Mandy Charlton - Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Entrepreneur Secrets from a CEO

Being an entrepreneur is hard, being a CEO is harder, running businesses, there are no short cuts, it's like some kind of psychotropic warfare (can you imagine that?) no one knows how it's going to end and you're not really sure how you're going to get to the place you want to be.

I've been an entrepreneur all of my life, I've always had the ideas and an unusual way of looking at things, I can see businesses from the outside with great ease and I can see business ideas everywhere, this of course doesn't count for my own businesses and this is normal, it's a lot easier to look outward than it is to work out what you need to do so you can yourself achieve.  Here's the thing though, we're so lucky now in the age of the internet to have mentors everywhere, approachable business people who really want you to achieve.  At The Inspire Network, our whole mission statement is to educate, inspire and empower female entrepreneurs everywhere and that's why I'm proud today to support a fellow female entrepreneur, Jayne of Allow Focus Monthly.

You see, when you start a business you're often still working a 40 hour week, it's hard to find the time to grow your business or to go and get help with the things you need, when I started my business it was about 2 years before I found a mentor or even asked other photographers questions, I just went about things my own way, made lots of mistakes but then achieved amazing things.  Today because of the wonders of the internet there are so many people around to ask, like us at Inspire Success and there are tools to help you on the way when you are starting up whilst still running a business.

When Jayne got in touch she offered me an affiliate link but because I passionately believe in this startup I'm not going to use it, I'm simply sharing this box with my world, my network, my women because I think each and every one of you could use this in your life.

So in each monthly box you'll find tools to motivate you, things to keep you accountable, things to help you plan your future and maybe a little treat or two just for you because you're working so hard to build a better life not just for you but for your family, those who love and support you.  I think as a female entrepreneur my mark of success isn't anything to do with money, it's when my kids tell me they're proud of me that I feel like I'm achieving the best things for them and for me.

Allow Focus Monthly subscription box, Mandy Charlton, CEO of The Inspire Network

I actually don't think there's anything else like this out there at the moment and it's even better for me that Jayne is from Yorkshire as we have our own North Yorkshire Inspire group based in Thirsk so I'm hoping if I ask her nicely she might come and speak at one of our meetings.  Often I think, as an entrepreneur there's the greatest of joy in the simplest of products, they're the ones which end up being the most successful and this is simple, beautiful and full of inspiration.  I for one cannot wait to have some time to read Carrie Green's "She Means Business" and when Looby and I finally get ourselves away for a proper sunshine holiday where I can have some time to lie on a lounger and read, this book is the one I'm taking with me.

I love the Allow Focus Monthly box and really, although it's aimed at women starting a business whilst still employed I think it's got a bigger reach than that, as an entrepreneur you never stop learning, you constantly crave inspiration so you can make it to the next level, this box is for all female entrepreneurs everywhere and I just wish I'd thought of it first!!

I was kindly sent this box by Jayne and have no problem at all recommending it to all of my friends and colleagues within The Inspire Network.  I declined the offer of becoming an affiliate because for me this was not about financial gain (actually if I was more financially motivated I'd have a busier life but not a happier one) this was about supporting a fellow female entrepreneur.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Pay What You Can Mini Family Photo Shoots. 30th September, Tynemouth for Mind

Every year I try to do a little good for my favourite charity Mind and so on Sunday 30th September I'll be shooting a day of Pay What You Can Mini Photo Shoots, I'll also be giving 20% of the proceeds to Mind UK, a charity close to my own heart as someone who lives with bipolar disorder and chronic anxiety, every year I try and do as much good as I can and so I thought this would enable families who might not ordinarily afford family photos to have them as well as raising money for a great cause.

Sessions will begin at 10am and run every 20 mins until 5pm and there is a suggested donation of around £75 which is what a session like this would usually cost, you'll receive all of the edited digital images.

The available sessions remaining (early morning, 13/08/18)

Available Sessions - 
10.40 Booked and confirmed
11 - Booked and confirmed
2 - booked and confirmed 
3 - booked and confirmed 

How to book - you can either send money via my Paypal Me link making sure it's a friends and family payment to avoid the fees or you can also send a bank transfer just ask for details and then as a reference write PWYC next to your name.

Please message before sending your donation, and because I expect these sessions to go super fast I can't hold sessions without the accompanying donation for more than 24 hours.

There's been a lot of interest, and I mean a lot, you can see that on the link and that's so heartening, I've already raised money and with a bit of luck by the end of this week I'll be able to send my donation to Mind.

