She’s had a HUGE impact on the baby and maternity sectors and is known all over the world! We are so incredibly excited to share this week’s interview with Ana Brandt!! The full audio and transcript of the interview are below.
Full interview audio:
Links to websites and resources mentioned:
50+ online courses with Ana – https://www.bellybabyschool.com/
Learn all about lighting and more with Profoto – https://profoto.com/us
Ana Brandt’s YouTube channel – www.AnaBrandtVideos.com
Ana Brandt’s member site with tutorials, downloads, and videos – https://anabrandtonline.com/
Ana Brandt’s work – https://www.anabrandt.com/
You can also find Ana on Instagram and Facebook!
Trevor: Welcome to RetouchUp’s interview series where we get to hear from some very talented photographers and how they turned their photography business into a success. My name is Trevor Black and I’ll be your host. We are just thrilled that we have the chance to speak with Ana Brandt today! Ana is one of the most recognized maternity and newborn photographers in the world! She is a mother of 3 children and has been a professional for over 20 years. Her YouTube channel has over 197,000 subscribers, and her Instagram page has reached over 240,000 followers and her insights continue to climb worldwide. Ana has trained in 32 countries and her student reach is well over 10,000 in in-person training and online training over 20,000. Ana is a Certified Photographic Craftsman with Professional Photographers of America, and she was the first photographer in the world to design, create and market maternity gowns to the photography industry 15 years ago. Ana, it is so amazing to have you here, welcome!
Ana: Thank you, thank you for having me.
Trevor: Absolutely. Well man, I know that there are a lot of people out there that would prefer to hear you speak, so I’m just going to jump right into it so we can hear you. And so my first question, you know, as I’m going through researching more about you, listening to podcasts, interviews, there, I love something that you said, and I’m paraphrasing a little bit here, but you said, you know, be prepared for growth and be looking down the road. What does that mean to you, Ana? You know, like what have you done, are doing now to prepare even now for yourself for growth and even more growth?
Ana: Sure. You know, it’s one of the things I say to photographers all the time is that when we’re starting out, we’re never thinking about growth. We’re thinking about the particular moment where you want your first client, your first paying client, your first sale. And so, so many of us are focused on right at the moment and we don’t realize that if we’re consistent, we’re going to grow our business. When I started out, there was no social media, YouTube wasn’t, you know, happening. I mean, I was film and this is 22 years ago. So I had no idea of what was to come. I had no idea the newborn photography world would become what it was. I had no idea people would start selling maternity gowns. I didn’t know YouTube was going to be a big hit. I was just doing my thing. So, you know, along the way, when I started, stupid things, like when I made my YouTube channel, I didn’t call it Ana Brandt. I just called it like B Studio videos. Well, now 20 something years later, my YouTube channel has 54 million views on it. Had I known that I probably would’ve just called my channel Ana Brandt. I mean now I call it Ana Brandt Videos and forward it. But it’s like, when it comes to business name, when it comes to branding, when it comes to colors, sometimes photographers will say, oh, I’m just going to call my business tree top photography. And I say, well, are you going to like tree top photography in 20 years? Will, will someone know that? Is that a brand you’re going to develop? So we’re so focused on the here and now, we don’t think about the future and growth. So even now I’m constantly thinking ahead. I have kids getting ready to go into college now, my kids have grown up in the set. So everything I’m doing, I’m always thinking, okay, what am I going to do next? And what am I leaving behind? How is this going to impact my business going forward? Just the purchases that I make, the studio I’m in, when I’m looking for space, what is a space that I can grow into? Not just the space for immediate need, but what kind of space will I need five years from now? And just, just kind of our processes, our systems. I’m constantly trying to plan for the busy holiday season. So I’m working on a lot of projects right now, so that when the fall comes and we’re slammed with Christmas, that our filing system is up to date and our pricing is current. And so you just always kind of have to be not only working on the everyday now, but preparing for the future, preparing for growth.
Trevor: I love that. I mean, super wise. How, how did you kind of get into that mindset? Was it just, you know, a matter of just a lot of practice, cause like, kind of like you were saying, I feel like even myself, I get stuck, you know, a lot of times just stuck in the here and the, now the day-to-day type of stuff. So how did you get into that mindset?
