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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Is it really worth upgrading to the iPhone X just for the camera?

In November last year I upgraded to the iPhone 8Plus purely and simply for the camera, I have enough phone contracts because I pay for all of my teens on the condition that I get the newest phones and really they don't mind that at all.  So after using that until a few weeks ago I decided to loan and iPhone X from my lovely friends at Three who I've worked with lots of times now.

I'd tried an iPhone X in the shop when it came out but I really didn't like the swipe up instead of the home key and I wasn't at all convinced I would like the fact that you unlock the phone and pay for things by using your face, hell, I don't even like my face!!

The phone came, I unboxed it and I was safe in the knowledge that I could use it for a month and then send it back, I really was sceptical about the fact it's got a whole new camera system and could it really be better than the 8Plus?

Let me tell you, it took me 3 days to not only completely fall in love with the phone but by the Saturday I'd been in store to do the upgrade on my own contract.

The iPhone X completely knocks it out of the park when it comes to photography, I'll give you an example of when I was in the lake district with the iPhone X and my DSLR which had a £1500 lens attached to it, I didn't really believe that a phone retailing at just over £1k would equal £2500 of professional photography equipment but you know what?  I was wrong!!




Now I would tell you which on was taken with which but that really would spoil the fun so which one do you think was taken with an iPhone X and which one was taken with a Canon professional body plus a Canon L Lens?


One of them was quickly edited with Instagram and the other was edited with Lightroom but the differences are completely subtle.

Now I'm someone who's always believed that it's not about the camera it's about the person behind the camera and also that the best camera is the one you have with you at the time.  I know after using the iPhone X for nearly a month now I no longer feel the pressure to take my big camera unless I'm specifically shooting for a stock photography agency and then the only difference really comes down to pixels rather than quality.

So, let me show you some more favourites from this last month taken with the iPhone X








I think we'd all agree that for something which you can just have in your pocket all of the time it does a pretty great job and really for me it's a little scary just what a good job it does, I don't think there'll ever be a time when we don't have digital SLR's but at the same time, technology is progressing so quickly, it's only a couple of years since Apple introduced portrait mode which could throw out the background and it's come on since it was first launched in Beta on the iPhone 7Plus.  If you can replicate the effects of a £1500 - £2000 lens with something you can carry in your back pocket, well the world is your oyster and it's a sign of the times that photography will never be the same, I do still think there are times when my big camera is always going to out perform the iPhone and thank goodness but if they're this good now, can you imagine the progress over the next 10 years, maybe one day I'll just need to go to weddings with six small iPhones in my kit....I'm joking about that, no, really it's way too scary to even imagine that.

Thanks to Three for the loan of the iPhone X and for introducing me to my own new phone.



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Friday, April 20, 2018

Where do I go from here?

Mandy Charlton, Heaton Park, Holly Bobbins and Looby, photographer, newcastle upon tyne


Last week I sat down and wrote an impassioned post about business and work and my frustrations about the weather and sustaining business for the next decade.  I deleted the post about 12 hours after I posted it, it felt like a knee jerk reaction and the very next day the weather changed for the better and it's been pretty much sunny ever since, maybe the universe has a way of saying "hang on in there, things will get better"

A week on and I'm feeling low, and that's not helped by the fact that I've put on 4lb of weight in 8 days and my rosacea has broken out, I thought meal replacement shakes were supposed to be the easy way to lose weight?  Especially after amping up my exercise levels, Harriet has also noticed my depression markers have risen considerably over the last week so it's a sure sign something is wrong and I think the only way to find out is to speak to a doctor, they are after all, the experts.

This weekend I have 14 photo shoots booked in my calendar, mainly they're all reschedules from earlier dates where the weather failed us 2, 3 or in some cases 4 times, none the less I feel better when I'm working, it feels so much more productive to me and I know it's a perpetual cycle of people getting excited when they see their images so they tell their friends and then their friends book, something there's been a lack of when I only shot a handful of sessions in the first 3 months of the year.

