Balance, Burnout, and Boundaries: Creating a Fulfilling Photography Business with Dawn Charles

Burnout is an issue that plagues so many creative entrepreneurs.. Juggling photo shoots and editing time with admin and social media while also making time for yourself and your family and cleaning the house … It can be a lot. 

In today’s episode, I’m chatting with Dawn Charles, wedding photographer turned photography and business educator to talk about all the ways she’s pivoted her business to thwart burnout.  She’s sharing how setting boundaries and outsourcing in her business has helped her to scale her business, avoid burnout, and spend her time more intentionally, in both her business and in her personal life. 

She’s found a balance between motherhood and entrepreneurship that works for her, and she has some excellent advice for focusing on the parts of your business that you love while having dedicated time for your personal life. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy for personal and work time to bleed together, but I hope this episode encourages you to take that next step toward setting boundaries and beating burnout for good.

What’s in this episode:

  • [03:28] Dawn’s advice for balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood, the importance of setting boundaries between family and work time, and her advice for 
  • [09:54] Why Dawn chose to take on fewer weddings over time to prioritize the education side of her business
  • [16:01] How setting boundaries (yep, boundaries, again) helps you avoid burnout as a photographer and a creative, and how outsourcing gives you more time to do the things you love (in your business and in your personal life)
  • [26:24] Dawn’s Rise Academy membership which gives photographers access to a library of business and creative resources, and how her students have found success
  • [34:44] The best business advice Dawn has ever been given, and what she wishes more photographers knew

Tune in to this episode with Dawn Charles for some inspiration on setting boundaries and avoiding burnout!

SUBSCRIBE: iTunes | Spotify | Stitcher

Meet Dawn

Dawn is a wife and a mother to three girls living in Bend, Oregon. She’s a wedding photographer of ten years turned photography and business educator providing tools and resources for creative entrepreneurs to succeed. She’s the creator of the DC Presets and the Rise Photo Academy, founder of Cultivate Workshops and host of Take It from Us podcast.

Connect with Dawn

Dawn’s website

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Did this episode with Dawn Charles inspire you to try new ways to set boundaries in your business? Check out this episode from Michelle Harris that offers you even more insight on finding alignment in your business!


[00:00:00] Dawn Charles Someone said once that you only have to be the right photographer for 20, 25 people a year and or whatever your goal of weddings or shoots are. And that really stuck with me because I like I said, I’m such a people pleaser and wanted to be the right photographer for everyone and was so scared of repelling anyone by being like too much of myself or whatever that was. And not being this like outgoing, adventurous, like a mountain climbing photographer that everyone, like, thought was popular for a while. Accepting that there are at least 20 of your exact perfect people out there, and if you truly show up as yourself and like are not ashamed to like, be super like authentic to your actual personality, not what you think people want to see. You will find your your people. And not just like and clients that might kind of connect with you. 

[00:01:02] Lisa DiGeso Welcome to the Art and Soul Show where we dive into heart opening chats on photography, business life and that messy in between. I’m your host, Lisa DiGeso, a mom, a photographer and entrepreneur, and I’ll be sharing honest conversations and advice for photographers with insight on mindset, entrepreneurship and creativity. The goal of this podcast is for you to be able to gain insights and strategies that will get you real results. Because let’s face it, having a photography business can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the place you can go when you need a boost of encouragement, a kick in the pants and inspiration to pick up your camera. This is the art and soul show. Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to the show. I am super excited to dive into today’s conversation with Dawn Charles. Dawn is a wife and a mother to three girls living in Bend, Oregon. She’s a wedding photographer of ten years turned photography and business educator providing tools and resources for creative entrepreneurs to succeed. She’s the creator of the DC Presets and the Rise Photo Academy, founder of Cultivate Workshops and host of Take It from Us podcast. I have been stalking her on Instagram forever, so I am beyond excited to have her on the show today. So welcome Dawn. 

[00:02:22] Dawn Charles Hi. Thank you so much for having me. That was such a sweet introduction. 

[00:02:26] Lisa DiGeso So tell us who you are and what you’re passionate about. 

