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The Suzanne Hawken Interview – From Zero to Full-time in One Year


Episode 151 Suzanne Hawken Interview – From Zero to Full-time in One Year

Andy: [00:00:00] Hey, how’s it going? I’m Andy Jones, and this is episode 151 of the Photography Side Hustle podcast. This episode is a first for me because I actually convinced another human being to come on the podcast. I’m excited for you to hear the chat I had with our own Facebook group member, Suzanne Hawken. She’s a Napa Valley photographer who got her first camera only one year ago.

Andy: So in one year, she’s gone from an absolute beginner to a full time photographer. You can check out her work at sheshootsshots. com. That is sheshootsshots. com. Bit of a mouthful, that one. So, sheshootshots. com. I’ll put links in the show notes and over at photographysidehustle. com forward slash one five one.

Andy: Oh, and we mention Using photo books to get more bookings [00:01:00] that’s covered in more detail in episode one 30 selling photo books. Okay. I’ll stop waffling. Let’s get on with it. Welcome to the podcast, Suzanne. How are you doing? 

Suzanne: I’m doing well. Thank you. 

Andy: Excellent. All right. So first question, how the heck did you get into photography?

Suzanne: I figured that was going to be your first question., have always been extremely creative. In my personal and professional life and I have been in the social media marketing world for about 14 years and I, yeah, I no longer wanted to do that. I was really sick of. You know, doing it for a living and it ranged from owning my own marketing agency to selling that to a company called and becoming their senior director of social media marketing. And so I’ve always been super creative and I had 10 people working for me and yada, yada, [00:02:00] yada, but I always found myself wanting to do the creative pieces myself. I didn’t want to hand them off. And I realized that it was something that I needed to do more than what I was in that role.

Suzanne: And so I quit that job and decided to, you know, start something new that would really allow me to bring out the creative side of me. And It just kind of happened. I just kind of went from doing this whole marketing and involving everything from website design to, you know, reports to SEO to all of that, and really focusing on what made me happy.

Suzanne: And That’s what brought me into photography. I’ve, I just love photography. I’ve always, you know, something that I’ve always done since I can remember having, you know, one of those instant cards where you shake it to make it come, you know, the song where you shake the, The [00:03:00] photo to make it come to life.

Suzanne: Yeah. And yeah, so I just kind of started doing it and this is my focus now. 

Andy: So my first contact with, with you was through Facebook messenger, I think. And it’s almost a year ago and I can’t believe what you’ve done in one year. It’s just, it’s incredible. You’ve shot just about every kind of photography known to man.

Suzanne: Yes. I think I’m still in that phase of discovering what it is that makes me happy and that I’m actually good at. 

Andy: Yeah. It’s difficult. 

Suzanne: It really is. And also when you first start saying no is super hard because you want to get the money coming in and you want to be paid for what you’re doing. And so you accept everything.

Suzanne: And I think that really [00:04:00] is the downfall of not focusing on one or two related subjects. 

Andy: Yeah. But it’s just finding those subjects. That’s the tricky bit. 

Suzanne: It sure is. 

Andy: Yeah. So. You got your first print sale a couple of weeks ago. 

Suzanne: It did. 

Andy: How did that feel? 

Suzanne: I was so excited. There’s a competition that happens.

Suzanne: This is the second annual and here in Napa during the winter, the, the vines are all bare. And what happens is there’s mustard seed that grows wild in between all of the Vineyard rows of vines and it brings to life everything in the valley, which would normally just be barren to this bright yellow everywhere.

Suzanne: And so they had this competition to [00:05:00] take photos of. Something to do with the mustard seed. And so I I entered two of my photos. One of them was sold in the competition and it was one of five that were sold out of 64 entries and and the other one that I had entered got third place, so yeah, it was super exciting and it felt really, really good and it felt validating that I actually.

Suzanne: Maybe somewhat good at what I’m doing. 

Andy: Yeah, it was a, it was a beautiful picture that I loved it. 

Suzanne: Thank you. 

Andy: So what was your first paid job? The first one that you got someone to handle with some money? 

Suzanne: Yeah. So that was a proposal at a vineyard here in Napa. They found me from a website where I. Was paying about 30 a lead and [00:06:00] I wouldn’t get all of them So I ended up being like one out of like seven or eight So you can imagine 

Andy: who who was charging you for the leads?