I guess what took me by surprise this year was that I was prepared for winter, I had savings, no one could have anticipated how long winter actually lasted for and now sprint is on a catch up, in just 3 days the tree outside my window has exploded into leaf growth.  Last weekend when there was no cherry blossom on the trees in Saltwell Park I mused that at least I could offer May cherry blossom sessions this year, probably for the first time as there weren't even leaves on the trees last Sunday.

I'm predicting that the weather now should have sorted itself up and I can press on with marketing for spring and summer safe in the knowledge that when the dark days of winter last too long you usually get a scorching hot summer to compensate.

If you are local to Newcastle these are my next 5 dates you can have an all inclusive £100 mini photo shoot at - 

Jesmond Dene - 29th April - 10, 10.30, 11, 11.30, 12.30, 2, 2.30, 3pm
Jesmond Dene - 12th May 11, 11.30, 12, 1, 1.30, 2, 2.30, 3, 3.30pm

Saltwell Park - 19th May, 10, 11, 11.30, 12, 1, 1.30, 2, 2.30, 3pm
King Edwards Bay -26th May, 10, 10.30, 11, 11.30, noon, 2.30, 3pm
Tynemouth Longsands - 27th May 10, 10.30, 11, 11.30, noon, 1, 1.30, 2, 2.30, 3pm

You get all of the edited images (at least 15x20) and you get the experience of a fun session, all of the kids I meet really enjoy it and there's usually chocolate at the end, I even carry supplies of dairy free sweets, sometimes vegan just in case the small ones are allergic.

Yesterday I also set up a new wedding page on my blog, I think the big dream is to turn this blog into a full on blogsite which encompasses everything I do but I've spent years optimising my actual website so it may take time and a stealthy plan before I can do that.  If you are looking for a photographer in Newcastle for your wedding, that page is a good place to start.

I'm off outdoors now to enjoy some sunshine, a big walk, a healthy lunch, and some time spent with Looby and Holly Bobbins, that I think is just what the doctor ordered.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Why I've resorted to meal replacement shakes to lose weight


1 week into the XSL Nutrition Plan, I'm fat and failing to lose weight, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger


I am fat!  There, I said it and it's not even a joke!  The truth is, I was at a happy weight and then I changed my meds for bipolar and my HRT and I ballooned out of control.  I've since reverted back to the original doses and yet my weight hasn't budged at all, put that together with the long winter where it was so dark and depressing that all I wanted to do was eat and sleep and....yep, things have seriously got to change.

The first thing I tried was cutting out sugar in February but I didn't last at all, for some unknown reason, I just didn't have the willpower I'd previously had, I've struggled on and off since then so when XLS Nutrition got in touch to ask if I wanted to be one of their #BoostBuddies I thought about it long and hard, if you've read my blog for any length of time you'll know I hate processed foods, I hate diet companies with false claims and you might even remember my big old rant about Slimming World.  

The thing is though, I was promised advice from a dietician, a personal trainer and there would be a group of us all doing it together.  I'm not being paid to do it, I'm simply receiving 8 weeks of product plus some new Sketchers and a Fitbit to help motivate me and so I accepted, after all, I'd just spent the last few months working on having a better face and so now, well it's time to change my body for the better too.

Last week I went down to the launch event in London, met my other boost buddies and after the indignity of being weighed, measured we were given motivational chats and a lovely healthy dinner, I came back with much excitement and started the plan on Thursday.

So, 2 shakes a day for weeks 1-4 and 1 shake a day for weeks 4-8, average expected weight loss, 2lb per week meaning a potential stone off in just 2 months.  For the last couple of weeks I'd already upped my activity levels, I'm not quite back to 10k a day but most days I'm on 8, sometimes 12 and I even did 15k when we were in Ireland.  The best thing about the shakes is that they're fully adaptable so if you want to have one shake for breakfast and one for lunch it's fine, if you want to have one for breakfast and one for dinner it's also fine and since I've realised that I mostly go out for lunch every single day that's the way I've been doing them.  I've never felt hungry through the day, it's only really around 9ish in the evening that I find myself thinking about food!  It's also been weird as I rarely eat breakfast and now I'm having it every day, albeit in 250 calorie liquid form.