[00:02:29] Dawn Charles Yeah, you pretty much summed it up, but I’m Dawn. I have always been passionate about creativity and business and entrepreneurship, and so I kind of have always had an interest in that since a young age and got into photography because I took a photo class in high school and ended up studying it in college. And then it kind of just organically turned into wedding photography and then from there into digital products and education. So here we are. 

[00:02:58] Lisa DiGeso I love it. I love it. I love that you have this. The entire process of being like that experience in the trenches before turning to educator, because I think a lot of the times you see someone who’s maybe only been in a year or two and then they are educating and you’re just like, No, I’ve actually done I’ve walked the walk, you guys, I know what I’m doing. So I really love that. Now I want to talk a little bit about entrepreneurship and motherhood because I know it’s a tricky balance. So what advice do you have for making it work? 

[00:03:28] Dawn Charles It is really tricky, and I think that’s kind of what sparked me going into education and exploring the digital product side and looking into a different revenue streams. Because when I was pregnant with my first, which would have been about six years ago, I was still fully shooting weddings. That was my main source of income. And we had recently moved to Oregon from California. So it looked like me being on a plane every other weekend to a different state. And I was like, This is not super fun while you’re really pregnant. And it’s not going to be very sustainable when I have kids and I knew I wanted to grow a family with multiple children. So from then on, I kind of started looking into different ways that I could do things and started getting into the education and digital product space and kind of realized that that made a lot more sense for having a family and being able to be more flexible with my schedule and stay at home more. So that was a big shift for us. And I think just some advice for being a mom and an entrepreneur is just to have boundaries, because when I didn’t have boundaries and I was shooting all the time and newly getting into motherhood, I never knew what day it was. I never had designated work hours. I would work from the couch or from my bed and working late nights and didn’t take weekends off or anything. Never shut completely shut down my work. And so once I had kids, I had to really shift that and figure out like, okay, I need some sort of separation between my personal life and my work life. And I need to figure out like some sort of schedule or just boundaries there and then also give myself grace when I can’t stick to the office hours because I do have kids and you have to be flexible when kids are in the picture. So it’s trying to create some sort of structure so that I wasn’t resenting my time at work, that I wasn’t able to spend with my kids and then resenting my time with my kids that I wasn’t able to be working because I found that was happening a lot. And I was like, If I just give boundaries and give myself permission to fully be invested in work, when I am in work mode and fully be invested in my kids when I’m in kid mode, rather than trying to manage the opposite, like while I’m dealing with the other one, then I will like have so much less stress and resentment doing all of these things. So that would be my biggest advice is just create boundaries and give yourself grace when you can’t 100% stick to a schedule or things don’t go exactly as planned. 

[00:06:17] Lisa DiGeso I love that so much because it’s so true. I mean, I’ve been a photographer and a mama since my son was six months old and he’s 13. Wow. And like, like going back. I wish. I wish someone told me, like, it goes by really fast. And if you’re not where you are, like, be where you are. Be completely present with your kids. Because I remember when my son, when he was probably about six and I was like he said to me, I was like, Hey, babe, like, can you go? Can you go do this? And he’s like, Five more minutes, babe. 

[00:06:48] Dawn Charles It’s like, it’s like you learn that from me. 

[00:06:51] Lisa DiGeso That’s for me, too. That’s me not being present. That me looking at a computer and ordering while, you know. And that’s probably I don’t want to say a regret, but it is something does stick in my mind. Like, I wish I was more present in those moments. And I did have those boundaries from the beginning 100%. 

[00:07:09] Dawn Charles And I still struggle with it, even though my kids now are in school and daycare and I have like designated. I work Monday through Friday to try to make it normal office hours. I still find myself like I’m definitely a doer and I like to check things off my to do list. And so I still find myself in the evenings when they’re home, like, okay, I need to like pack lunches and I need to figure out my to do list for tomorrow. And I forgot to like, respond to this email. And so I have to like, force myself to, like, be present, enjoy this time because it does go by so fast. And I definitely notice that I can get like really distracted by work and to dos and not actually be intentional about my time with my kids. And even if it’s a to do list of like I need to plan my kid’s birthday party, it’s like, okay, well what’s more important like this, playing this game with them right now or like having everything planned perfectly. So it’s hard for me to. 

