My name is Melissa Tokariwski[i](mailto:[email protected]). I’m an award winning photographer from Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada and a Lensbaby ambassador.

I have a deep love for macro photography but will capture anything that comes in front of my camera, from babies to new grads, families, Aurora & astrophotography, landscape, and wildlife. I’m here to answer any questions you may have on photography, camera gear or how to break into the industry.


Proof of life photo:

Lensbaby website:

Comments: 159 • Responses: 59  • Date: 

C_Pawn98 karma

What's your advice to someone who wants to take photography from a hobby to a career?

MelissaTokariwski147 karma

Learn your camera and settings. Invest in some Photography classes, posing classes and editing. Build your portfolio with friends and family. Word of mouth is the best advertising. There are a lot of photographers out there. You need to stand out with your work.

XiMs17 karma

How do you afford to be a full time photographer

Where do you get the majority of your income from prints? Sponsorships?

MelissaTokariwski32 karma

I have a day job too and don’t rely on my photography for income. There are several places that you can sell prints on line.

keelanstuart6 karma

What's your day job? I love macro photography, too... it's one of the criteria for selecting a phone - does it have a decent macro mode? I miss my old 35mm sometimes, but the best camera is always the one you have with you in the moment!

Love your portfolio, BTW! You captured some great images! Cheers!

MelissaTokariwski17 karma

Thank you! I an a Resource Office and Complex Case officer for the government. I have an IPhone 13 ProMax and the macro is great! You can turn any regular lens into a macro lens with just some extension tubes or macro filters. A cheap fix to some of the expensive macro lenses!

AnyDayGal42 karma

Hi, Melissa. Your portfolio captures the beauty of cold wonderfully.

What sparked your love of photography and then macro photography? How has the industry changed?

MelissaTokariwski38 karma

Thank you! I was actually very ill many years ago. Stuck in the house, I was already hooked on photography. It was winter and I had flowers. I dove in deep into self learning and practicing. Shooting everyday to improve. Editing and experimenting with Lightroom. Macro is my go to for self therapy and downtime. As for the industry, it is tough and competitive! A lot of people picked up photography as a hobby during covid and a lot of them are pretty good! There are amateurs that call themselves pros. so be weary if looking for one!

neuromorph18 karma

Why do you support lense baby?

hellowiththepudding38 karma

Is this post sponsored or something? There are a ton of photographers i've never heard of, but is this just a random instagram photographer? Googling her name gives nothing but the instragram, which can't be viewed without logging in.

Hell, the second relevant result in the google search is this AMA.

natenate2232 karma

Instagram: Login..

ME: Bye.

RichAd2007 karma

I don’t think companies should be able to use the public internet if they hide everything behind a login.

MelissaTokariwski-9 karma

You do have to login in to Reddit to see comments and have a profile. 😃

MelissaTokariwski8 karma

I love the creativity it offers me with its special effects on the lenses. I love the dreamy glow and blur. There are several different effects available and you can control that with stopping down your aperture. I love the challenge of the manual lenses and the versatility they offer.

neuromorph6 karma

so these are cheap/ non branded tilt shift and other lenses?

any issue with quality? glass?

MelissaTokariwski7 karma

I have only had one problem with a lens and that was a scratch due to my fault. The lenses are tack sharp when you nail focus. It does take some time and practice and patience to get used to a manual lens. Depends what your definition of “cheap” is. Yes there’s some there for $200 but also some there for more. Depends what effect you want. Lensbaby is a brand just like Tamron, Sony, Nikon and Canon.

Tv_land_man6 karma

As a professional, I can tell you that lensbaby may be a cool little thing to toss in to a shoot, it is far from a professional lens option. It's gimmicky and you may find a place for it on occasion, I'm not knocking it per se, but its a little weird for it to be tossed into this AMA. I'll be honest, I've never met a working photographer that has one or if they did, they had one in 2006 and sold it after a few weeks. Again, to each their own. I'm actually surprised they are still around. I remember them in the back of Popular Photography when I was like 15 (2005). These kind of items are a phase a lot of photographers go through, like prisms or cracked lens elements. Cool for refracting some sunlight or a heavy backlight but don't pull it out in front of a creative director for work with an advertising agency.