Last year I raised money by selling old digital images, I'd love to raise over £500 this time and there is the possibility of doing 2 days at Tynemouth instead of just the one but I don't want to get ahead of myself so I'm going to fill Sunday 30th first and then decide.

I'm thankful that I've managed to get Harriet, Abigail and her lovely friend involved, if anything, this is a portrait marathon, it's the most sessions I've ever shot in one day so if I extend it to 2 days, I think I'll need to do some training, hehe.  I may even add another 2 sessions so I can do 20 in one day.  People are being very generous and I do like a challenge.  What I would say is I won't be making a profit from this.  I'm taking an entire weekend out of my calendar to do it and I'll definitely not be working during the week after.  I do hope that everyone goes away with at least 5-10 edited digital images , for some families this may be the first time they've had photos together whilst in others, my clients are doing it simply to do a good thing!

So, I'm ready for the challenge and together we're going to do good, come book me and let's make this the biggest portrait marathon in the northeast of England ever!

Friday, August 03, 2018

Challenges, Changes and Positivity

It's been quite a week since last I wrote, this year has much good in it, granted some huge challenges as well but isn't that what life in it's essence is about, we grow from the challenges and if anything, this week has proved beyond all doubt what an amazing team I have behind me, around me and with me at Inspire.  This month is scheduled to be a quieter month, I've promised we are not launching anything until September but then we have so much exciting stuff in the works that I genuinely feel excited about the year ahead, I say year because to me, September has always felt like a natural start to the business year, perhaps because of having children and I always seem to have much more energy to put things into place in September unlike January when all I want to do is build a pillow fort and hide in it until the spring comes.
Chester Cathedral with a teenager, challenges, changes and posititivity, Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer blogger

When Inspire became mine I didn't write a whole new set of rules or a brand new constitution because the ones we already had in place seemed to more than do the job but it's really become evident that we do need brand new positivity filled policies and so that's what we're working on at the moment.  I acknowledge that for some the transition has been challenging, even in a free Facebook group but I'm 100% confident we are moving in the right direction and the team I have around me, we're excited for the future.

This week I went to somewhere I'd never been before and somewhere I'd love to see The Inspire Network launch, Chester, that historic roman city which is full to the brim of micro-businesses on the high street.  I think we could do so much good for entrepreneurial women in Chester and I hope to see groups setting up there.  One of Chester's unusual features is that it has multi-level rows of shops, it's not something I've ever seen before on any high street and it fascinated me.  It's also home to the most photographed clock in the whole world, a tribute to Queen Victoria at the end of the 19th Century.  It also has an impressive 2 mile long set of city walls, just slightly longer than those of Berwick upon Tweed.

It's a quiet city, even during the day you could tell it was nowhere near as busy as say central Newcastle.  I was shocked to find out that Uber hasn't even made it's mark there, talking to a local business person he remarked that they do occasionally come to the city from Liverpool or Manchester but they never stayed in Chester as they just couldn't make money from being there.

Looby was only really interested in 2 things, the Rhoodee, the country's oldest race-course which has existed since 1539 and the Zoo which features in it's own tv show, the secret life of the zoo.  I have to say I was so happy to sit and watch the giraffes I got a little emotional, it's these moments of great beauty which remind me just how happy I have been and how happy I'm going to be again.  Times of transition are always a challenge when you have existing health conditions but some quiet time cleared my mind enough to know that the path I must follow now is one of meditation, mindfulness and reassessment of not only my mind but also my body.  I've always had a positive mindset but  chronic anxiety has been one of the hardest things and it's so much easier to trigger it than it is to kiss it goodbye again.

I am however resolute, like a horse I shall wear blinkers and only listen to the positive, the good, the happy, it's how I've run my own businesses as a photographer, blogger and writer for the last 12 years and I've attracted so many good people, many of whom started as clients and ended up as friends, something for which I'm truly grateful.

I'm off now to shoot a wedding today, portraits and a wedding tomorrow and then portraits again on the day after, winning "wedding portrait photographer of the year 2018 UK" hasn't really impacted on my business yet (it's only been a week since it was announced) but if it's anything like winning last years "portrait photographer of the year 2017" I'm already super busy all of the time, I can't wait to see what happens next.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Seaham Hall Wedding, Mandy Charlton, Newcastle Photographer

It's been about 600 years since I last shared what I actually do for work, but a Seaham Hall wedding with Jimmy Choo's and Vera Wang rings, everything at this wedding last week was just too beautiful not to share.  Last week I found out I'd won "Best Wedding Portrait Photographer UK" in the global wedding awards run by my favourites Lux International magazine and so today is the perfect day to share this.