[00:08:02] Lisa DiGeso Feel like I can make this list while I lay in bed. Let my brain stop it. Stop. 

[00:08:07] Dawn Charles Totally. Totally. Such a list maker. But it’s so good to just remind yourself to be present because it does go by so fast. 

[00:08:13] Lisa DiGeso I love it and I think that’s it. You nailed it on the head, though, because I have this really bad habit of treating my brain like a storage unit, not a processor. And I will resist writing things down, which is so silly because I know as soon as I get it out of my head, I can stop having that looping thought. Right, Right. So what advice do you have for, like, maybe someone who does struggle with like, writing their stuff down? 

[00:08:37] Dawn Charles Yeah, I’ve heard people say like, keep a notebook by your bed or something. If you have trouble falling asleep and you just have like a to do list running through there. I always use the Reminders app in my phone just for like a running to do list. And then I just like click that it’s done and it moves away from my list. So it’s just kind of like my spots because I’ll just be in the shower and I’ll be like, Oh, I have to do this and this and like, send that and, you know, like, drop that off at the post office and just like, and some things are work, some things are like mom things, some things are personal things. And it just feels like it’s always like going and cycling through and getting longer. So I think like just the second that those pop into your head, like putting them all down somewhere because otherwise you’re constantly just like trying to remember and manage everything. And like I’m still trying to do that, but it’s a little more organized and I’m able to like kind of once I write it down, I’m like, okay, I can get back to that like later, but I’m not going to forget about it because it’s down on paper or, you know, my computer digitally. 

[00:09:38] Lisa DiGeso Yes, I love it. So balancing being an educator as well as running a full time photography business can be tricky. Now, I recently decided to take a sabbatical from shooting for a year for a bit more focus on the education side. So I’d love to hear your journey on this. 

[00:09:54] Dawn Charles Yeah. So as I started growing the educational side of my business, I not only was super drawn to that because of the, like free like how much it freed up my schedule and it gave me financial freedom as well. But it just was something I was super passionate about, helping other photographers. And I realized that as I started growing that I had to scale back somewhere else because it was just not sustainable to maintain shooting weddings at the capacity I was while also adding this other thing. And I never expected the education side of my business to take off like it did. I thought the first thing that I launched was presets and I thought maybe I’ll, you know, make a little bit of extra money on the side. Maybe it’ll pay for like my car payments or something. But it has transformed my entire business and like the direction of everything. So I just saw that that seemed like that it made the most sense to go that direction. And so I started scaling back slowly and slowly. I was shooting and it was really hard for me to 100% give that up because I kind of held onto it for as long as I could. And this year is the first year. Well, I did take one wedding this year because it was a friend. It’s so hard for me to say no, but. 

[00:11:17] Lisa DiGeso I know. 

[00:11:19] Dawn Charles It was just such a long process of like each year kind of taking less and less, but also realizing that it didn’t feel like it was the right fit anymore for me. So it felt like the right decision. It was just really hard to give that up because it was a huge part of my identity for so long and I’ve always just called myself. I’m a wedding photographer and it was just like me. And along with that, like posting as an educator on social media or just teaching people, I felt like I had to be shooting all the time to stay relevant and to have content to share on social media. I share a lot of my educational content through captions, like What photo am I going to post if I don’t shoot anymore? So it’s been definitely a big process of trying to figure that pivot out and figure out who I am and like where I stand in the industry now. But it has been really good and it’s freed up my calendar and my time to really pour into the educational side of things. So yeah, I’m still figuring it out, but it has taken a weight off my shoulders to not have to like have that those looming like weekends coming up where I’m like, okay, I have to like take a break from all of these educational things I’m doing because I need to go shoot this wedding. And so, yeah, it’s been it’s been good. 

[00:12:47] Lisa DiGeso And it’s not even just shooting the wedding. It’s like editing. 

[00:12:49] Dawn Charles Everything. 