All that said, I did enjoy this photographer's work. Instagrammy but competent.

MelissaTokariwski7 karma

Thank you! I do not exclusively use Lensbaby for clients. I use an autofocus lens on my main camera. On a second camera I will have a Lensbaby and use that randomly throughout the shoot to offer as an option. They aren’t for everyone they do take a lot of practice and patience. There have been many more releases since then and more improvements. Craig’s mind is masterful and creative for creations like this.

neuromorph1 karma

Yea. I want a dedicated 19mm tilt shift . But as a niche lense $4k is a bit steep.

I think I was part of a lense baby or some other type.of competition in 2004 or 5 where they gave us their stuff to shoot. Won it, but havent looked back at the brand.

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

If you’re looking for the miniature look the Lensbaby Edge optic paired with the Composer Pro 2 is great for that. It comes in 35, 50 and 80mm. The 80mm also has a macro pull out on it.

neuromorph0 karma

If I'm buying a lense for an effect. I really dont want to need any post processing for it. If a single lense can do the same effect.

MelissaTokariwski3 karma

The optic is the lens. The composer pro 2 is the body. Optics can be swapped out for different effect optics like the Sweet or the Twist or the Obscura. It’s a nice system because you don’t have to carry a bunch of full and heavy lenses around, just the small optics and the housing it goes into to make it work. They are also great for reverse Freelensing.

Squidward579011 karma

Did you ever take pictures of how cold it is when you try to get out of your bed in the winter ? How does it look like ?

MelissaTokariwski26 karma

All the time! I love taking pictures of frost and fresh snow. It can be dreamy! The details in frost are pretty amazing. A lot of the times you get a blue hue with snow. that is a retty good indication it is cold or colder. My husband gets up before me and will call if the conditions are good for pictures. I have him trained pretty good.

Popcorn538 karma

Speaking of cold, what about your camera being affected by it. I experimented with some winter photography (very novice) and the cold caused my photos to not appear.

MelissaTokariwski17 karma

I've been out in -50 shooting Aurora. The biggest thing is to put it in a plastic bag before you bring it in to prevent moisture on the lens and in the camera. Once it warms up you can take it out of the bag. Some cameras operate better than others in the cold. I shoot with Sony a7iii

MelissaTokariwski9 karma

Rime Ice

Is one of my favorite Winter things to capture. It's a bit different than Hoar frost.

kjarmund11 karma

What is your favorite dinosaur?

MelissaTokariwski18 karma

The T-rex because the short arms make me smile

Matixs_6666 karma

I have quite a few questions to be fair, i hope you don't mind.

  1. Which camera manufacturer is your favourite?

  2. Do you prefer DSLR's or Mirrorless cameras?

  3. Do you have any tips for a beginning astrophotographer? I've been wanting to capture the Milky way for some time but i don't really know how.

And finally do you have any general tips for a beginner? I'm 15 and i've gotten into photography a while ago but i'd love any tips you might have

Sorry if i made any grammatical mistakes (English isn't my first language) and thank you for doing this!

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

Hello! I started with Nikon. You don’t have to go expensive at first. Learn your camera and settings before upgrading and when you outgrow it. I currently shoot with Sony a7iii. So I’d have to say So y is my favourite. 😁 2 - the mirrorless is definitely much lighter and easier to clean. 3 - the Milky Way will be a wide angle lens and long exposure. There is an app called PhotoPill where you can plan your location and timing for the Milky Way. As for a beginner learning, Shultz Photo School has an excellent program and community to learn how to use your camera. They used to focus on capturing children but since I’ve been there they have expanded to macro and landscapers and different projects. If you join you would see some courses there from me. Other than that google and YouTube are your friends!