I'd been to Seaham Hall for lunch but I'd never shot a wedding in their hallowed halls so it's another place I can check off my list, in my big list of venues from 12 years of being a photographer in Newcastle covering not only the Northeast but also lots of special weddings around the UK, I shoot weddings because I love weddings, they'll never make me rich and I believe that you should have really high quality wedding photography at your wedding, even if that means spending just a little more for a couple of hours than having a bland 8 hours of multiple samey photos of the back of people's heads.  I've always said that each photograph on it's own should tell a story and if it doesn't, it doesn't make the cut.  I believe in quality over quantity and I pick my weddings carefully, not really based on venues or budgets, I simply get a feel of a couple and go with that and in the last few years my instincts have never let me down.  I collaborate with laid back couples who are deeply in love, often they have their own stories to tell and they trust me to tell their story and when all is said in done, at the end of the wedding you are left with your dress and the images, you deserve to cherish the memories which will last forever.  I'm not about faddy filters and when I mentor I simply say, work on producing a beautiful colour image and a gorgeous black and white and it's all you need for with that you are creating timeless images.

Seaham Hall is the most divine location for a wedding, it's intimate, it's high end and it is timeless, I'd say it's a classic venue which isn't pretentious, the staff are helpful and courteous (thank you so much to the barman who filled my water bottle and added ice on the hottest day of the year).  I'd have no problem recommending it as a venue even if you're only having a small wedding, sure it's grand and can fit in a lot of guests but it's also got smaller rooms which really do suit an intimate gathering.

When Mike got in touch about his wedding I couldn't say no, I instantly got a feel for a couple who had such style and grace and he and his now wife Michelle definitely have a story to tell, plus Mike actually signed up for my newsletter a billion years ago and loyalty is a beautiful thing.  I met them a few weeks before their wedding along with their darling boy and I knew the wedding really would be a beautiful affair.  I have to admit here and now, it's one of my favourite I've shot in the last few years because they simply gave me carte blanche and permission to tell their story in my own way and so along with the help of Stacey that's exactly what we did and here now, are some highlights of the story of their wedding day.

I photograph weddings mostly in 2, 3 or 4 hour bookings but if you want me all day I'm yours, prices start from £450 for 2 hours, I have bookings in my calendar right up until May 2020 so do get in touch to secure your date, all you need is a £250 retainer and you'll even get a pre-wedding shoot worth £325 included if you book before the first of September 2018.

Send me an email and let's have a chat about your beautiful unique wedding.


Field View Cottage, a dog friendly cottage on the Solway coast

self portrait, pixpro AZ527 Kodak, dumfries and galloway, mandy charlton, airbnb

Last weekend feeling rather numb and overwhelmed with life, I booked an Airbnb dog friendly cottage on the Solway coast, waiting until the last minute paid off as we ended up paying just £187 for 3 nights at Field View Cottage in Port Carlisle, a small village on the Solway coast just 4 miles away from where Hadrians Wall ends.  The cottage had only been a holiday let for around a month and was one of those properties that really justifies just how wonderful an Airbnb stay can be.  To be fair I've only had one really unhappy experience of Airbnb and it wasn't anything to do with the site, it was the horrid owners.
a dog friendly airbnb cottage on the solway coast, field view cottage, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger

Not the case with Field View Cottage though, it had been sensitively renovated keeping all of that beautiful character a cottage is supposed to have and then to add to that it was a two minute stroll down to the banks of the estuary, a village so quiet that Holly Bobbins barely had to be on the lead and she was free to pop outside the cottage for a wander into the small lane without fear although she did find one or two people to "Arooo" at but really, that's kind of obligatory if you are a beagle.

I'd travelled to cumbria to really give a roadtest to the Kodak Pixpro AZ527 kindly given to me by the lovely Kodak folk, I knew I wanted to put it to the test somewhere really special and somewhere it would be given a run for it's money for Cumbria, The Lake District and the Southwest coast of Scotland are some of the most beautiful areas on earth, if it couldn't do a good job there, it wouldn't do a good job anywhere.