[00:12:50] Lisa DiGeso And just everything. I I’ve gone through the same process. I’ve been an educator for over ten years as well as simultaneously running a maternity and newborn studio. And I was the same way. I felt like I had to be killing it, taking 20 clients a month, as well as running my full education site, running retreats. And it just got to the point where my thyroid has actually given out. And so my body is just saying, Girl, like, you got to take a break. You can’t keep running at this pace. 

[00:13:21] Dawn Charles It’s a lot yeah. 

[00:13:21] Lisa DiGeso Right. It is so much. And we put this pressure on ourselves that if we don’t if we aren’t creating that content, we aren’t relevant, which is like so silly, it’s so silly. And you know, like mentally, like logically, you know, but you’re just like it’s just this fear of becoming irrelevant. I think or and I’m and I’m exactly in the same boat. So if you have any tips, while you go through it, please send them my way. I know I’m in the same struggle. 

[00:13:47] Dawn Charles It’s hard. And I think like people who are close to me or even people in the industry have encouraged me that that’s the case with a lot of careers, is you kind of like do the dirty work and like your hands on it until you’ve kind of like outgrown that and then you kind of oversee those people or educate those people. And you don’t have to be the one like hands on all the time. So I think as long as you’re still really actively involved in the industry and the community, you don’t have to necessarily be the one shooting the weddings or shooting whatever. So I think that has helped me. And I still shoot for fun and for friends and for trade and things like that. It’s just more of like a local thing of like my best friend, like needs family photos or she just started a business and I’m going to photograph things and help her with her website and stuff like that. So not full blown like weddings, but also just fun like swaps with other creatives of, you know, we’re both doing content photos for each other or like, you know, updating our websites or things like that. So I still get to be creative and I’m still always taking pictures of my kids and like everyday life stuff, but just not having to have those big like bookings on like roster pressure. 

[00:15:05] Lisa DiGeso It’s it’s just relieving that pressure. And that’s one thing I’ve been doing because I love shooting too, and I love the creativity and the art of it. And so putting my camera down fully was really hard because I, I just want to be with people. I mean, the problem is, is like then I feel like I owe them something and then they’re waiting on something for me. And then that is that pressure again, even if it’s like free or like it’s still is that pressure. So I’ve started doing personal projects where I’m photographing myself and I’m just like, This is the only way that I can create art right now where it feels sustainable for my my life and for my spirit at this moment in this season of burnout. Because like I am, I’m still burnt out. And yeah, that’s actually my next question is about burnout, because it is such a real thing in our industry. So do you have any advice about keeping the guardrails on so you don’t burnout as a photographer and a creative? 

[00:16:01] Dawn Charles Yeah. Again, I think that’s really tied back to setting boundaries, like I mentioned with the kids thing. Just setting boundaries with your schedule. So having a start and stop time and not letting work follow you on vacation and into the evening and like into bed and into your like, personal life. Because I definitely did that for so long. One of my business partners, Emily, who we’ve done workshops together and stuff, she would come up and we would be planning a workshop and we realized that we had never hung out, not on our laptops were like every evening when we, like, hang out and watch Netflix, our laptops are open and we’re working or like, we’re like, Let’s go to lunch together and we bring our laptops and work. And so we’re like, maybe one time we should just like, hang out and not be working. Like, what would that be like? So just having like that clear separation because I would complain to my husband, like, I feel like I’m always working. I feel like work follows me everywhere. And he’s like, Yeah, well, it does because you like bring your laptop on vacation, Like you are bringing that with you. And it’s like we trade the 9 to 5 for 24/7, you know, it’s so true. And so I think just really being clear about like having a designated workspace and also having designated work times and again, like you can be flexible with those things aren’t always going to go as planned. And sometimes you’re going to be working extra hours because you have a huge launch coming up and sometimes you’re taking a whole week off because you’re going on vacation. And that’s the beauty of being a business owner and an entrepreneur is you get permission to do that. But like scheduling that time off, you know, giving yourself permission that you’re going to go on a weeklong vacation or you’re going to be out of office from December 15 through January 2nd and you are not reachable like you have an away message on your or a vacation responder and your Slack notifications are off and people know like they can not contact you and your business will survive. Like everything’s going to be fine, you know, like people don’t need to have access to you 24 seven and they can wait. And yeah, it’s just not sustainable or healthy to be letting work creep into every aspect of your life. And maybe that means deleting apps off your phone or turning notifications off or having a setting on your phone where everything is that’s work related is not accessible after 5 p.m. or something, but just really setting up boundaries for yourself so that you don’t feel like work is literally creeping into every aspect of your personal life. And then also just knowing when to say no, because I am such a people pleaser and when I was shooting weddings, I was like, well, just like, say yes to this one. Even though I said I was only going to shoot three weddings this month, like I do have that we can open or I have Friday open. Might as well just take it because they seem really great. But it’s again, not something that’s sustainable if you’re just going to take on as much work as you can possibly fit in, you’re going to get burnt out and then you’re not going to be giving your best work to those clients anyways. 