Ana: I mean, I had to. So, for an example, when the very beginning, even before I became a professional, I was a professional photographer. I was a web designer for years. And so as a web designer, I wanted to create a photography website just for my amateur work. And I remember at the time I was trying to think of a domain name. So my brother was like, I don’t know, Photos Diversions. Photos Diversions meant nothing to me, but I was like, oh yeah, okay, that sounds good. Then when I became a professional, I hated the name Photo Diversions. I hated it. I was like, what? This name means, nothing. It just meant nothing, I didn’t want to run a business called Photo Diversions. I hated the name. So I immediately buy a name, domain name, AnaBrandt.com. And it was like five years of mail that would come for Photo Diversions, I had set up accounts Photo Diversions. To this day, if something comes up with that name, I just squirm like, oh, I hated the name. I couldn’t wait to get rid of it. So, a lot of it was just, you don’t know what you don’t know until you don’t know it. So, you know, the, you know, the maternity gowns, when I first started creating maternity gowns it was for me, I was tired of wrapping women in fabric. I didn’t think for one second anyone would buy a gown from me and it would become into this whole big thing. I just thought, I’m going to create some maternity gowns for me. Well I was in a photography group and people were like, oh, we want to buy some gowns. Okay, fine. Then I decided, okay, I’m going to create a brand. Well I, in 2007, I self published a book. I needed a book title. So the book title was The Art of Pregnancy and Newborn. Well, at that time, when I self-published the book, then photographers are like, oh, I want to follow you, I want to take workshops. So I created this brand called TAoPaN, which was an acronym for the art of pregnancy and newborn. I hated that name because, at first it seemed perfectly logical. I’m going to write a book. I’m going to create this clothing line. I’m going to all do it under the brand TAoPaN, because I didn’t think it should be under my name because no one said, Ana, what if this brand is big? What if you sell it to 80 countries? Do you want it, will you love that name? And no one ever said that to me. Well, I would teach workshops and someone would say, oh, where did you get that gown from? And I would go, well, of course I designed it and they’d be like, oh, I thought TAoPaN designed it. And I’d be like, well, I am TAoPaN. And, years of this! Where people would literally, I would just roll my eyes. Like if you wanted to bother me, you would say, where did you get this gown from? And I would be like, gosh, I must be doing the poorest job in the world marketing because I was so busy marketing my photography that I wasn’t really marketing TAoPaN. I just was like, oh, I’ll just come up with a brand. And who knows what happens? Well, what happened was, my designs ended up selling to 80 countries. What happened was YouTube blew up and people in, you know, 50 different countries knew my name and knew more about me than I knew about me. And I was so focused on my photography, and then I started having children, my children are all two years apart, that I wasn’t really paying attention to other people around me. And so the first time I really looked at my stats on YouTube I had a million views and I was like, oh wait, what? When did that happen? Because I was just uploading, but I wasn’t going and looking at my stats. I wasn’t just doing a lot. I was like, oh, I’ll do a shoot, upload a video, how to wrap a pregnant woman, go back to my shoot, pick up my child from preschool and the lot. And I wasn’t really looking at the big picture. I wasn’t looking at my social media account. I was just doing things. And then before I knew it, my YouTube channel was exploding. I was being asked to teach all over the world. People knew my name, celebrities were calling, but I, now I have, you know, three children, you know, all zero, two and four. My business is booming, I’m the six-figure photographer, everybody knows my name, but I feel like people knew who I was before I knew who I was.
Trevor: Oh wow, interesting.
