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So nineteen ninety nine was when I came to California, got married, quit my job that year, mainly child models was my bread and butter, and then my evening job was either taking a class or shooting models for free. A year later, and I was still working out of my home. Now I have a house. Now I have property. I’m loving it. I’m building sets on my lawn. I’m shooting in my home. I’m going to find a tiny space that I can pay with one client.
So I found a five hundred square foot space that I could pay five hundred and fifteen dollars a month for.
I would come to the studio and when Olivia was born, I would nurse her, put her down on my teeny tiny office. Do.
Pick her up, pick Evan up, my goal was to get them both home and fed and napping by one p.m. right that year, I became a six figure photographer, went from a 500 square foot studio to a 20 500 square foot studio. And I’ve I’ve never lost steam since. I’ve only grown since.
All right, hey, guys, John Bruno Smith here from the High Rollers Club today, we have a very, very special guest on with us.
And she’s one of the most recognizable maternity newborn photographers in the world. Her YouTube channel has over 42 million views and nearly 200000 subscribers. She’s worked with people like Alicia Silverstone, the legendary Kobe Bryant. And we’re so glad to have her. Anna Brandt, how are you? I’m good. I’m well, thank you. Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for joining us. I’m super excited to be chatting. I used to shoot newborns back in the day and I actually had some of your classes back, like back when I was shooting newborns. And then I realized I really wasn’t that great at it. So very it’s a very difficult skill, definitely into Perfect. Your photography is amazing. Your portfolio is gorgeous. Tell me how you started. How did you find newborn photography? How how did you end up going into this genre?
Gosh, you know, I was an amateur photographer from a teenager. I had a camera. I was 16 and had a camera. I remember I was I went to a private boarding school. And so sending pictures home to my family were super important. But even earlier than that, I’m adopted in. My adopted father is from Argentina. So taking photos as a child was super important for the family because they would send that he was the only one from Argentina in America. So they would always send photos. So I actually grew up with a grandmother who would take photos of the food and the family gatherings, and she was always taking photos. So then when I became a teenager, I just started taking photos because when I was adopted into this family, I didn’t come with a photo album and I wasn’t adopted. So I was four. So it’s pretty much under five. There aren’t any photos of me. And when you are adopted, it’s not like you just show up with all your photos in your hand. I mean, that would be great if that happens. It didn’t happen with me. So I didn’t have photos of myself. I’ve never seen what I’ve looked like as an infant. I’ve never even seen with any of my biological members of my family look like I have no idea what my mother, my brother, my father. I don’t know what any of them were. So being adopted. And I’m Puerto Rican and I have a white mother and Latin father from Argentina. It was obvious that I was adopted. No. One, we had a lot of different mixtures in my family and that was fine.
But I definitely struggled as a teenager to just try to capture my own image. This is before digital, before social media, when I went to a private boarding school.
You know, as friends, we would always take photos and you dress up and, you know, you put the camera on the tripod and, you know, you do all of that, right? Well, when I went to school, I actually went to school for accounting. I saw that there was a dark room and you could develop your own film.
So I thought, oh, my gosh, I should take a class purely just to print my own photos and fell in love with it at nineteen. I mean, I just was obsessed. It was just a hobby. So from nineteen to twenty nine, I was a pure hobbyist. And when I say hobbyist, I was not saying I was a hobbyist, but asking people to pay for my photography. And that’s something I teach now. Only when when people come to me and I say, are you a hobbyist or you’re professional, because as a hobbyist I was a true hobbyist. I didn’t never took a dime as a hobbyist for photos. I never asked anyone to pay for my film or developing. I would photograph plans. I rode horses at the time, horses. I became an aunt very early on, so I was and Anna by the time I was twenty, some of the youngest of five. So it isn’t enough. He’s pretty quickly. So I was obsessed with them and I think it was I remember with both of my first niece and my first nephew, who one is engaged. No one is married now and one is a cop. But I remember with my nephew seeing my grandfather who lived till he was ninety seven, this is my adopted family, seeing my grandfather, my dad, my brother and my nephew.