ThingAlternative75514 karma

What is your favorite photograph that you have captured so far?

MelissaTokariwski13 karma

It's a picture of my eldest daughter in a field of canola with the Lensbaby Sol 45. It's actually the first picture with a Lensbaby where I thought to myself "i got this". Manual lenses can be hard!

MelissaTokariwski8 karma

Lensbaby Sol 45

Favorite Photo in the Canola Fields

books_cats_coffee4 karma

Hi Melissa! I don’t have anything to ask, but I wanted to say that you have some amazing cold/winter vibes going on in your proof photo - very clever!

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

Thank you so much! I get to -40 and we have long cold winters. It's my time to be creative and have projects! I try to embrace the cold and show it's beauty.... EVen if I can only last 10 minutes outside!

Theyoder3 karma

Who is your inspiration? In ordinary life and photographer role models?

MelissaTokariwski4 karma

My dad in ordinary life. Jon Golden as a photographer. Hes's an amazing person and has some great stories from his assignments. He mentors me and he was the one who got me onto Fire and Ice.

Theyoder1 karma

Thank you so much for your reply and sharing your experience.

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

You’re very welcome!

Aromatic-Mark-61823 karma

What made you want to get into photography? And what has been the most rewarding part of your career journey so far?

MelissaTokariwski4 karma

photography always interested me and one day I just went out and bought a Nikon D5100. Since then, I have upgraded a couple of times and now shoot with Sony a7iii. Let's see... I've won some awards. I've been published in a magazine. All proud moments, but the most rewarding thing is all the memories I have of my kids growing up. I just wish I would have started sooner!

Roketta3 karma

What camera and lens do you recomend for dental photography (inside of patient mouth teeth and outside case models shooting), up to 2-3k€ price range. Is there anything else recomended like that umbrella thing for light, etc.?

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

Lighting is pretty good in a dental office. Depending on far you have to get in the mouth you don't want a really big lens end. I have a Laowa 25mm 5x macro that is great for close up and has a small lens head on it. You would need a light that is small enough to get into the mouth. Sony A7iii performs wonderfully in lowlight. What I suggest may not be what is best for your hands. The best advise I have is to go into a store and hold a camera. They are all different sizes and weights.

culundy3 karma

What's something about extreme cold that people who live in more temperate places like western Europe or tropical climates like South Asia don't realise?

MelissaTokariwski4 karma

You can die in it. It kills your camera battery quick. If your camera is metal you don’t want to touch with your hands. Individual snowflakes and the crystals of frost are amazing!

Leetanidus3 karma

What’s the best tip you can give me for taking good photos of my 8 month old daughter?

MelissaTokariwski6 karma

Find some good light! Focus on the eyes and don't be afraid to get close!

have2gopee3 karma

As someone who grew up in Winnipeg, my first thought when seeing the title:

"Tokariwski? This lady has to be from Winnipeg..."

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

Absolutely! Born and raised 😄

Teddy_canuck2 karma

How does one get over hatred of cold? I'm also a northern Canadian and I can't stand winter, but I also have to work outside in it.

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

Dress in layers. Take warm up breaks. And look for the beauty. It takes a while to train the eye to find those details but they are there! I love walking through -10 to -20 and a fresh snowfall. It’s just so beautiful! ❄️

RunRevolutionary90192 karma

You look like the Ice Queen with your hair and color choices. Is this on purpose?

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

Thank you! Many have called me the ice queen. Which is similar to my IG user name. Skahdee a winter warrior. My hair went grey at a very young age thanks to hereditary genes. I stopped coloring it during Covid and started yay I F purple shampoo and conditioner so it is lavender every day 💜💜

LoneReaper1152 karma

When you go out to shoot, do you already have in mind what you want to look for, or is it just whatever strikes your interest at the time?