Ana: And so then it was like, wait a minute. Now I’ve got a, hold on a minute. Now I’ve got to kind of change things. I got rid of TAoPaN. I tried to put things under my name. It’s still kind of a separate name. It’s called Belly Baby Wear by Ana Brandt. But you know, even now people still go, oh, where did you get that baby outfit from? And I’ll be like, well, we made it. Oh, you have a clothing line? Yeah, I do. So now it’s kind of a joke. Like many people will come in and they don’t know anything about me. And I’ll be like, that’s fine cause they’re here for a photo session. They’re not necessarily a fan, you know? So, you know, even now I struggle with brand identity and brand awareness and consolidation, and I’m always trying to strip things down and, and I’ve seen other photographers do that. It’ll be, you know, even Sue Bryce, I’ve been following Sue Bryce for years. And for so many times it was, you know, Sue Bryce, and then it would be Sue Bryce and creative live. And then Sue Bryce education and portrait bestsellers. And I followed Sue Bryce kind of change along the way. And it’s like any photographer, when you start out, you’ll start out just kind of focusing on yourself, not realizing you’re creating brands and people are following you. And so when I’m teaching, I tell photographers, they go, well, no one’s – just this weekend I taught an academy and my students were like, well, no one’s following me. No one really knows who I am. No one, you know, I’m just doing my thing. And I go, actually, you’d be surprised. People are watching you, but you don’t think people are watching you. And so one of the students said, actually it’s funny you say that. One of my clients reached out and said, I see her at a workshop with Ana Brandt. And she, the photographer was surprised, but the person that reached out and knew who I was and followed me then in turn is following this photographer who is in her area. And so the photographer is like, that’s weird. No one’s ever said that to me before, but I guess they were watching my stories. I thought no one was watching my stories. And so, you know, as creatives, people get so discouraged right now with social media, if they don’t get a certain number of likes, if they don’t get people commenting, they’ll assume that no one’s paying attention. They want instant gratification. They want a million responses, but I tell them, you’ll, they’re paying attention you just don’t know it. A client will walk in and tell me, oh, I, I knew you photographed Kobe Bryant’s babies, and I know you did this and I know you just went to Dubai – they’ll tell me more about me than I know about me. And then I’ll think about it. And I’ll think, did that client ever comment on my social media posts? And it’s usually no, the client has never actually commented on my posts or I didn’t even know that they were following me, but they’ll come in and they’ll know everything about me. And so I just try to tell creatives, be aware that anything you’re putting out in the world for good, for bad, whether political, whether it’s spiritual, whether it’s your work, you know, how you behave as a mother, as a father, as a sibling, people are watching everything you do. So if you want to be top name in your area, or you want to be award winning, or you want celebrities under your name, then understand that, prepare yourself for growth, prepare yourself for when that does happen. And too many times we’re not, we’re just too shortsighted.
Trevor: That’s amazing. Awesome, awesome advice. Thanks for being so open and sharing some of those stories, cause I think a lot of it was probably, you know, take a look at Ana Brandt and just think to ourselves, like, wait, what? Like, she still has problems, like, you know, getting her brand out there and stuff? And people don’t know all of her dress line and everything? Like what, like, that’s so weird and like, I’m glad you also brought up like the marketing aspect of it because, even you yourself, you describe marketing as, you know, marketing is who you are. It is, it’s not how good you are. And so we need to stand out and catch people’s attention. But you know, sometimes we, we have an off day, we have off week or even even a month. So I’m, I’m curious to know where do you draw your inspiration from when you feel yourself maybe lacking it?
Ana: Gosh, I, I am constantly requiring inspiration because first of all, I get very bored. If I have a great session and everything’s amazing and I love it, the minute kind of I’m done, it’s kind of over. It’s like, you’re only as good as your last image. It’s like, okay, I’ve kind of done that. So then the next session, when they come in, I don’t want to do what I did yesterday because I’ve already done that. And it’s kind of, that’s old news. It’s kind of boring. So I struggle with being bored of my own work. So I feel like I have to get creativity every day without spending too much time on it. Meaning, if I’m on social media, I kind of limit how much time I spend there, but I’ll just kind of look and I’ll get inspired and it could be something on social. It could be a magazine, it could be a billboard. I look at what’s trending. Is it the Spring and everything’s in bloom and so flowers are trending. Sometimes it could be a perfume ad and a model showing perfume, and I’ll be looking at the dress and just the image and the lighting and I’ll, I’ll kind of translate it to, ooh, I wonder how that would look if she was pregnant and there were flowers, you know, in the corner of the frame and she was wearing a tighter dress. And so I just try to draw in from current trends, current colors, pay attention to what’s around me without feeling jealous or competitive. Oh, well, that person did that. And I didn’t do that. I think that constantly surrounding yourself from visual media is important. And I love to pick up magazines