Suzanne: What was the name of it? I don’t remember. I’ll get back to you on that. But it was an online site and Yeah, so if you think about like, you’re paying for like seven leads for 30 each, that’s 210 and then I charged 300 for the photo shoot I’m making, I’m making very little and that’s for the whole time of the photo shoot, plus the time of the editing, so it was really not very It didn’t make me very much money, but I actually didn’t have a camera at that time and I was using my Was using my phone on this Stupid like holder.

Suzanne: And I told the guy, I said, I am actually a phone tog refer[00:07:00] 

Suzanne: and he’s like, oh, that’s cool. No worries. And so, yeah, I only did that once after that. I was like, this is absolutely ridiculous. And I went and bought myself a camera probably the very next day because I just felt so ridiculous. You get this stupid phone holder trying to make myself look professional and it was not working.

Suzanne: So, yeah. 

Andy: Oh, wow. Wow. All right. So so how many different types of photography have you shot? 

Suzanne: So I’ve done obviously proposals. I’ve done events for the chamber of commerce. I’ve done landscape, which I absolutely love. But Can’t figure out how to sell more of it yet. I’ve done dogs, which you are the reason why I decided to do that.

Suzanne: 100%. What [00:08:00] else up? Headshot. I’ve been asked to do boudoir. I’ve farmed those out. I have a wedding coming up. That I told myself I would never ever do, and I’m doing it. So yeah, a lot of different subjects. 

Andy: Yeah, that’s good. It’s good though. Get it all out of the way at the beginning and know what you like.

Suzanne: Huh. 

Andy: Did you enjoy doing the dogs? 

Suzanne: So I’m still doing the dogs You know, I do I do enjoy doing the dogs because They’re easy to work with You Whereas humans are, can be more difficult. 

Andy: Yes. 

Suzanne: Dogs can be a little bit more unpredictable, but they’re also pretty fun. And people love their dogs. It’s become.

Suzanne: Quite the area of expertise as i’ve been known in the community now as the dog photographers [00:09:00] and i don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but i’m going with it 

Andy: that’s a good thing something wrong with that so just to get everyone up to speed i did a. An episode on you make a book with dog photos and you share the profits with dog rescue shelters now since you did that and like i’d put that.

Andy: Episode out on the Sunday night and I think it was a Wednesday or Thursday, you said, Oh, I’ve got 10 bookings. Couldn’t believe how quick you jumped on it. It was crazy. That was, that, I’ve got to say though up front, that was not my idea. It’s a girl in Australia that does it. But it is a fantastic way.

Suzanne: Well, yeah, yeah. I heard you talk about this girl in Australia and she was doing something, some other type of photo book, I think. And I just kind of was like, well, I could do that for dogs. Cause here in Napa Valley, there’s this book that all the wineries sell, and it’s called wine dogs of California or wine dogs of [00:10:00] Napa.

Suzanne: And I said to myself, well, why isn’t there one for rescue dogs? Why can’t we like celebrate the, not only the dogs, but the owners who, you know, went and rescued these animals and then also the shelters and the the rescue organizations that help put these dogs into better homes and it just kind of all came together like this.

Suzanne: Tsunami of support from the community. 

Andy: Yeah, it’s it’s a good system and you’ll make a lot of money if you sell prints. That is what the girl that did it originally, that’s what she does. She only sells prints. And that is where once you step, once they know that you only do prints and you get them to sign up, you know, you’re going to be making a heck of a lot more money, but it is a great experience to start with.

Andy: What, the way you did it, it was it’s like a baptism of fire. It was crazy. So how many did you do all [00:11:00] together? How many bookends? 

Suzanne: So there’s 80 in the first book. 

Andy: Oh, you’ve got another one lined up. 

Suzanne: I already am. I’ve already got like 20 in my next book. 

Andy: Oh my. 

Suzanne: Yeah. And. I’ve been going, I’ve been supporting the Napa Humane Society for the last, this whole month of March, and I’ve been going to, they’ve been doing this thing called Pawsport, and it’s basically you buy this 60 passport that gets you two for one tastings or a free bagel at a At a bakery and for 60 goes towards an app a humane society And so when they told me they were doing this they said would you like to support us?