[00:19:05] Lisa DiGeso And then your family is the one that suffers. They’re the ones that get the tired version of you that just wants to order take out. And I mean they get that anyway. But yeah, my husband actually this year because this year I, I haven’t been taking clients since about September and I normally I’m doing full family sessions and newborn sessions, so he’s always had me on my laptop beside him on the couch and I’ll just edit and we’ll watch a show together. But this year there’s been no laptop in the evening and he is like so happy. He’s just like, he’s like your present. He’s like, I don’t have to rewind the show because you’re missing everything. Like we are watching. We’re doing this together totally. And I was like, I didn’t really think about how my lack of planning and my lack of boundaries with my business was really affecting my family and the change that when you take that away and when you when you know, if you want to do a session, I just schedule that time in my workday instead of right. Instead of like doing it in the evening and letting it creep in. So that’s just been really a powerful lesson that I learned the hard way. And it took me ten years to learn that we. 

[00:20:08] Dawn Charles Happens to the the best of us. 

[00:20:11] Lisa DiGeso Now, I I’d love to talk a little bit about maybe outsourcing, because I think there becomes a time for all photographers when they realize that they really are in over their heads with everything and they really need to start implementing that. So could you have any advice that you can share on that? 

[00:20:26] Dawn Charles Yeah, I’m a huge fan of outsourcing and I think that’s something that can also help prevent burnout. And for me it was really hard to know where to start with that. I liked the idea of outsourcing and kind of overseeing things and kind of just looking at big picture operations and not having to manage all the like nitty gritty day to day things. But I also didn’t know where to start or who to trust. And I a little bit of a perfectionist. And so I kind of wanted my hand in everything and thought, I’m the one that has to be doing all these. I can’t trust anyone else to do these parts of my business because they don’t know my business like I do. So for me, I feel like I had to take baby steps into the outsourcing world. And then once I saw the beauty of it, I was like on a roll and I was like, okay, what else can I outsource? But I had to start with things that weren’t related to my business. So I started with like a housecleaner and with Instacart. So I figured housecleaning and grocery shopping is taking up like a few hours a day, sometimes of hours that I could be working and potentially making money. And it’s also taking away time from my family. So those are things that I don’t really enjoy doing and I can totally pay someone else to do it That could probably do it better than me. And I can use, even though it’s an expense, I can use those hours to make more money than I’m spending. So that was the start of it. And then from there I started outsourcing small tasks within my business. Like I hired a virtual assistant who started doing the parts of my business that were just getting neglected. They weren’t necessarily huge key parts of my business, but I was neglecting posting blog posts and I was neglecting Pinterest. And so that was my first virtual assistant who started helping me do those. So I was like, okay, that’s not even happening at all. So even if she does it, not exactly how I would do it, it’s better than nothing. So I can definitely pay you for that and like trust someone else to do that because I don’t feel like I need full ownership over that. And then from there it went on to other things that I didn’t feel like I was the expert at. So I feel like with outsourcing, the biggest things to look at are what are taking up too many hours of your day that you’re not able to focus on these bigger goals that you want to get to. And they’re just nitty gritty daily things that are taking up all your time. Because I had all these ideas for courses and launches and like new business ideas, and I wasn’t ever able to focus on those because I spent my whole day emailing and editing. And so I figured if I can get rid of some of these small task, I can actually move the needle in my business and get these bigger goals. So that was one thing. And also just looking at things you don’t enjoy doing. So I didn’t enjoy Facebook ads and I didn’t have any interest in learning about them. And so I started outsourcing ads and things that you’re not an expert at. Like, I am not an expert at finances. I am not an expert at graphic design. So outsourcing those things to a graphic designer who is inevitably going to do that job better than I can, or CPA or bookkeeper that is going to do that job better than I can. And then still maintaining the tasks that you actually enjoy or you feel like you need to be the one doing. Because there are things that I felt like I wasn’t comfortable outsourcing, like editing, or obviously you need to be the one shooting or showing up on social media, things like that. And so those are things that I maintained or like course creation or whatever, but then things that you don’t need to be the one doing are great things to also outsource. So I brought on a marketing team and they help with like operations and all of that. So there’s so much of my business that is outsourced now, but I still have a hand in everything and oversee and approve and edit everything that goes out there. It’s just I don’t have to be doing like the nitty gritty day to day details of every single part of my business. Otherwise it would not grow so. 