Now I should point out if you've just landed here for the first time that I've been a professional photographer for 12 years, the last bridge camera I owned was circa 2005 and I'm pretty used to doing everything manually and the longest zoom I own is 24-70mm, I had to remove everything I knew from my brain to put myself in a position where I could really gauge who would buy the AZ527,  for one it has a 52x optical zoom, AZ stands for Astro zoom and although I didn't have my tripod handy in Cumbria, I did test it on the big shiny moon one evening and yep, it certainly works, it's the closest I've ever seen the moon, I've promised myself an evening with a tripod over the next few weeks to try and get something close up because at 52x zoom, even with optical stabilisation, you really can't handhold, once I got over about 5x zoom I couldn't hand hold.

So, back to the beautiful lazy cottage stay, my brain was furiously working overtime when we left Newcastle and I felt I hadn't breathed properly for weeks, the virus I'd had plus a busy time for photography and running Inspire, suffice to say I was a huge ball of anxious energy, luckily within hours of reaching our destination I felt my shoulders relax, now it may have been the beautiful scenery or it might have been the smell of biscuits in the air as we picked up some shopping at Sainsbury's in Carlisle, for anyone who doesn't know, it's next door to the Mcvities factory and the air is thick with the scent of sweet biscuits, every time you breath it's just delicious.

We'd decided that we would have a day exploring the Lake District and a day exploring the southwest coast of Scotland, and we planned to spend the hottest day of the year in Scotland because the temperatures rarely made it over the low twenties, perfect for Holly Bobbins although she was super grateful to be travelling in a car with gorgeous 15c air conditioning, a happy girl she was only out for short strolls in shady places or a trip on a boat or a quick tasty lunch at a pretty cafe out of the glare of the sun.

For 3 days I managed to completely relax, I took late evening sunset walks with Holly along the estuary, I explored our chosen destinations with Abigail and Harriet and I laughed with them a lot, much more than I usually do because with chronic anxiety, I'm often scared of laughing too much, it induces asthma attacks so i've learnt to try and not let myself truly laugh or indeed relax but for a couple of days at least I tried not to worry so much and just let myself go, I ambled around villages snapping everything in sight, I tried pet mode, beautify mode, landscape mode, all of the things I'd never usually do with a camera although I stopped short of testing the pop up flash, on board flashes are the work of the devil!

The Kodak really handles most situations well, I hated the fixed screen, even with the brightness turned up, I think we're now in the realms of the adjustable screen although it does have wifi and an app you can connect to if you want to shoot remotely or maybe you want to film yourself and you're a budding Youtuber, it does output full HD after all.  I think this is the perfect camera for beginners, teens who want their own camera or people who love simplified processes, although it does have a manual mode I'm not sure you can push it to any better results than the myriad of scene options, it's always a little weird for me using camera's which don't have an eyepiece and that's where an adjustable flip screen would have been a real boon but perhaps this is a consideration for the future.  You know, Kodak were the pioneers of photography so it's a shame that they don't have a professional level camera currently and if they ever release a DSLR I'd certainly love to compare it to my CSC Fuji's and my full frame DSLR Canon.

As soon as we arrived home from our trip the anxiety made it's come back and yesterday I had a full on anxiety attack leading me to believe that I am so much better when I am in remote and relaxing places.  I try to get away around every 4-6 weeks just to keep myself sane and I know I'll return to cumbria time and time again just because it offers that life of calm and idillic living that I crave.  For someone who lives on the edge of the city but craves to be a rural living lady, Cumbria is only a short distance away, I'm not sure if I'm trying to constantly escape or if it's just that I need to calm my psyche often so that I do stay sane.  My life at home is demanding, filled with questions and queries, strategies and way more numbers that I'd ever envisioned and yet when I am away I come up with the most brilliant business strategies and ideas, perhaps because I'm not overwhelmed with the constancy of it, the email pings every 3 seconds, the perpetual messenger alerts (I've had to switch those off as they had gotten too much) and really it's not that I'm scared of hard work but I do acknowledge that life with chronic anxiety is a constant battle when you seek success.

And as for the Kodak, would I use it again?  I would, I think it's a great camera to pop in a bag if you want a day without too much thinking knowing that in landscape mode it'll deliver as well as thinking seriously about your DSLR and all of it's manual settings.  I think this particular camera is going to find a home with my son or my teen daughters who love it and find it super easy to use, much like life, overcomplicating things is never a good idea so it's nice to have a camera which will do the thinking for you and whilst you might not be able to have the moon on a stick the AZ527 will certainly let you capture a photograph of it.

Disclaimer -

I was given the Kodak AZ726 in return for an honest review and this is exactly that.

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