This will cycle through some different crops, like the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Spiral, Golden Ratio, Golden Triangles, and more. While you’re in some of these crop overlays, you can also press Shift + O to rotate the crop view.

2. adjustment shortcuts

Press Q to pull up the Spot Removal tool. Pressing M will bring up the Graduated Filter. Pressing K will bring up the Adjustment Brush. Pressing will show your clippings, highlights or shadows. Pressing [ or ] will change the brush size (I sometimes find it annoying that Photoshop doesn’t have this shortcut!).

3. edit in photoshop

Sometimes you have to take your image into Photoshop to ‘clean’ it up a bit. Lightroom, sadly, does not have the best cloning tool. If you press Ctrl + E it will pull your image into Photoshop for you to edit it there.

4. create a new preset

The shortcut to create a new preset is Shift + Ctrl + N. If you aren’t making your own presets to help cut down on editing time, I highly recommend it!


What are some things you struggle with and would like to know about Lightroom? Comment below! Also comment what your favorite shortcut is.

Lightroom Free Shortcuts Printable

Along with this fancy little guide, I’ve created a FREE Shortcut Printable for you to print and hang near your computer. After you start using and implementing these shortcuts into your workflow, you’ll start remembering them instantly.

10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest
Learning how to compose your images is a great next step in improving your photography. There are so many ways to improve your photography. I recommend learning manual exposure first, if you haven’t already. Learning manual exposure drastically improved my photography. After you learn manual exposure, the next step is learning how to compose your images better. Learning composition is fun – trust me! It will help take your images from snapshots to work of art. I’m going to go through all the composition ‘rules’ (they are more of guidelines to experiment with) that will help take your photography to the next level.

check out my 5 Easy Steps to Getting a Blurry Background post for ideas to get you started

10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

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

10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

1. rule of thirds

Let’s start with the easiest one!
You are more than likely already implementing this rule in a lot of your photos. Divide your photo into nine even sections. Two horizontal lines & two vertical lines – this is known as the rule of thirds. At the intersections of these lines is where you would place your subject. This placement is so natural. It’s a beautiful (and easy) way to compose your images. By following this rule it gives your image more balance and is more appealing. I love using this composition rule. It is one of the easiest ones. I am naturally drawn to composing a shot in the rule of thirds, I really have to pay attention and focus if I want a different composition. Remember, these are just rules that don’t have to be followed 100%.
10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

2. leading lines

The next way to compose your images & add impact is utilizing leading lines. Leading lines refer to any lines in your images that lead your viewer straight to your subject. This is a great composition rule that will add impact to your portfolio. Once you start seeing the lines, they’ll come naturally and you won’t even realize you are implementing them. In the image above, the lines from the counter tops lead straight to the little girl. Leading lines are great ways to add impact to your images. If you use them correctly, they will lead your viewer straight to your subject. But be warned: if you use them incorrectly, they can cause the viewer to wander all around the frame. Make sure you have your leading lines leading where you want them to, and not out of the frame, for example.
10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

3. fill the frame

One of my favorite ways to compose an image is to fill the frame. You fill your picture up with your subject. This composition is perfect for when you want to focus on the details or get rid of distractions in the background. I think this composition rule is beautiful because it helps you to focus on your subject. I love filling the frame with people’s faces. Get nice and close and fill the frame with your subject’s beautiful face! It helps your viewer to know exactly what the subject is – because your subject is the ONLY thing in your frame! This composition rule can really help simplify your image.
10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

4. color

I think color is the one compositional tool that people often overlook. You can use color to compose your image by adding a pop of color. Look at a color wheel and use colors that are across from each other. Converting an image to black & white can also be a compostional tool.
10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

5. texture

Adding texture to your image can add interest. The viewer goes straight to the texture. It helps bring a photo to life and creates a 3D look. This is perfect for portraits, wedding rings, flowers, even people can have texture.
10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

6. center composition

A center composition can add symmetry to a photo. Usually beginner photographers use a center composition for everything. When using a center composition, I want you to really think about how and why it would add interest to your photo. Look for symmetry.
10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

7. framing

I love framing. Framing is a great way to make an image look more appealing. There are many natural frames in nature. You can use windows, doors, trees, anything that creates a frame within the frame.

10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

8. negative space

Negative space is a great way to compose your images to simplify them. It will draw your viewer straight to the subject. I love using negative space to also get rid of distractions. You can also use negative space to fill the photo with sky – that is always appealing, in my opinion!

Comps (4)

9. reflections

I love the way reflections look in an image. This technique is especially beautiful in landscape photography. But everyday reflections can add so much depth and symmetry as well. Images with reflections in them always cause me to stop and stare a little longer.

10 Different Ways to Compose Your Photos & Add Interest

10. depth

Adding depth to your image is fun. Basically, when you having things in the foreground (front) of your image, it helps give your image depth – or make it look more life like. It can really help to bring your images to life when you add depth. Try ‘shooting’ through objects to create foreground blur.

I hope these 10 composition rules have inspired you to get out and practice! But remember – these rules are just ‘rules’ or guidelines, that once you know how to use them, they are OK to break and experiment with. Don’t ever feel like your image is good enough if it doesn’t have one of these rules in them. Remember to practice all of these compositional rules – practice is what will really take your images from snapshots to amazing works of art.