So the plan is supposed to work with a simple calorific deficit, 250 cals per shake, 2 shakes a day, that's 500 calories leaving a potential 1000 calories for the other one meal a day if you want to lose one pound per week, that's based on the average woman needing 2000 calories a day to maintain their weight and 1500 calories per day if you want to lose 1lb per week.  I'm not sure I've even managed 1000 calories in the one meal other than a couple of days where I was out doing a review or out with the family at the weekend.  I'd say I'd done a pretty good job!

So, after getting weighed last Tuesday night I decided to weigh myself on a Tuesday and always in the mornings or I'd forget and I jumped onto the scales with glee this morning and...

I gained 2 pounds in weight, that's not supposed to happen, I'm supposed to be getting thinner not more rotund and if I am getting more rotund I want to do it by eating cakes and tasty foodie treats not Vanilla thick milkshakes twice a day, I don't mind sitting with the family whilst they have a tasty takeaway and I have a shake if I know it's all for the good of my health and waistline but I can't pretend that I'm not a bit disappointed, in fact I'm a lot disappointed.

Hopefully it's just a small glitch or my bodies way of adjusting to it's new way of life, I've never believed that you can control your weight by calories alone though so I have to at this point remain sceptical but I suppose this is the best thing about this experiment.  As an influencer and blogger, what I say holds so much weight (no pun intended) for you my dear readers and that's why I'm always going to be honest and I'm going to be blogging an update on this once a week and you'll be the first to hear me scream with glee if I step on the scales this time next week and my body has caught up with itself.  Just to say also, I have smart scales which are incredibly accurate and detailed so I know it's not a set of dodgy scales...if only!
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Monday, April 16, 2018

Signing My Teen Up For The National Citizen Service




Abigail, aged nearly 16 off to do the NCS this summer, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer, national citizen service


Abigail, not known for sitting around and lounging about has decided that this year after finishing her GCSE's that she's going to do the National Citizen Service, or NCS, in fact she's already signed up for it, but what actually is it?  It seems teens know the most about it so I took some time to ask her some questions about it last week.

What is the National Citizen Service?

"NCS is a government backed programme established in 2011 to help build a more cohesive, mobile and engaged society. By bringing together young people from different backgrounds for a unique shared experience, NCS helps them to become better individuals, and in turn better citizens. 

NCS is open to 16 and 17 year-olds across England and Northern Ireland. The two to four week programme, which takes place in school holidays, includes outdoor team-building exercises, a residential for participants to learn ‘life skills’, a community-based social action project and an end of programme celebration event.

At a time of huge political uncertainty, where division is more evident than togetherness, NCS is a powerful tool to ensure the next generation see more in their similarities than differences.

In a nutshell, the programme:


  1. Puts young people through a series of challenging activities to take them out of their comfort zones and develop their strength of character.
  2. Provides a progressive journey that hands over more responsibility to young people as the programme progresses and develops leadership skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.
  3. Enables young people to connect with their communities through social action. 

To date: 

  1. Almost 400,000 young people have taken part
  2. More than seven million hours of community action have been completed
  3. For every £1 spent, NCS’ 2016 summer programme delivered between £1.15 and £2.42 of benefits back to society
NCS is amazing value for money. The whole experience including food, accommodation and travel costs just £50 and bursaries are available on a case by case basis. Support is also provided for young people with additional needs."


My teen girls, Abigail is old enough this year to do the NCS, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger


Okay, so that's the official blurb but I asked Abigail why she would want to spend her summer holidays doing this, it is after all 4 weeks out of a teens life and that means they're going to lose a lot of sleep, you know how they love sleeping in until 4pm.