The four generations never forget being at a barbecue in New York and just staring at that because I didn’t have that. I don’t have generations to go by and I was obsessed with photographing my grandfather, who would look right in my lens till the day he died to photographing my nephews, who would just, you know, my. My sister in law was so happy because I documented everything. And then when my my niece was born to my brother, I remember my I have a photo of my sister in law hugging my niece. And seeing that bond in that connection was amazing, and I have these photos that I still look back at that are just amazing, but even then, at that time, it wasn’t to be a professional photographer. It was just with this makes me really happy. This feels good, right? So I was an amateur of 10 years when school became a web designer very early on. Back in the days, we would hand coat everything at twenty nine. I was a Web project manager at the top of my career. I’d become certified in Microsoft and was totally in the Web tech world. I had a website because I was a web designer. So all my photography, I had already built a portfolio online just because and at twenty nine I remember talking to my web manager saying that I had moved from New York to California, got married, started shooting child models for fun, make some money.
Wasn’t going to be a career until the day I quit. I had no intention of being a new born photographer. I loved babies, so I had been in the church nursery since I was 12. I was I babysat. I was a nanny. I’ve always been involved with children and babies love them. And all I can tell you is twenty nine years of age, I remember being in my cubicle at the advertising agency I was working at making over eighty five thousand dollars a year plus bonus, doing fine. Married, no kids. And I said, I think I’m going to quit. And my boss is like, why are you quitting? And I was like, I’ve worked in corporate ten years and I literally quit that day. I remember at the time I was out of town and I think I cried for like three days and just moved to my pajamas. It was the first time in my life I wasn’t in the Sunday paper looking for a job or scanning words, and I just quit. I registered my business and I never looked back.
I love that. I love that. I think we I think, you know, like whenever you’re called to do something else, I think you just kind of know so. So you quit your job and then at what points were you like were you really going started hyper focusing in on neuborne photography because now you’re one of the best. Like when I think of neuborne photography, you are one of the people I think of your incredible work.
Thank you. I love what happened was I fell I followed two photographers at the time and Geddis and Ansel Adams. So Ansel Adams, I was obsessed with his black and white work. So same calendars printed things on the wall, everything in his labs and Geddis or for her babies. But I didn’t like all the dress up stuff. I just liked a classic black and white that she would do of mom and baby. And I was obsessed with her work and I wish I could go back to my twenty nine year old mind.
I can’t. All I can tell you is that it was pretty immediate. Like I said, I was shooting child models and in California that’s easy to do in a lot of the child models that I photographed our actual movie stars. Now it’s kind of funny, but I immediately my website, which was all my nieces and nephews and friends and families, was maternity and newborn photographer. When I came to California at the time, my husband had two college friends that were both pregnant. My very first pregnancy couple that I did was an interracial couple. He was black and she’s white. They still have their photos on the wall today and I told them they’re friends of my husband. The husband went to college with my husband and I said, I’m just starting out. I’m a new photographer, can I photograph you for free? And I was taking on a lighting intensive course at the time.
I just immediately kind of I’m and I’m a someone that I love to take classes. So I immediately was taking classes, enrolled in courses. I’d already been taking a bunch, so. My immediate focus, believe it or not, was on maternity newborn, that was what my website said, that’s what I was doing. I had like no real photos of newborn and no real photos of maternity. And pretty quickly I photographed her. I remember because I almost set her house on fire with hot lights and her husband’s a firefighter and he’s like, Anna, what’s Bernie?
And I’m like, oh, I got these highlights from eBay. And he’s like, I think they’re too close to the curtain. And I remember going on the Yahoo! Search boards. How do you photograph an interracial couple? It seems so basic now, but it was like I was like freaking out, like, OK, he’s really dark and he’s really away from the whole I don’t know what I’m doing. And I remember someone telling me exposed for the dark skin, put him by the window, her on the other side.