[00:24:39] Lisa DiGeso It wouldn’t get done. 

[00:24:39] Dawn Charles I’m like, Yeah, it’s not going. Your business is not going to be scalable until you start outsourcing things. And I think people hold on to money a lot tighter than they hold on to time. And I was very guilty of that and I figured if I can do it myself, like I’m capable of doing these things. So like, why would I pay someone to do them? But I was just holding on to my money and I was like, okay, my time is worth a lot more than like what I would be paying this person. And I can use that time much more wisely than spending it doing these little tasks that I don’t need to be doing. So once I let go of that and let go of some of that money it made, the return on investment was so much higher than like what I was spending or what I expected. So I think you just have to realize you have to spend money to make money and be okay. Letting go of not only the money, but also the control of every aspect of the business. 

[00:25:36] Lisa DiGeso I love that so much. And also your quality of life. Totally. Right. Because then you’re not exhausted and you’re not all burnt out and just frazzled because you’ve got a million things that you’re trying to handle. 

[00:25:46] Dawn Charles Right? Exactly. It’s it’s hard when you look at like, okay, I’m spending X amount of money on outsourcing. Like that seems like a huge bill. And like, I don’t know if I can afford that, but then when you see the growth and. See how it like outweighs that expense. And you are also working half the hours or you’re using that time to expand your business even further or into different revenue streams. It’s totally worth it. So, yeah, outsourcing has changed the game for my business and my personal life. 

[00:26:18] Lisa DiGeso So tell us a little bit about your Rise Academy and what it is and how you help your students. 

[00:26:24] Dawn Charles Yeah, So Rise is something that I launched a couple of years ago and I basically sum it up as a Netflix for photographers. So it’s basically an online academy where you have a membership and you get access to a huge library of courses. And we have, I think about eight signature courses, which are like big courses with multiple modules about these bigger pillars in your business, and then also a dozen or so mini courses. And some of those are collaborations with other people, like I have a mini course with my CPA about finances and taxes for small businesses. So there’s really a ton of variety to choose from. Once you log in and you can go at your own pace and pick and choose what you watch and when. And it’s for a wide range of photographers. And also there’s a ton of content for other creative entrepreneurs as well. And on top of the library, we have a huge Facebook community where it’s just exclusive to the members, but we do live Q&A is in there. We have members week every quarter when a new signature course launches and we offer them challenges and giveaways and workbooks that coincide with the courses and tips and things like that, and open up discussions for everyone to kind of have a place that’s free of judgment where they can come with their questions and get answers and just have discussions about things that we’re either launching within Rise or just general questions within the industry. So it’s been a really cool thing and like really cool to see just the growth in students and like what they’re learning and getting from it. 

[00:28:05] Lisa DiGeso The rush of seeing that student that has that transformation where like at the beginning they’re just like, they’re not getting it or they’re not confident. And then like months later and you can see the changes, it is like gold as like so gold. I love it. I love it. So can you share a success story from one of your students? 

