Interviews | Taopan – Ana Brandt | British Columbia Newborn Photographer

LOVE LOVE LOVE the TAoPaN maternity clothing – I use it in EVERY single session.  The owner/creator of TAoPaN, Ana Brandt, is not only a business owner, but a photographer, wife and mom! She’s a creative and lovely person, and I hope to meet her soon, xo Ana!

Where are you located? Do you travel for work?
Tustin, California

Yes all the time. I am in LA sometimes every week or more the that. I travel throughout Los Angeles and Orange County. Every year – sometimes twice – I go back to New York to see my family and provide photoshoots and workshops. I also travel for workshops. I just came from Chicago. I have been to Canada a few times and all over the U.S. We are currently working on International travel plans. I take my family with me most of the time.

What camera/lens do you use? Are you natural or studio lighting?

I am both: natural and studio lighting.

Canon Mark III
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Canon 50mm 1.4 and Canon 85mm and lastly
EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

How do you come up with your lovely designs – they flow so beautifully when photographed!

I have been a photographer for 14 years. I have been designing for 8 of the 14. For 6 of those years I would buy fabric at the store and wrap it around me to see if it hung well. I would go every single week and talk to the fabric people and ask them about fabrics – what flowed – what hung on the body – what covered the chunky parts! I would go to shoots and just work with each body type trying to wrap, twist, blow fabric on every single pregnancy shoot. I had (and still do have) about 6 bins of fabrics and I just kept pinning and clipping. Finally I had a friend who was a designer  introduce me to pattern makers and I found a seamstress. I just started experimenting and having my designs come to life. Many times I am travelling and will see something and then try to draw it (I can’t draw) and explain it to my seamstresses who then help me create. Now…years later I can’t shut it off. I want to design a new item every day!

Do you have a preference over maternity or newborn photography?

No I love them both. They both have their challenges as well as their amazing beauty. Somedays I am amazing at pregnancy and not so much at newborns. Other days I am amazing at newborns and not so much at pregnancy. But I couldn’t leave either one behind.

How the heck do you manage a photography biz, maternity/baby online store, workshops AND family??

I never started out this way. To begin with I am the youngest of 5 in my adopted family. My Mother did everything. She worked, cooked, sewed, hung wallpaper – there was nothing she couldn’t do – and she did it all with 5 kids in tow, who were all a year apart and two of us were adopted. She is almost 80 and hasn’t stopped a minute. So being raised in that environment I have always done multiple things. In College I took a full course load and worked three jobs. I have always been a very busy person. I was a photographer before I became a Mom. I worked a day job, worked photography on the side, went to school and was newly married. Once I had a baby, I just continued doing what I do and adjusted my schedule with each developmental change.

When my son was little I worked from home just doing 1 or 2 shoots a week. I was busy learning how to become a Mother and I napped a lot!!! Believe it or not, I wasn’t in a hurry to work on a photography career. I loved photography and I loved being a Mom and I took my time in the beginning. When I had my daughter business was slowly growing and I wanted a space away from home, since I now had two children under 3. I needed my own area so when I was home I could be a Mom and not worry about clients coming in. But my husband traveled most of the time so I was alone to run a business and raise the children. I rented a 500 square foot studio and worked by appointment only and by doing this it allowed me to create my own schedule. Every afternoon I was home with two little ones doing nap time and nursing, all while trying to practice my craft and build a business. Then the economy took off and business was booming. I took my second child to the studio every day and my son to preschool for just half a day. I worked with one and sometimes two children by my side for 2 years and then became pregnant with my third. By the time I had my third child I tripled my studio space and started designing clothing.

My point is, that it seems like I do a lot now but honestly its been 14 years in the making. My kids are now 9-11 and 13 and have been by my side in this journey. Everything is a process and everything evolves. My children and I are very close to me as they are so used to working by my side so it all evolved very naturally. Now 14 years later I have a full staff. I learned to delegate along the way and much of the store is handled by my team. They all work very very hard and help me accomplish the many things I still want to do. We plan family times, date times and even cooking times. My kids know they are my world and without my family this would all mean nothing.

How your did career evolve for you?

I was very fascinated as a teenager with the camera. Being adopted and having no photos of myself as a baby or my family was really hard for me. I think it was harder then I really knew. I alway gravitated towards cameras and photos, if nothing else to capture my image – my new families image. It was the only way I could build my own history, since I had none. When I was in my twenties my brothers had children and I was so fascinated by the relationship between parent and child and watching that evolve. I was in their faces every minute capturing every single moment. I shot tons and tons of photos – never intending to be a photographer. I would enter competitions for fun and win some of them. I went back to school and took classes because I wanted to learn how to develop film. I was just fascinated with the process. All the while I had regular jobs – one being a web designer. Web design and photography went hand in hand, but web design paid the bills so that was my day job. I kept taking photos for family and friends not asking for money just enjoying the craft. Sometimes I would get paid a little, most often not. I ended up meeting my husband in NY and we were married and moved to California. The first thing I did was enroll in a local college to take photography classes. I would spend nights developing film and going to book stores, photography meetings just absorbing it all. The challenge was that I had my day job and no one in California knew me and I had no clients. I would photograph my husbands friends to get my name out there more and practice on the side. One day I received a magazine from a child modeling agency and in the back they had ads for photographers. I called and asked if I could buy an ad. They said they were looking for photographers and did I want to bring in my portfolio. I had 10 years of nieces, nephews and other subjects a portfolio and so in I went. They hired me as one of their photographers. I was making really good money and working under an advertising agency as a Web Project Manager by day and shooting models on weekends and at night. Client by client I just built my business. One day I just quit my day job and never looked back.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

Be with my children first and foremost. We are always crafting, watching movies, cooking, shopping – playing by the pool. If I am not working I am with them. Occasionally my husband and I sneak out for date nights. We are a very close family and when my husband and I aren’t working we are usually surrounded with our children. I like to read though lately its been hard to find a good book to dive into. I LOVE TV and have a slew of shows I like to dive into and then there is that laundry…very exciting! Before children I rode horses and did yoga and pilates. Now turning 44 this summer, I have decided its time to dive back into yoga!

If you weren’t a photographer, what do you think you would be doing as a career?

Oh my, that has changed over the years. I would say a clothing designer or some type of designer. BUT I love to ORGANIZE so maybe a professional organizer! I wish I was a dancer because I absolutely adore dance. I am sure it would be some type of self made business in an artistic realm because I have always been that way. I like to work on my own.

What is your favorite clothing maternity item that you love to use?

This too changes by the day. Right now its the TuTu Mama – I am in love with it. But last month it was the Dreamy Robe and next month it might be something else. I get bored very very easily and I am always dreaming up new designs.

If a client could only chose one photography session, would you suggest they come for a maternity session or a newborn session?

Oooohh I can’t answer that. Sometimes its maternity and sometimes its newborn. Depends on the circumstances. Sometimes people have a friend or someone that can help with one of the sessions, so it really varies. I love them both equally as much. Of course everyone wants the newborn but I have met countless people that have said they regretted not getting pregnancy. We also mostly sell pregnancy-newborn packages so that’s a hard question to answer!

If you could tell aspiring photographers one thing, what would it be?

I would tell them to be patient because your career isn’t going anywhere. I would tell them to stop comparing themselves to others. Photography is a personal journey. It’s also one that takes a lifetime to develop. As we evolve, so does our art and we simple can not rush the creative process. Learn the techniques, master the craft and enjoy – truly enjoy your subjects. That’s the key to happiness.

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