So I immediately photographed them and went to the darkroom, developed the film, one of the website. What I did was I found a local LBG worryin because I knew I wanted to start a family very quickly. My husband at the time, seven years older than I was. And so I wanted to start a family very quickly. So I need to find a local OBGYN. The first appointment I had, one of the things I’ve done in every place I’ve ever been, when you fill out the app and it says your occupation, I write photographer, but I don’t just write it. You’re sitting in the waiting room for twenty years. I write over so much that when the doctor gets the paper, it’s like. It’s so bold you can’t miss and I still do it now, I still do. You can’t miss it. So I remember her saying, oh, you’re a photographer, what photography to do. And I was like, oh, yeah, I specialize in maternity, newborn. I no idea what I was doing. Right. But I asked her, I said, I’m working on a new project. A new project means new business and I need models. Can I put a sign in your office and I’ll give them a free session? And she said, sure. This is before model calls, before social media. Facebook didn’t exist and it was an eight and a half by eleven piece of paper, handwritten and taped next to the reception window. Right. And I said for every model that I would get, I would frame an eight by ten and decorate her office.
Thus began Ogwyn displays, something I had never even heard of before. I just made it up. I’m going to Mychal’s and Aaron Brothers and I was obsessed with buying the buy one, get one for a penny. That’s how I did my first OBGYN display from Aaron Brothers by one frame. Get one frame for Penny. I would develop each one myself by the frames show up a week or two later. I was just very consistent and I tell people all the time I built my business one client, one baby at a time. I had no idea what I was doing. I also had no forecast of. What we have today, and that’s something that I’m mentoring people, I say if I wish someone would have told me something at the time, it was be prepared for growth. I think so often we’re not we’re not prepared for growth. We’re so narrow minded. We’re so focused on this now that we don’t stop to think. If I continue at this pace, what will my life be like in 10 years? All right. We’ll, of course, grow so stupid mistakes. Like my first website wasn’t Anabranch, it was photo diversions. I just made it up. I don’t even know what that meant. It took me like five years to get rid of that name because it didn’t mean anything to me.
And so I tell people now, when you’re picking your name, will you love it 20 years from now, you know? So in my YouTube channel, I named it be studio video. I don’t know why to this day. Can’t get rid of it. I have to link it to Anabranch videos dot com because YouTube figured out how to change it. I have like I don’t even know, one million views or something and YouTube wouldn’t let me change it. I didn’t know I was going to have one million views. I didn’t even know I was going to have one view. Right. So I wish kind of in hindsight I could go back and. Fix those stupid little things and so that are my branding was set up in the beginning, but I wasn’t focused on John Edwards today. I just was like, I think I love this. I’m pretty sure I can make money doing this and I’m just going to do it.
So you kept building your business and you started really focusing in. How long was it until you were able to pay your bills?
You were making a good living because you know, so many photographers that I teach their artists in their creatives and they’re so talented, but they’re starving artists and it’s very hard for them to make the switch from being a starving artist to actually running a business. So at what point did you really start to switch to being.
Able to support yourself with your Fatime is three years, yeah, and I know this was well, first of all, I’m a huge believer in multiple streams of revenue. Absolutely. I have seven or eight right now, and I’ve always had multiple streams of revenue. When I was in college, I would work three jobs. I mean, it was rare if I didn’t have at least two jobs. I’ve never had one job in my life. So when I started, I actually used to hand color photographs. And this is something hardly anyone knows about me. But I owned a website called Hend Color Dotcom.
And back in the day I started hand coloring photographs at like twenty three years of age and I would search online and I would buy oils from a company called Brand is called Aetna, and they sold oils for hand coloring photographs and kill and field. And there’s a bunch of photographers back in the day they had books on hand coloring. So my evening was spent hand coloring.
