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

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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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Yellow Flowers by Alyssa Ahern

Flowers always get my attention. And when they’re in a bunch like this? It’s amazing. I love the beauty in nature and I love capturing it. I have a macro lens that I love to use, but there’s just something so rich and deep about using my wide angle lens. It creates such depth and beauty that I am really addicted to. I could photograph flowers all day with either lens, though. I love the simple beauty of flowers. Plus it’s a good excuse to get myself flowers all the time. Go out and buy yourself a bouquet of flowers and have fun and let go of perfection. Nature is so beautiful by itself, it’s hard to mess up photos. If you don’t feel like going to the store, you can have your flowers mailed to you from BloomThatBloomThat has beautiful selections that make me burst with happiness! They are really well made and quick to ship. Treat yourself and buy some flowers.

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

check out my Waiting for Mom post

Aly Dawn Photography - Yellow Flowers

image taken by: Nikon D610 and my wide angle lens
my settings were: ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/400ss

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

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.


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