and in my travel and rip out pages from different things. If I see an ad for Dove and it’s a woman in a white bathing suit showing off her skin and Dove soap, I’ll think, ooh, I really like the lighting of that. I really like the freshness of that whiteness. Next time I’m in a session, I should maybe focus on white. And then I’ll have a client come in and I’ll be like, what color do you like? She’ll be like, I want white. And I’ll be like, oh, that’s perfect cause I’m on a white kick right now because I saw like an ad for a Dove magazine and I liked how everything was in white. And so just constantly going back to how you were when you first started. You know, all photographers, when we first start, we’re drawn by the inspiration, the images around us. It could be a movie, it could be an ad. It could be someone else’s work and then we’ll go, gosh, how, how can I create that? Too many times we’ll look at it and be afraid that we’re looking at our competition. Rather than look at your competition, look around you and be inspired by what someone else is creating and think, why do I like that image? Is it the mood? Is it the lighting? Is the location. I mean, just yesterday I saw someone’s work popped up in my feed, I don’t even know who was, but I, it was this amazing location, I think in Colorado, and I showed it to my assistant and I was like, ooh, I really like, I liked the mood. I liked the location. I liked the color. I was like, oh I need to bookmark that in my head. I just, for my own family photos, next time I’m doing pictures. So I think it’s just, constantly make sure that you’re educating yourself, that you’re watching other videos, you’re listening to podcasts, you’re reading books, picking up magazines that, you know, people put out magazines for a reason. I love to pick up Vogue magazines when I’m traveling and just look at things or I’ll pick up People magazine or just something silly. If you go in my house right now, I’m pretty sure I have the latest five Vogue magazine issues in my den just because I love the photographers and Vogue. I like how they style women. I like how, I like their mooding. I like their mood. And even though I don’t do that type of work, I can take it to the next pregnancy session that I have or the next location shoot that I have and go, hmm, I should try something different. And to me, it’s about taking inspiration from my own work and others, and then every time I pick up the camera and say, what can I do just a little bit different than yesterday? How can I make my work just a little bit better than the session before. If you constantly do that, you’ll fight boredom and you’ll find out that you’re actually inspiring yourself.
Trevor: That’s awesome. And that’s really fun to hear that you like, even now continue to go through like magazines and stuff. Cause I mean, I remember you saying, you know, years ago you gained so much, uh, kind of inspiration from Anne Geddes and Ansell Adams and that even now you’re still continuing to just like, anywhere you go, you kind of just keep an open mindset as to like, you know, what could I use this for? What, what, how, how would this look here and stuff. Like, do you take, do you take pictures on your phone to, to, to remember certain things?
Ana: All the time.
Trevor: That’s awesome.
Ana: Yeah. I take pictures on my phone. I’ll save videos. There’s this guy, I don’t know his name, but every time he pops up in my feed, I save his video. He does like, I wish I knew his name. He does, like, not magic tricks, but he’ll be out and he’ll, I don’t even know, there’ll be like, bubbles in an image and he’ll show a video of him shooting through bubbles. I just call him this magic trick guy. I dunno, whenever his video pops up, it’s just, he’ll like the, it’ll be a shot of someone’s foot in a puddle, so all you see is the shoe and the puddle. And then he’ll show you the behind the scenes of someone jumping in that puddle. And he’s like laying on the ground on the belly, right by the puddle. And so I love when his videos pop up because it’s very much behind the scenes. And sometimes my teenage daughters, they love to send me TikToK videos. Like recently, one of my daughters sent me a video of this guy shooting at a beach and the woman, the model’s sitting on a swing and there’s a crane holding the swing. So there’s a crane on the beach and there’s a, the crane is holding a swing and the model is swinging on the swing over an ocean. So the image is her swinging on a swing over the ocean, the behind the scenes is you can see this crane. Now, I’m not going to bring a crane to the beach and do a model, but I’ve watched this video like 50 times. And my daughter’s like, oh my gosh, that’s so amazing, we should do something so fun. And I’m like, yeah. So, you know, my kids will draw inspiration and send me videos and clips. They love to send me TicTok things. And so we’ll say that, you know, we’ll see things through a phone and is literally just, just to draw inspiration, or maybe the next time we’re at the beach we’ll, I don’t know, bring a swing. We’ll probably not going to bring a crane, but maybe we’ll bring a poofy dress. And so yeah, I save, oh, I have tons of things. I have pages from magazine, or dog-eared books. I have things on my phone, I’ll take pictures of billboards, um, constantly. And sometimes if I’m going into a session and I’ll feel like, oh, I’ve got nothing, I’m just not inspired. I’ll go on Pinterest. Or one of my favorite things to do is go to Adobe Stock. And if I’m doing say something seasonal, I’ll just Google, Christmas children, and I’ll just look at stock images of something that inspires me. And it could be something silly, like a closeup of a child holding an ornament. I’m like, oh, that’s a good idea. Next time at the tree farm, I’ll get a picture of a child holding an ornament. Silly little things like that.