Suzanne: And they said of course I would and so i’ve been going to two different wineries and Each weekend and then also one of the bakeries every friday morning to offer a free photo of [00:12:00] Dogs and then they can buy the print and they can also sign up to go into my next book wow and so that’s what i’ve been doing this entire month and.

Suzanne: Wow. That’s a lot of editing, let me tell you. 

Andy: Yes, . Oh, wow. You say you’ve had a hundred bookings off that one idea. That’s crazy. 

Suzanne: Mm-Hmm? . 

Andy: Wow. You better, you’ve got to like dogs if you get into that. 

Suzanne: It’s funny, I’m, I’m so allergic to dogs. It’s not even funny, so, 

Andy: no. 

Suzanne: Yeah, totally . So all of my photos are taken outside so I don’t have to go inside the houses.

Andy: Oh dear, take, end up going with a doctor with you, pump 

Suzanne: in 

Andy: antihistamine in, oh man, bring the 

Suzanne: bed along. Yeah, so I missed I missed the one that I absolutely adore more than anything, which is crazy. [00:13:00] And that’s birth photography. 

Andy: Oh yeah, I saw you did one of those. 

Suzanne: Yeah, I’ve done a couple now. And I’m the only one in Napa that does birth photography.

Suzanne: And when I tell people that I do this, they kind of either go, Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. Or gross. And, and I’m like, well, you know what? I I love you ask anybody who knows me and they’ll tell you, I love babies, like newborn babies more than life itself. And so to have the opportunity to To photograph births is like a dream come true for me and it’s a thing and I absolutely love it.

Andy: Wow. So you’re going to push toward more towards that or? 

Suzanne: I would like to. The only thing that I’ve found is that like a doula or a midwife, you’re on call. 

Andy: Yeah. 

Suzanne: And so [00:14:00] that’s the only problem. So yes, I can charge thousands of dollars for these birth photography. But I can’t really commit to anything else for those two weeks.

Andy: Well, I guess you could give like 10 percent discount for cesarean sleep because you know you’re going to be there. 

Suzanne: Yeah, true. So that’s the only downfall to it. Otherwise, it’s my absolute passion is, is doing birth photography. 

Andy: Wow. Wow, that is that’s something if there’s no way around it, though, you’ve just got to be on call.

Suzanne: The last one I was woken up at 4 a. m. and off I went. 

Andy: Yeah, it wouldn’t be for me that, so as long as you have, as long as you have the baby before 9 at night and 8 in the morning, outside of those hours, I’m no use. Wow. Yeah. I’ve noticed you’ve been doing a lot of this for the wineries in your area for bottle [00:15:00] photography.

Suzanne: Mm hmm. That’s another one that I’ve been doing, yes. Yep. 

Andy: Yeah. And I’ve got to say your flash, your control of your flash has really come on from the first few that I saw. 

Suzanne: Oh, thanks. 

Andy: It’s, it’s amazing how just a small movement of the flash or angle could change the whole image. Yeah. 

Suzanne: It’s literally like millimeters and it’s, it’s constantly just going back and forth and back and forth with the lights and.

Suzanne: And having multiple flat, like speed lights going and yeah my dining room is now my studio and my dining room table is now in my office and yeah 

Andy: What does your husband think of this? 

Suzanne: Oh, he’s the one that suggested it. 

Andy: Oh, really? Oh, good for him. Oh 

Suzanne: yeah, he’s, he’s more, he’s more invested in, in my photography business than I am, I think.

Suzanne: He’s very supportive. 

Andy: That is good. [00:16:00] That is, but yeah, it gradually starts to take your whole house over. 

Suzanne: It does. It does. Yeah. So so bottle shots. Yeah. So the thing with bottle shots and where I live, and that’s the thing is finding something that is consistent. Local and and high need is key for me, and I think it’s for a lot of people that are looking to, you know, succeed in their photography and which type of photography they decide to choose on is for me, the bottle shots of like, it’s a constant need.

Suzanne: It’s in high demand. And it’s an easy sell too. I mean, it’s just a lot more work than I thought it would be. Like, I was like, Oh, that looks easy. No, because bottles have reflection and it picks up everything. 

Andy: And most of the bottles are different colors and tints. Yeah. 

Suzanne: Yeah. And then the guy that I’m [00:17:00] doing these currently with, with the wine swirl, the first one that I did, it was 149 times that I moved the glass to get the swirl right.