I have literally boxes in my garage of hand colored photographs of my entering competition. I ended up creating a website called him Color Dot Com, creating a store and selling oils to photographers around the world and uniting different photographers and artists that were hand coloring. So. Right when I turned pro, the company brand is called ADMA, reached out to me and said they wanted to buy my business now. So I was building my photography business. And at the same time, Brenda said, you have this following, you have this website. We’re just the supplier. I had a meeting in Disneyland. It was like a dream about them. And it was literally just this website instore that I had built myself by scratch, by hand. I go to the post office every day. I buy wholesale. So I had that income coming in when I went on my own. So when I quit my job, I already had this photography business that was making income. I also had built another web design business on the side for my clients in New York. I sold that Web business to a friend in New York. Then I quit my job. So when I quit my job, I actually had three streams of revenue at the time.
My own website business, my business, my career, the Web project manager, the salary, I should say, the hand color of business. When I quit my day job, sold my Web business, now I’m down to one the hand color, but then became a professional photographer. I ended up selling that website. I still have the contract to myself for fifty thousand dollars to brand is called. That’s amazing. Now I’ll never forget signing the contract. Then they hired me to be a consultant for two more years after that. It doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t even know what happened to it. And so the reason I know when I really started making money so I wasn’t technically starving because I had those streams of income. I’m very conservative. I bought everything, used my probably the first five years, every piece of equipment I had, including my camera bag, was used. Wow. I trained photographers. They’ll come in with a 400 pound bag, five thousand dollars a year. They don’t know how to shoot Mannu million lenses and lenses. They don’t have an at. And I’m like, I had to use camera from eBay.
Yeah I see. With one lens. Yeah. I’m primarily me as well.
I’m very conservative. My dad, I went to school for accounting. I can live very frugally and I’m not a big spender. I will use my camera till it falls apart in my hand. So one thing I always caution the starving artist is I’m also a purger. So growing up we had five kids were all year apart. My mom every year would have the town yard sale and would sell all of our clothes, everything that I that wasn’t going to be hand me downs so that she could buy clothes for the next year.
Yeah, I do that to this day. My daughter just told me the day, Mom, I want to go Black Friday shopping and I just give her a look and she says, I’ll bring you a bag. My rule is they have to donate or clean out their closet. They don’t have to sell it now. They have to donate it. And I will not let them buy new unless they clean up the old. So I tell starving artist all the time is no money. If you’re going to make this plunge or you’re not making any money, No one, you’ve got to be super frugal.
Buy used equipment. No. To anything you’re not using. Get rid of and sell and just buy as you need it. To answer your question, the reason I know when the year is OK. So nineteen ninety nine was when I came to California, got married, quit my job that year, I became pregnant at two thousand with my son. We lived in a fifteen hundred square foot condo in Huntington Beach. I worked out of my home. I wasn’t going to leave my son with anyone and I was developing in the darkroom when I was pregnant. I didn’t even know I was pregnant once I had him. My name is starting to grow in the child model industry, so I was mainly child models, was my bread and butter. And then my evening job was either taking a class or shooting models for free. So I tell photographers starting out it’s OK to shoot pets, dogs, weddings, something, take a waitressing job to pay the bills and then work on the side. So that’s what I did, my models. That was my bread and butter. I could shoot five, ten models and make really good money. I could easily make a thousand dollars in a week for working a few hours.
So we bought a house and moved to TESTIN where we still are in Tustin a year later and I was still working out of my home. Now I have a house, now I have property. I’m loving it. I’m building sets on my lawn. I’m shooting in my home. Then I moved to the garage and I’m working out of the garage and making money. People are starting to know who I am, but I’m feeling like I need my own space.
Right. And I remember having a neighbor tell me she brought her kids to the mall photographer. Because she would never go to a photographer who worked out of her garage. Yeah, she was like two feet away and I was like, OK, but I felt like my work was pretty good out of the garage. Yeah. But none of my neighbors would come to me because I worked out of my garage. So that began my rule to myself. Never market at home. And I actually still keep that rule to this day where I live.
I live now in Crown Heights and it’s a very private area. You can’t even see my house behind Gates and I will not tell anyone who I am, tell anyone where I live, because I believe in just being private and being at home and not feeling the way my neighbors made me feel when I open up my garage. And I thought I was having the time of my life and shooting and guiding light and they all just looked down on me.