Trevor: No, that’s awesome. Man, I would, I, for one would love to see your inspiration book and just flip through it, see everything that you’ve put down there.
Ana: I have a lot. A lot of Victoria’s secret magazine ads. Yeah, so fun. There’s one I can think of that’s in my notebook where I think the Victoria secret model was sitting at the end of a bed, I’m sure in her lingerie, but the mood and the light coming through the room and her pose, all I could imagine was a pregnant woman doing that. And I’m pretty sure I haven’t shot anything like it, but it just, I was like, I love that. And then the only other one that I’ll tell you that I love every year, and I didn’t see it this year because of COVID or the past two years, there’s a guy who shoots Oscar winners, I wish I could remember his name, but he creates sets in the back of the parking lot. So what people will do is when they get their Oscar, you know, after the Oscars, they go into this parking lot and it’s just a set of v-flats and backgrounds and he creates amazing images. And I love, I remember going in Instagram and like searching for it. I could watch his images all day long. They’re absolutely amazing. And so this guy, you know, he’s very well known, I wish I knew his name, but what a perfect time. Getting a perfect actress that has her hair and makeup done, wearing the best dresses in the world, with her Oscar, shooting at a set in a parking lot. So the set is all make believe, everything is on v-flats and fake walls. I don’t know if he’s using available light or he brings in studio light, and the images are amazing! Amazing. Am I ever going to do that? No, but I just like to look at his work.
Trevor: For sure. Yeah. Getting that inspiration. No, thanks so much for sharing all of that. And yeah, just, just, just as we, uh, you know, I want to respect your time, have just a couple of questions left. We would love to kind of learn more about, you know, some of the best resources that you would recommend to a group of photographers that would help them and their business. You know, it could be something that you use on a daily, weekly, even, even monthly basis.
Ana: Resources of like reading or watching things?
Trevor: Yeah, absolutely. What, like what are some resources that you use that you love and that you would recommend to other photographers?
Ana: Well, first of all, I have to say my own, because I do teach, I teach online at BellyBabySchool.com. We have over 50 courses online. And so we do a lot of educational content of our own to inspire other photographers for my own inspiration. So I always tell new photographers, if they’re learning, they should definitely check out, you know, YouTube videos, online learning platforms, sometimes they should just go to Pinterest. Profoto, I’m a Profoto ambassador, and Profoto is constantly putting out, you know, videos or behind the scenes or blogs of some of their artists that are creating work. So if you want to, you know, learn how to use light, I always tell people to follow, you know, kind of the resources of the products they’re looking at. You know, you’ve got, you’ve got Cannon, you’ve got Nikon, you’ve got Profoto. I mean, any company that puts out products you’re using, you should always kind of follow them on YouTube, subscribe to their sites, subscribe to their blogs, so you can get inspiration of other creatives using the same products you’re using. Besides just going to, you know, picking up PPA magazine, I’ve been a member of PPA forever, so I love reading their magazines and seeing what other people are doing. Of course, YouTube is always amazing. TicTok there’s tons of behind the scenes videos, just, just trying to inspire yourself without going down the rabbit hole of social media, because sometimes people will do this and then all of a sudden they hate themselves. They think they’re terrible. They think everyone else’s work is good. Just limit yourself to a couple of minutes of sound bytes of information from other places, just enough to get inspired without being jealous.
Trevor: Oh man, I’m taking notes. I definitely need that. And I’m sure, you know, most people, you know, know how to connect with you in some way, but just in case, if there are more people that would love to, to reach out to you, what would be the best way for them to do so?
Ana: Gosh, there’s so many. For my YouTube channel, I have tons of videos, you can just go to AnaBrandtVideos.com. I do have an online members site at AnaBrandtOnline.com where we have tutorials and downloads and hundreds of videos. I teach at BellyBabySchool.com, which is like a creative live where it’s learn on demand, where you can sign up for a course and learn immediately. Of course, my work is at my name, AnaBrandt.com, as well as Instagram and Facebook.
Trevor: Fantastic. Well, man, this has been incredibly valuable for us. We appreciate your time so much, Ana. I just want to give you a big, big, thank you. I hope other people are going to be taking notes as they listen to this as well.
Ana: Thank you so much for having me.
Trevor: Absolutely. You take care Ana. Have a great rest of your day.
Ana: Thank you.
Trevor: Thanks, bye-bye.