This weeks spotlight is on newborn and family photographer Susan Renee:
Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Susan Renée, I’m 48 and the mother of two teenage boys whom I’ve brought up pretty much on my own. I live in Aberdeen. My background is in Education, and I was a teacher, headteacher and school inspector for 23 years. I now own and run Kingshill Studios, a small but successful newborn and family photography studio.
How did you get into photography?
I was always interested in art at school, but 30 years ago, my secondary school didn’t offer photography as a course, so I didn’t even consider it as a career. A few of my friends planned to become teachers, so I decided I would join them. It served me well, and I was a headteacher by the age of 29, the same year my first son was born. My son changed everything. There were no cameras on mobile phones back in the year 2000 (there were no mobile phones!) so if I wanted a photograph of my baby, I needed to learn how to use a camera. And so, I did. I discovered my love of art once again through my son and subsequently through photography.
What challenges did you face when switching careers?
Well, the switch didn’t happen overnight. I started doing weddings nearly 15 years ago and juggled my hugely demanding job in schools with a thriving and successful wedding business. I was working 18-hour days, 7 days a week whilst trying to keep a marriage together with two young children, then eldest of whom is autistic. Something had to give, and unfortunately, it was my marriage, which ended in divorce in 2010. This was heart-breaking, particularly for my sons, and even more so when their dad later moved to the USA to live.
I moved, with my two sons, from my hometown into Aberdeen in 2013. I worked for another couple of years for the Council then handed in my notice. In 2015, I purchased the perfect property together with my wonderful new partner. The house is just on the outskirts of town and has a stable, which has converted beautifully into a studio. It was time for the juggling to stop, and for me to concentrate on one career and on one life. I have owned and run a full-time photography studio since then.
What’s your biggest success or achievement so far?
Being able to take my children to school and pick them up again every day.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I enjoy travelling – my favourite place is Cape Town!
What does work-life balance mean to you?
Still trying to work that one out. I would say that I probably now work just as many hours as I did before. Although the hours are definitely now more on my own terms, I am beginning to realise that I need to make time for my own health. I’ve tentatively started doing Yoga and Pilates and enjoy going to my favourite local hair salon for a treat every now and then!
What’s next for you/your business?
I want to keep on doing more of the same, extending the charity aspect of my business.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
The hours and switching off from the constant enquiries and to-do list.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Meeting families and children, and giving them memories that will last forever.
How do you handle criticism or setbacks?
I’ve been very lucky over the years to have many happy clients. Running a business IS tough, but I’m not afraid of hard work. If there are setbacks, I try to learn from them and move forward.
What advice would you give to people starting out?
Learn business first and be artistic second. Make time for yourself and your family. Be thankful every day for all the good things you have.