Andy: 149 !!

Suzanne: that was my first attempt 

Andy: did you drink the wine when you were finished 

Suzanne: i sure did there was a little bit left in the bottle and the one that i did last night was my fifth try so it’s everything you know you start from hours on end trying to get this one shot and now i’ve got it down to more of a science yeah.

Suzanne: But the guy said, you know, I’d love to have it with a swirl. And I’m like, oh, sure. Thinking to myself, how on earth am I going to do this? But, you know, I’m up for a challenge. How did you do it? So that’s what I did. 

Andy: Did you pour it and trigger your camera at the same time or? 

Suzanne: So I don’t actually, I don’t actually have like a [00:18:00] remote trigger and my husband keeps telling me I need to buy one, which is true.

Suzanne: I do. But what I do is I set my camera to a five second timer and then I just watch the flashes and then time it to then move the glass. 

Andy: That’s cool. Yeah. But it worked well. 149 

Suzanne: times. 

Andy: Oh, man. 

Suzanne: Yeah. 

Andy: Yeah. I haven’t got the patience for that, but, but the results are just beautiful, especially with the, the, the wine swirling up like that.

Andy: It’s just beautiful. Thank you. Okay. Last question. If you could start again, go back a year and start all over again, what would you do differently? 

Suzanne: That’s a great question. You know, I probably wouldn’t do things for free as long as I have, and that’s, that’s more of [00:19:00] the issue with not believing in my capabilities and not believing in my, in how, how good I am.

Suzanne: And it’s, it’s getting that belief in yourself allows you to charge. I mean, they’re totally related. And so I wish that I had stopped doing things for free. As long as I had, that’s what I would. Yeah. 

Andy: Yeah. There’s some people that I’m, I talk with on a regular basis and it must be way over a year that they’re still shooting for free.

Andy: And I keep seeing like your work’s good enough. You should charge for it. But it’s like the scared of the scared of the no, you know, scared of being told, no, I’m not paying you. So what just walk away and you don’t have to, you don’t have to shoot it. You save yourself something. 

Suzanne: Yeah, absolutely. [00:20:00] So that’s, that’s definitely what I would, I would say is believing in myself and, and acknowledging the fact that yes, my work is good enough to be paid and, and paid well.

Suzanne: And you know, this isn’t a hobby. This isn’t for me. This isn’t a side hustle. This is my full time job. It was a side hustle. And then it became my full time, my full time thing, because I love it. I love it so much. And it makes me happy. And, and I make other people happy. 

Andy: Yeah. Wait till you, when you do this wedding and you’ve edited all the pictures and you show them to the bride and the bride’s mother.

Andy: If they cry, you know, you’ve hit the, you’ve got it right on. That’s the only part of the weddings I liked. 

Suzanne: Yeah, for sure. I’m like, I’m, I’m excited about that. 

Andy: Yeah. I’m excited for you. Well, you’ve got so much done in one year. It’s incredible. You’ve really gone for it. You’re a go getter. [00:21:00] So thanks for coming on and being honest.

Andy: And I’m sure we’ll talk soon. 

Suzanne: I did want to thank you very, very, very much for everything that you do. And I wish that, well, we are still recording this. So I, I, I just want to thank you, Andy, for like the amount of support that you give has. Has totally helped me move faster than I would without the help that you’ve given me and and for that i’m eternally grateful and And the the book that i’ve created was a hundred percent because of your podcast and that’s why you know, I want you to be recognized in it and you know, I absolutely believe that if it wasn’t for that podcast, I would never have thought of it.
Suzanne: So That’s good. Yeah, totally Yeah so thanks for making me money 

Andy: you’re welcome[00:22:00] 

Andy: okay i hope you enjoyed that chat i honestly don’t see anything stopping susan from making a lot of money from photography she’s very talented check out her website she shoots shots dot com i’m excited to see where a journey takes her she really is talented. Okay, if you need help with anything, you can find me in the Facebook group.

Andy: I’ll put a link in the show notes and also over at photography side hustle. com forward slash one five one. And while you’re there, you can support the show and buy me a coffee. And I want to thank all the people who’ve already done that. It’s really appreciated. Right. I’ll be back next week. I’ll talk to you soon.

Andy: [00:23:00] Bye.