She told me though that it's going to be something else she can add to her CV, I joked that she might already have enough things like working for Unicef and being a youth MP and leading the debate in Parliament last November, seriously my CV is never going to be as impressive as that though.

She also told me that they spend time at an outward bounds type of place where they can do rock climbing, abseiling, basically a week of adrenaline fuelled activities and the kind of thing she'd never get to do with me because my alias is Scare D Cat.

So that's basically the first stage which is called Adventure (the course is split into 4 weeks and 4 distinct stages.

Stage 2 is Discovery and this is where your teen will learn new skills, things they can add to their CV but also fun things, I noted photography and editing, I wonder if I can get her trained up, I even read that it might help you learn skills you could use to start your own business.  This stage takes place in a university style setting so she's going to be staying in dorms with friends, in fact she's sharing with one of her best friends who's also doing NCS this summer.

Then we're on to Stage 3 which is Social Action so they're going to be in teams in the community making a difference to other people's lives, this makes me so proud as a mama that she won't just be spending the summer sleeping!

Finally we have stage 4 which is Celebration and this is where our beloved teens celebrate their achievements and in doing so they unlock cool rewards, discounts and even get exclusive access to the best volunteering opportunities.

I have no doubt in my mind that the NCS is going to add so much value to Abigail's life and when Looby is the equivalent of year 11 (obviously being home educated we don't have the same structure) there's no doubt that I'll be encouraging her to do it too.  They're both very different teenagers but the NCS caters for that and it's basically the teens who are in control of the things they want to do (with a little guidance).

I think as a parent school holidays can be so costly so £50 for all of the travel, accommodation and meals is quite simply the best use of a parents money this summer, I can tell you from my experience a summer of bored teens at home is a costly experience for the Bank of Mum.

I'm really looking forward to Abigail doing the NCS this year, we'll be going on holiday when she's finished her exams so it's not like she's going to miss out on that and then she'll be off on her special adventures for the rest of the summer.

To take part in the NCS teens must be at least 16 years old by the 31st August in the year they're doing it so they can essentially do it when they're 15 as long as they'll be 16 by the end of August.  Looby's birthday being in September means she'll be nearly 17 by the time she does it.
There are still places available for Year 11s to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity this summer. To sign up now, go to the NCS website. use this link

This is a collaborative post with the NCS.
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Friday, April 13, 2018

Does Anyone Have The Answer?


Rain, Rain and More Rain, mandy charlton, newcastle photographer, family portrait photography


This week has been such a tricky one, it's a weird old life that I lead, last year I think I noted that even though my personal life was dreadful my business one was going from strength to strength. Fast forward to this year and my business life is asking more questions than there are answers whilst my personal life is, well, bloody marvellous actually.

Do you think anyone truly has it all?  Business and personal in a fabulous synergy where everything is just about as perfect as it can be?  Is it stupid to dream that I might be one of those have it all types of women?

It's weird how the oddest things can affect business, I never dreamt that this year would hold rain in store on just about every single weekend since Christmas, difficult when your main source of income is outdoor portraiture.  Weddings I think are the constant I think in my business, they happen whether it's sunny or raining, dull or apocalyptically snowing, in my time it's truly done it all, I guess that's why I love them!

I didn't sleep last night, I worried all night trying to come up with ways to continue offering outdoor portraiture all year round and I still don't have the answer, well I sort of do but it's not the most realistic.  You see I guess, whilst I wouldn't want a studio, somewhere indoors that looks like outdoors is the answer, you know like the Sky Gardens in London or maybe an old ruined castle or manor house, all of those would create amazing backgrounds for portraits and all of them would be infinitely possible all year around.  There's no doubt that we have similar spaces all around the Northeast of England, I mean we have winter gardens, we have castles, we have botanic gardens with green houses but all of those are commercial ventures, you can't just turn up at  Belsay Hall and start shooting portraits without an angry English Heritage representative escorting you off the property because it's a £150 per photo shoot on a pre-arranged date/time.

