This week’s guest is the insanely talented Dawn Charles. Dawn is an intimate wedding and couple photographer based in Bend, Oregon and a total editing nerd! She has spent years fine-tuning her craft and struggling to figure this whole business thing out. But along the way she realized she didn’t have to do it alone and neither do we! Today she’s taking that decade of trial and error and dishing out everything she’s learned to help you harness your gifts and create a successful, fulfilling business. Because we are all in this together! And when we share our secrets and let our unique personalities shine through our brands, everyone wins! When she’s not dreaming up new resources for you or scaling a hillside to get that perfect shot, you can find her editing in yoga pants, defending herself in nerf gun fights against her hubs, playing with her two daughters, or making her latest Target run with a coffee in hand. I’m so pumped to have her on the podcast!
Here are some of my favorite tidbits from Dawn!
I come from a family full of teachers and have always had that in the back of my mind that I would transition in that direction one day and originally that thought was “maybe I’ll get burnt out on weddings and become a high school art teacher or something” and once online education became popular, I thought “this makes way more sense!” But I’ve always had a passion for teaching and helping others pursue their goals and I think my internship gave me the mindset that I had nothing to gain by keeping what I know to myself and that if I can help others the way I was helped at the beginning, why wouldn’t I?
But the big transition started with presets. I had studied editing in college and was really fascinated by it so I spent a lot of time in school and on my own just learning Lightroom and practicing editing, which led to creating my own presets, and after consistently getting asked about my editing, I decided to sell them. So that’s what set things off, and then I saw the power of serving a large audience online that I could never reach one-on-one on my own. That’s where I realized education and helping small businesses really fired me up and since then I’ve been working to create resources to fill whatever needs my audience have.
My style is always evolving and I think that’s true for everyone, and I think it’s really healthy for artists. It’s hard to pinpoint when I “found” it, but I know a lot of it came from studying Lightroom and the tools within it, and studying how light and color translated to photographs and how they were affected by the different tools in lightroom. This is my inner editing nerd talking, but I really think that studying all these things helped me a lot. I knew what I liked, and I knew what I didn’t like. It was just a matter of figuring out how to achieve that consistently and not falling into these trends that were constantly rotating through.
So as far as advice to others, I’d say create work that feels true to you instead of trying to fit something that’s popular. I remember trying different presets at the beginning and thinking “this is what’s popular and this is what’s cool so I’ll just stick with that because people seem to like it,” but it didn’t feel authentic to me. So something that took me a while to figure out is that I can love another person’s work, but that doesn’t mean that my work has to resemble theirs. I was attracted to so many styles that my work was jumping all over the place until I figured out what was really my style. So I would also recommend investing in presets that are more on the subtle side so you can use them as a base and then really make them your own. And lastly, again, learn the software. Whether that’s watching youtube videos, or reading blogs or finding online courses, it will help so much. I know learning lightroom sounds so nerdy and boring but I promise it will be super beneficial to get your style where you want it.
It’s definitely a challenge, I’m not going to lie about that. I’m super passionate about my work and I also obviously love spending time with my kids, so I always feel a little torn between the two. If I’m hanging out with my kids, I’m thinking about the work I should be doing; or if I’m working I’m feeling like I should be spending more time with the girls. But I’m telling myself that it can be a good thing and it’s healthy for me to have goals. I’ve learned to give myself grace as a mom and a business owner and I think that’s the key to staying sane through juggling both things. But for someone wanting to be both a stay at home parent and a business owner, I will say it’s definitely doable and they’re two of the most fulfilling and empowering things I’ve ever done and I’m so beyond thankful to have both of them in my life.
My biggest piece of advice would be to give yourself grace and ask for help. I used to try to do everything on my own but since becoming a mom I am no longer able to do everything on my own and I’ve grown a team so that everything isn’t just on my plate. Figuring out a balance and being ok with other people stepping in to take things off your plate so you don’t have to manage it all gives me so much help and so much sanity because without that I would not be able to do it all on my own.
Not only has it given us tons of financial freedom, but it’s given me so much freedom within my business. I was able to pivot and pursue things that I was really passionate about rather than focus on what was going to make me money that weekend. Presets were the segue for me into the educational world, and then the passive income allowed me to pivot things to fit my passions and lifestyle in a better way. Now I get to help other photographers in their business and be home with my family on the weekends and not in an airport every weekend, which has been a dream come true for me.
Check out her presets, camera settings course, workshops and more at the links below!
Presets & Educational Content: dawncharleseducation.com