MelissaTokariwski3 karma

When I go out I look for details…. A curl on a leaf, flowers, bugs, spider webs, the way the snow falls on a branch. You need to train your eye to spot those little things! I also look at the landscapes too.

Chyvalri2 karma

Are you in Winterpeg because of the cold weather photography or is it a choice to be cold? 🥶:)

MelissaTokariwski6 karma

Born and raised here. I never really enjoyed the cold until I started capturing it. All of my family is here. If that changes we may move. lol

saliabey2 karma

I see that your photos are on instagram- do you have any other places people who don’t have social media (the big names) can see what you do?

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

I’m currently in the process of developing a website but right now I do not. I assume you don’t have Vero either? I’m there as well, not as many pics, under same name @skahdee

ErusSenex2 karma

Hi Melissa!

Like you, I love macro photography and have gotten proficient at it as a hobby. I would love to be able to market it and sell prints. Do you have any advice on how to achieve this? Or rather, are you able to successfully market your macro photography? Thank you!

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

There are a couple websites that can be used. I have never tried so I can not give an accurate answer. Sorry!

Snarglefrazzle2 karma

Have you shot anything in Nunavut or any of the territories? We have plenty of winter for you!

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

I would love to head further up North even if just to Churchill! I’ve been to all the provinces but not the Territories yet.

thenebular2 karma

Now that we're getting into the end of August and they're starting to get seen more, how is the House Hippo situation where you live?

I'm in Whitehorse and for some people, they're almost a nuisance this year.

MelissaTokariwski-1 karma

Are you referring to mice? I actually live outside of winnipeg and never had a problem with them! And we don’t have cats. 🤷‍♀️

DocWiggles2 karma

Hi, thanks for doing this AMA. I just started in macro photography. Do you have any tips to help with depth of field issues?

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

What exactly is your issue? The closer you get the more shallow your depth is going to be. F8 pulled back is much different than f8 an inch away. I usually don’t shoot under f2.8 because I personally need a focal point to be happy.

DocWiggles1 karma

Thank you for your response. I need to keep the aperture in mind when taking my next photos. I had used distance to help with that but I had not thought about f-stop. Sometimes my brain isn’t fully focused.

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

Give it a try! Also make sure your minimum focal distance is correct, every lens is different!

PerennialComa2 karma

Ever thought of coming to Sweden and taking pictures of the cold here? We have some beautiful landscapes here!

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

I would LOVE to come to Sweden! Whether it be macro or landscape I am all in!

FACNZ132 karma

How do you feel new technologies has affected the working environment with so many amateurs on the gig?

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

There is a lot of apps that do magical editing for people. Which is great for online but not great for print. There are a lot of people that got interested in photography during Covid.

thugprincess_62 karma

Off topic, but what do you guys do with leftover milk, assuming you can't reseal the bag?

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

They come in jugs with a lid 😄

Kind_Vanilla75932 karma

Have you ever been up to the Arctic?I'm from Hay River and the scenery in the deep winter is amazing...

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

I have never been to the arctic. I ah ent even been halfway up my province. Would love to go to Churchill and the Territories!

Enygmaz1 karma

What was your most challenging photo that turned out better than you expected? Like one of those chaotic mishaps that succeeded despite the stresses and hurdles you faced.

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

It would definitely be my fire and ice. I lit ice on fire. That project took me 4 months to figure out. And no it’s not just alcohol. And no I don’t share that information. It’s the one thing I Have not shared about my photography. The next would be milk or water drops colliding. That one keeps me busy for hours getting different shapes.

wiwabi32661 karma

Do you have a good way to organize and search through your photos?

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

I do! When I load then to my Lightroom I add a comment in the info of what lens I am using. Because it’s an all manual lens that info doesn’t transfer to the EXIF. Just the ISO and Shutterspeed. I will also add a location so if I’m looking for something I can type it in the search bar and it will come up. The search bar in LR is pretty good.

Mazzaroth1 karma

Some of your images are really great!