There must be answer out there though and maybe you know what it is, maybe you have a suggestion?  I know I definitely don't want another studio, I did that for 2 years and I hated the fact that there were no trees, I didn't like that you had one small spot of perfect light where you had to try and contain small people who would love to be running around because running around is what they should be doing, it's natural and that's the thing I love most of all, space and trees and beautiful rich colours of the landscapes of the northeast of England.

Maybe there is no answer, maybe I'm going to have to get a team of umbrella holders called Bob, Bert and Bryan to come keep families and me, my camera gear and everything else dry, I do hope they'll help amuse the kids!  Seriously though a patch of Gunnera would be perfect in these circumstances.

So, answers on a postcard please, I need some help and you, my lovely readers may be wise to something I haven't thought of yet.
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Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Dog Friendly Day's Out in The Lake District


Kirkstone Pass, Lake District, Cumbria, dog friendly days out, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer



Last week whilst it apocalyptically rained in Newcastle, I escaped with Harriet, Looby and Holly Bobbins, we chased the sunshine all the way to the Lake District where we found some respite from the continuous northeast rain which seems to have blighted us since Christmas.

I love the Lake District, It's the one of the most beautiful regions of England there's always a friendly welcome for the waggy tail of Holly Bobbins.  Keswick and Ambleside are busy crowded villages full of bustle as well as four pawed buddies, I think we saw three of each breed last week and it's so refreshing where the number of places you can take your dog outnumber the places you can't.  It makes Holly happy and me too, I think they've cottoned on to the strength of the barking pound and I for one love that I can go shopping with my beagle.  It's not just a great experience for me, Holly also loves it, she's so used to greeting her public that she's always ready to stop for pats and treats and occasional "pawtographs"

Whenever I'm in the Lake District I try to head to Keswick, Lake Windermere and the Kirkstone Pass, a beautiful winding mountain road from Ambleside to Patterdale, because it's so mountainous it's ever changing, you could go on 2 consecutive days and the light would make it look like a completely different canvas, it's calming, it's peaceful even when there are lots of visitors and time in the mountains makes me feel like I can conquer the world upon my return to civilisation.

We like the Inn on the Square, Keswick for lunch and a dog friendly ploughmans but really, there are so many dog friendly places to eat/stay/shop you will be utterly spoiled for choice if you stay in Keswick or indeed any of the Lake District towns and villages.  I could quite easily live there I think if I didn't want to emigrate or live in the Highlands which has a very similar look and feel.

If you've never had a dog friendly holiday and you're just craving to try somewhere with your four legged best friend you really can take a safe bet by booking somewhere in the Lake District, literally every time I go, it's so full of joy and wonder with boat rides, train trips, all being suitable for you and your pooch, I know that Holly Bobbins would definitely give it 12 barks out of 10 and she's a very good critic of all things dog friendly.
I'll leave you with a few more photos of our most fabulous Lake District day out, I just wish we could have stayed a few days longer.









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April Roundup - Fabulous products you'll want to indulge in!

It's time for my monthly roundup of what's good and great out there in the world and this month was all about refreshing, wether that be your look, your garden or your home, it's only a short roundup this month, Easter and Mother's Day both being in March meant a bumper round up and I found my inbox to be a much quieter and calmer place although I was still sent a handful of gorgeous products.

I always think of April as the opener to the year, we've suffered through winter and now spring is here at last although if you live in the UK like me you're probably still imagining that we're in the throws of the most grim winter we've ever known.  Hopefully these products might make you smile, and some might even make you want to run outdoors, although, I'd take an umbrella with you if I were you.


1. Small Window Box in Hampstead Lead from Bay and Box, Now I should say that I had plans to have these planted up already but oh my the weather, I have 2 of these boxes and yes, we're growing our own funky veg in them, I think you're going to have to stay tuned to see what we do with them.  They're actually planned to go on brackets on the wall but even the gardener dismayed at the weather, once that sunshine comes though, they're going to look fabulous. I'm ordering an Arbour for the garden so it's a big transformation project, we really do need the weather for it though.

