Combining photography and motherhood Image of a mum and her two sons.

Combining Photography & Motherhood with Kingshill Studios

Tell us your name and a bit about your family? When did you become a Mum and to whom?

My name is Susan Renée and I’m 47 years old.  I’m mum to two boys – Spencer who is now 18 and Cameron who is 15.  I brought them up as a single mum for many years, but now live with my partner in sunny Aberdeen! I worked for many years in Education, first as a primary school teacher then as aheadteacher and then into senior management overseeing over 20 schools.

When Spencer was born in 2000, I picked up a camera like many mums do.  Remember, there were no iPhones back then, so it was a real camera.  I rediscovered my love of art through the medium of Photography.

What’s your business called?

The business is called Kingshill Studios.

Can you describe it in one sentence?

Kingshill Studios is a specialist maternity, newborn and family portrait studio in Kingswells, Aberdeen, with both boutique indoor and outdoor space (5 acres of beautiful countryside!).

When did you become a Mumpreneur and what inspired you?

After my eldest son was born, I started being interested in photography. Then one time a couple of years later, around 2003, I fancied a weekend away and I saw a course called ‘The Art of Pictures’ advertised down in the Lake District. I thought I’d give it a go.

When I arrived, it was like a lightbulb moment!  There were people on the course who WERE photographers, and I suddenly thought – I could do that.   I signed up for a year-long course.  I was still a headteacher at the time, so I would go down one weekend per month, learning all I could.

At the end of that year, I had learnt so much, had made lots of contacts in the photography industry and had established a website. My entrepreneurial story had begun!

How did you fund your start up?

I worked full-time in education until just three and a half years ago, so photography was something that I did on the side intially.  I did weddings at the weekends and some portrait sessions on Sundays.  Basically, I worked 18-hour days, 7 days per week!

I only resigned from my job with the Council when I knew that my business could stand on its own two feet.  It wasn’t an easy decision – I had a great career, which was secure and respected.  Nevertheless, I have no regrets about going full-time in the photography business and am excited about the future.

How do you manage working around your children?

Now that I have my own studio, I take my boys to school every morning and pick them up every day.  The studio usually opens at 9am when they’re in school, and I close it to pick them up at 3pm.  Luckily, my studio is in the grounds of my house, so on busy Saturdays I can pop home and check that they’re out of bed, fed and not glued to their playstations (the joys of teenage boys)!

Can you describe a typical day, what tasks do you have to get done, how do you manage your time?

I get up an hour before the boys every morning (6am) and check the day’s diary and answer any emails/messages.  I also take this time to have a few moments to myself with a cup of tea.  I go up to the studio and put the heating on – it’s important that the studio is nice and toasty if I’m having a client with a newborn baby in.

I waken the boys at 7am and then the mad rush to get ready for school starts.  The school run takes me an hour every day – I leave the house at 7.45am and return at 8.45am. I do a quick tidy up around the house and then head up to the studio for my day’s shoots.

During the week, it’s usually newborn babies and I have to admit it’s my favourite genre to photograph.  So relaxing and gentle.  These sessions usually start at around 10.30am and finish at 1.30pm.  I grab a cup of tea, and then usually do a viewing session with another client at 2pm.  This finishes at around 3pm when it’s time to go and pick up the boys from school.

From then until around 7pm, it’s dinner time, club time etc etc.   I then usually work on emails etc until around 9pm.

What challenges have you faced in your business and how have you overcome them?

I’ve faced many challenges, with surviving in business being the most difficult of them.  I’ve invested heavily in training – both photography and business training. I recognise that marketing is a fundamental aspect of my business – without it, I wouldn’t have a business! So, I consider it essential that I am up-to-speed and active on social media and in other forms of marketing to keep visible and to keep consistently attracting clients to my studio.

It certainly also helps that I get to work with so many lovely local families who then help to spread the word about what I do by sharing the portraits I’ve taken for them and by leaving glowing reviews online.

What’s the best thing about being Mumpreneur?

The best thing is being more present for my boys.  I get to take them to school and pick them up and that was always my biggest ambition. My two boys are my world, and I want them to know I am very proud of them indeed.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are to keep doing what I’m doing! Right now, I’m doing work that I love and have the privilege of meeting hundreds of local families every year including gorgeous babies who are just days old, children of all ages and even family pets.

I absolutely adore helping my clients to document their growing families in beautiful portraits, whether that’s inside my cosy studio or out and about in the fresh air on a location shoot. Knowing that the pictures I take for them are capturing memories that will be enjoyed for a lifetime makes my job incredibly satisfying. Long may it continue!

What advice would you give for someone just starting out in business?

Invest in business training first and foremost.  I have studied and trained with some of the world’s leading newborn and family photographers to enable me to confidently, and safely, pose newborn babies and children.

Also, surround yourself with knowledgeable people and watch the pennies!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Yes, I believe it’s important to be clear on what you are offering your customers and to not try to serve everybody. In the case of a photography business at least, having a defined artistic style is really important and it’s what you become known for.

For example, my images have been described as natural and contemporary with an edgy, artistic flair. Having defined this as my style, I find that I attract my ideal clients – those who want these kind of pictures. Also, families who hire me know what to expect from me because I share examples of only this style of photography on my website and on social media.