Do you have a theme or a signature I should look for to better interpret your art?

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

Thank you so much! I do a lot of Instagram loops that are based on themes. The themes are usually voted on by the group so they vary. Hence the mishmash of photos I capture. I do love me some good color but also love a great converted BNW. Most people can tell it’s mine by the colors and tones.

gerhudire1 karma

How did you get into macro photography?

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

Stuck in a house being ill for several Months I used my time and energy to focus on stuff I could shoot. It developed into a love and the closer I can get, the smaller it is, the happier I am. 😂

TalkingBackAgain1 karma

Melissa, you’re just about my most favourite f-stopper, what new cameras are good these days, and do you use any of them yourself?

MelissaTokariwski4 karma

Thank you! I really like the Sony! Currently shooting with Sony a7iii

ShockAe1 karma

Ohh this is perfect i need cold theme name for my character. give me one?

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

Elsa 🤷‍♀️😂 try googling names that mean cold, ice snow or winter

catharticramblings1 karma

Do you do anything with film?

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

I haven’t tried film in years but recently won a film camera in a contest so I still have to try it!

cellocaster1 karma

What do you think of celebrated Canadian artist Venetian Snares’ hit album “Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole?”

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

I can gonestly say I have never heard of it but now you piqued my interest and I’ll have to go look/listen if it’s something I find funny or offensive 🤷‍♀️

JoshMFBurger0 karma

You played aunt may in spiderman?

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

If I did I didn’t get paid for it 🤔 😂

nescent780 karma

What colour jelly bean do you think is best, and why is it green?

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

Purple is usually my answer 😆💜

LanaDelGammaRey0 karma

What's your favourite quote from Nobel prize winning poet Joseph Brodsky?

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

If there is any substitute for love, it is memory. Joseph Brodsky

LanaDelGammaRey1 karma

A fitting one for a photographer :) I'm partial to "Beauty at low temperatures is beauty."

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

That is perfect for Cold weather captures. I’ll have to remember that one! Thank you.

unterTboot-2 karma

What would you say is your favorite Lensbaby lens and how do you utilize it?

MelissaTokariwski2 karma

It really depends what I am using it for. I actually have two 'go to's" ... The Velvet 85 anfand the Burnside 35. If I am going away those will definitely be in my bag. I can use the Velvet 85 for landscape and macro and portraits. Even some animals and or birds if not too far away. The Burnside 35 gives me a wider view and I love the contrast on it with the built in Vignette slider. It is also awesome for Macro and Reverse freelensing.

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

Velvet 85

Some Aurora with the Velvet 85

Comprehensive-Ebb819-3 karma


MelissaTokariwski3 karma

Same with artwork, sculptures, paintings, etc. No good until you’re dead. 🤷‍♀️ There is lots of competition out there!

thenebular-4 karma

You're walking in the woods, there's no one around and your phone is dead. Out of the corner of your eye you spot him.

He's following you, about 30 feet back, he gets down on all fours and breaks into a sprint.

He's gaining on you

You're looking for you car but you're all turned around, he's almost upon you now and you can see there's blood on his face.

My God, there's blood everywhere!

What are you going to do?

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

I assume you are referring to a bear and not an escaped convict 🤔. I do Carry a wildlife horn and bear spray when I’m out in the woods.

SerFraust-4 karma

So you like cold? You should come to Kazakhstan. I'll show you cold.

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

Well I don’t really like cold. I have just learned to embrace it and show the beauty of it. We have hit -50 many times and the camera battery doesn’t last too long then.

usedatomictoaster-4 karma

Have you ever captured the beauty of a Tim Hortons bathroom?

MelissaTokariwski1 karma

Shooting in bathrooms is not my Forte but you never know what you can find... maybe one day I will

ZellZoy-7 karma

Why did you limit yourself to only photographing Canadians?

MelissaTokariwski9 karma

I photograph in the US as well when I am there. But because I am in Canada this is where I do most of my work.