2.Cable and Cotton Fairy Lights, I love fairy lights, I have them all over my house and it's only a couple of weeks ago when I decided to take down the icicle lights to replace them with these beautiful rainbow lights from Cable and Cotton, the best thing about this brand is that you can have any colour combination you want, in all honesty, I haven't quite decided if they're going to stay in the lounge, they're USB powered so they have to stay in the house but they could go out doors for short periods when I'm entertaining and I think they'd look amazing.

3. Sweeties and Treats from Haribo, the darlings at Haribo sent these for the March guide but sadly they arrived just after it had been published so I wanted to include them in April, I mean just because it's past Easter doesn't mean you can't get some spring themed games on the go, it is the long Easter holidays currently and anything to entertain the kids is a good thing!



4. Buff Infinity Scarf - Lastly, my good friends over at Buff sent me an infinity scarf and I can't tell you how handy this has been during all of the cold and rainy/snowy weather we've been experiencing, it's snuggly and warm and huge and it's certain to last me for many years to come on my many dog walking adventures with Holly Bobbins, did I mention that Buff do a dog wear section?!


So there you are, short but sweet but wonderful, thanks to all of the companies involved, my monthly roundup could not happen without you.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

The curse of the haunted lens




This time last year, well not exactly this time as it's Tuesday morning, but, last year in the evening I was sitting in my garden with my dog beside me sipping a nice cold glass of Sancerre in the evening sunshine.  Fast forward a year and it couldn't be more different, this weekend we've seen rain, more rain and then as the icing on the weather cake, some snow!

I rescheduled 20 outdoor photo shoots and to put that in to context, I've had more reschedules due to the weather this year than I had in the whole year last year, I think it's probably the worst weather I've ever seen as a portrait photographer in 12 years of business.

I'm not really sure what the answer is or even if there is an answer, I simply have to wait for the sun to come out so I can get back into the swing of things.  I'm lucky really, I booked 5 weddings last week for 2018, 2019 and even one for 2020, I'd decided that I wanted to increase the number of shorter bookings that I shoot and so the universe made it possible, maybe the rain was a large hint?  I also wonder if it's the rental lens I've hung onto since early January, I've even mused that it might be cursed, well it's going back later today and yesterday I went and picked up my very own Canon 24-70 f2.8L, here's hoping the curse doesn't spread.  My OH helpfully suggested that maybe it didn't want to be a portrait lens, maybe it preferred landscapes, I'm sure he's partially right because on Friday when it apocalyptically rained all day in Newcastle, me, my camera and the cursed lens went to the Lake District and took some beautiful photographs which are now buried deep in my editing pile, don't worry, they're worth waiting for.

I should have published my April roundup post today but it's been so dark and I really wanted light springlike photos, looks like I'm going to have to do them today and then just make them look light and bright and sunny, I think I might require a miracle as it's as equally grim today as it has been all weekend.

Tomorrow, I fly to the Emerald Isle, the land of Eire, a place I've never been before but somewhere I can't wait to visit, we have activities already planned, the Guiness factory with the amazing views of Dublin from the top floor, the Zoo because Looby loves the Zoo and the National museum of the Leprechaun because, well, Ireland, maybe I'll meet one who can lift the weather curse from Newcastle?

Whatever happens and however much it rains, I don't care, I am myself waterproof and I'm taking the big camera for epic shots of Ireland, on Friday Looby and I are going to try and go somewhere rural so we can get a real taste of the republic of Ireland, it's so lovely to be travelling again and I mused to Harriet that it's the first time I'll have flown to somewhere that isn't warmer than the UK, still a bit gutted that it's not a constant 22c and sunny in Dublin, hehe!

Having checked the flights much further ahead i've duly noted flights to Palma for £20 per person in a couple of weeks so the time has come to start a mega travel education with Looby I think although that does require an income and in my case, an income requires weather that isn't constantly flipping raining!  Wish me luck breaking the curse! 
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