[00:28:23] Dawn Charles Yeah, I’ve had a couple students come to me and say that they used to struggle to get like one booking a month, and now they are seeing because they’ve been showing up more authentically on Instagram and like showing their actual personality and face to their followers that they’re having so many people inquire with them and say they connected with them personally. So they’re seeing growth in their inquiries and their actual bookings and their audience size on social media. I had someone DM me this morning saying that they watched the camera settings and fundamentals of photo course and they showed me a picture of their son from two months ago and then today and they said, this is like the difference. They’re like, You’ve changed my photography and this is two months ago and it’s instant. You can tell that they like learned what aperture was because the other one is like a closeup portrait with like a soft background. And the first one is just like, looks like it was taken with their phone of them, just like sitting in the grass. And I’m like, That is incredible. They’re like, same camera, same presets, same gear, everything. But like, I just know how to use them now. So it’s just really cool to see. And it’s also cool to know that, like, it’s helping people who are brand new to photography, who have never shot anything professionally and they just have picked up a camera and are trying to figure out how to like, you know, even use it to people who are further along in their business than they are shooting and have a successful business. But they’re just wanting to scale that to the next level and figure out how do I really elevate my client experience or how do I master editing and really understand the ins and outs of the basics of photography? Because maybe they’ve gotten by with not shooting in manual or, you know, they just want to learn how to take things to the next level. So it’s cool to see all of that spectrum of experience levels and types of businesses and stuff. 

[00:30:16] Lisa DiGeso I love it. It’s something for everybody. I love that. Awesome. So you ready for a lightning round? 

[00:30:21] Dawn Charles Oh, yes. 

[00:30:22] Lisa DiGeso Okay, let’s do it. So what three things do you want to be remembered for? 

[00:30:28] Dawn Charles Oh, man, I feel like that’s such a deep question. 

[00:30:30] Lisa DiGeso I know, right? Lightning, my ass. Lisa. 

[00:30:35] Dawn Charles I would say something that’s really important is just that I was a good, intentional mom and that I was someone who made people feel accepted and comfortable and just, like, welcomed and heard, I guess. And probably that I had good integrity and just like a genuine. 

[00:30:55] Lisa DiGeso Nail on the head. Love that. Oceans or mountains and why? 

[00:31:00] Dawn Charles I go back and forth because we moved from the ocean to the mountains. I would say most of the time I love it here in Bend and being cozy and in like a mountain town. But in the middle of winter I miss the ocean. So I miss the warm sunshine in San Diego. So I go, I love both. 

[00:31:22] Lisa DiGeso Oh, gosh. So did you grow up in San Diego, too? 

[00:31:25] Dawn Charles Yeah. Born and raised in Southern California my whole life. And I thought that I wanted rain and snow. And then I moved to it and I’m like, I miss the sunshine. 

[00:31:34] Lisa DiGeso But really, what’s the last thing you did for yourself as an indulgence? 

[00:31:40] Dawn Charles I redid in my office recently I waited until I launched all these fall launches and did Black Friday sales and all of that. And then I was like, I’m going to use that money and treat myself and redo my office. So it’s it’s been like a work in progress for years, but I finally just pulled the trigger. I’m like. 

[00:31:59] Lisa DiGeso Is that the office behind you? 

[00:32:01] Dawn Charles Yeah, yeah, it’s done for a little while, but I refurnished and put curtains up and all of that, so I’m really excited. It’s a nice like escape for me and I love being in here. 

[00:32:12] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. It’s so important, the environment that you’re in when you’re working to even just put you in that like it, it switches that switch totally of. Like, this is my work zone and this is like, I feel like. 

[00:32:23] Dawn Charles Right, Like I enjoy being in here not, I’m just, like, dreading going into work. Totally. 

[00:32:28] Lisa DiGeso Exactly. What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to? 

[00:32:32] Dawn Charles Probably Paris or Florence. My husband and I went on a like France and Italy trip a couple of years ago, and it was just, I want to go back so bad. It was amazing. 

[00:32:42] Lisa DiGeso What did you want to be when you grew up as a kid? 

[00:32:45] Dawn Charles So like I said, I’ve always wanted to be creative and I wanted to be a production designer. So like the creative side of films or an interior designer, and I feel like those I would still do both of those things. 

[00:32:59] Lisa DiGeso I love it. I love it. What is your go to song when you’re feeling down. 

[00:33:04] Dawn Charles Anything by Queen. I love Queen. They’re like my favorite band. 

[00:33:09] Lisa DiGeso Really? Yeah. What’s your jam? 

[00:33:11] Dawn Charles Oh, my gosh. I love all of them. I hammer to Fall is like one of my favorite songs or Don’t Stop Me Now. 

[00:33:18] Lisa DiGeso Don’t Stop Me Now is like my favorite song. 

[00:33:20] Dawn Charles That’s my husband’s favorite, too. Oh, my gosh. I’m a huge Queen fan. We saw them minus Freddie, obviously, a couple of years ago in concert. And it was so good. Like Adam Lambert did such a good job and the whole production was just like such a cool experience. So if you ever get the chance, it’s like. 

[00:33:38] Lisa DiGeso Bucket list. What my husband would we would do in the pandemic is we’d make margaritas and we’d put on a YouTube concert of Adam Lambert and Queen. Oh my gosh. And we would pretend we were at the concert during the pandemic. It was so fun and just crank the music and like, just be together in home. It was so fun. 

[00:33:57] Dawn Charles It’s like my fallback. Like it’s it’s just like my go to. Yeah. So listen to all the time when I don’t love it. 

[00:34:04] Lisa DiGeso I love it. Good answer. Do you have any personal projects going on right now, creative wise or non creative wise? 

[00:34:13] Dawn Charles I do, and I can’t say too much, but my best friend and I are launching a new brand business and it’s completely outside of my current industry, so it’s something totally new. It’ll probably be launching next August, we’re thinking. But yeah, really, maybe I can tell you there. Yeah. 

[00:34:38] Lisa DiGeso I love to hear. What has been the best business advice you’ve ever been given. 

[00:34:44] Dawn Charles I think probably just to like put blinders on and not worry about trends or what everyone else is doing or trying to compare myself and like fit in this mold of what’s popular and just do my thing and like stay in my lane and stay true to what I feel like is most me and good will come from that. 

[00:35:07] Lisa DiGeso What do you wish more photographers knew? 

[00:35:09] Dawn Charles I think one of the biggest things would be that you don’t have to be the right photographer for everyone, which kind of goes along with what I was just saying, but that someone said once that you only have to be the right photographer for 20, 25 people a year and or whatever your goal of weddings or shoots are. And that like really stuck with me because I like I said, I’m such a people pleaser and wanted to be the right photographer for everyone and was so scared of repelling anyone by being like too much of myself or whatever that was. And not being this like outgoing, adventurous, like a mountain climbing photographer that everyone, like, thought was popular for a while, accepting that there are at least 20 of your exact perfect people out there. And if you. Truly show up as yourself and like are not ashamed to like be super authentic to your actual personality, not what you think people want to see. You will find your your people and not just like any clients that might kind of connect with you. 

[00:36:17] Lisa DiGeso I love that are such good advice, Dawn. I love this. So we’re clear listeners learn more from you. 

[00:36:23] Dawn Charles So you can find me at And that will also lead to rise. Photo Academy. And on Instagram at dawn.charles. 

[00:36:32] Lisa DiGeso Now, I love to end my interviews just with this last question. And it is what are you currently curious about or artistically curious about? 

[00:36:41] Dawn Charles So this is kind of a hint to what I’m working on, but I’ve been really curious about like editorial and fashion photography lately and maybe some studio stuff because I’ve always been like a huge natural light advocate. But lately I’ve been more into like experimenting with lighting and flash and things like that. And also shooting in film is something that I’ve wanted to get back into because I did that a lot for school, but I haven’t really shot with film in a while, so. 

[00:37:14] Lisa DiGeso Well, thank you, Dawn, so much for joining me today. This has been like a bucket list interview. I’ve been wanting to have you on the show for so long. So thank you for being here and being so wonderful and candid and authentic. 

[00:37:26] Dawn Charles Thank you so much for having me. It was awesome chatting with you. 

[00:37:30] Lisa DiGeso Oh, my beautiful friends. Thank you so much for tuning in today. I am sending you so much of my light and my love today and every single day. We’ll see you next time. 

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