Ok, what I’m going to do is I’m not going to market to my neighbors and I’m going to focus on my website, focus on my work, focus on my displays and just show amazing work so no one can tell where it is. All right. So I worked on my lighting hanging in the garage, and then I became pregnant with child number two. And I remember telling my husband I need to get my own space because we had a four bedroom, but we had offices and guest rooms. And I was like, I think I just need my own space. And he was like, well, can you afford it? And so I was like, well, I’m going to find a tiny space that I can pay with one client. So I found a five hundred square foot space that I could pay five hundred and fifteen dollars a month for. It was one point five miles away from my home on one side. And on the other side was my son’s preschool. My daughter was born in 2003. I was pregnant when I signed the lease. That’s how I remember the year. And I had a sign that said by appointment only my husband traveled. He was gone five days out of seven. I would take my son to preschool. They were two and a half years apart. I would come to the studio and when Olivia was born, I would nurse her, put her down on my teeny tiny office.
Pick her up, pick it up, my goal was to get them both home and fed and napping by one p.m. right that year, I became a six figure photographer, went from a 500 square foot studio to a 20 500 square foot studio right here in town, right behind me. And kind of moved in the center of town next to the the Chamber of Commerce, and I remember that year was my year that people knew who I was. And I can make enough money to not only pay about five hundred dollars rent to going to twenty five hundred dollars. And I’ve I’ve never lost steam since. I’ve only grown since.
That’s an amazing story. And I see the same trajectory so much with photographers now we all kind of start in our full circle and then we kind of move in and business just blossoms. But I really want to go back to what you were saying about being very frugal, because I remember when I was shooting newborns, I wanted every single prop that was out there. I had a million headbands. I was I was just throwing money away.
And I lost so much money and I ended up just purging all of my newborn props like two years ago because I don’t want to get rid of them because, like, you get really attached and they’re really cute. And even now I will see newborn props come through like my feet. And I was like, well, you really got no words anymore. So what do you tell your students about how to limit themselves or how to kind of control the spending? Because it can I mean, it can get excessive. I spend a lot of money on newborn props. They’re really cute, but they’re really cute. They’re viewing.
You’re not even now. I’m so careful about what I spend, I, I think I bought two things on Black Friday. That was it. I’m so I think, you know, it it has to go beyond the challenge is what are you I mean, this is a whole other podcast. What are your views about money? How were you raised? How are you taught to spend money and budget money? And, you know, the patterns and the spending is set before you become a photographer? You know, my dad’s an accountant, and so he’s retired. Now, I, I came into this family with nothing but the clothes on my back. So for me, it’s a little bit different because I was raised in a very, very conservative household. And we my parents were not just bye bye bye. We were they were make things so things refix my mom would resurface furniture. She could so she could cook. I’m very crafty. We would make a lot of things. I was raised in that environment to make make your own things or repurpose or so plus I was then on my own in my twenties.
I paid for my own apartment, my own college, my own car. And I remember my dad sitting down making me budget my car, how much a car cost and how much my apartment cost. And even now with my kids, I tell them, you know, we have to budget and my daughter wants a horse. She has a bank account. She’s got four thousand dollars in there for a horse. And she works for me and we Payatas that horse. I think that the money with photography, while it’s all very cute and everything, I just put my business hat on and say, do I have an extra one hundred or two hundred dollars and can I afford that? There’s a lot of things I spent.
That I know I can make 10 times what it’s worth. For example, last year there was this big red tree at Michael’s no truck when it was a thousand dollars.
Right. And I took a double take because I never see props at Michael’s. Usually that’s like a HomeGoods or teaching. Right. So this huge red pickup truck and I was like a thousand dollars. I wouldn’t pay a thousand dollars for that. I don’t even know what I would use for that. This story. Oh, my gosh, I’m on shoot with my client at this orchard, and it’s supposed to be just a little six month old daughter and she has beautiful children. Her beautiful four year old son shows up wearing it’s on my website. He’s wearing like these mustard color overalls.
And I took a double take and she was like, oh, I brought him to get pictures of Valentino. And I just stared at him and I was like, I have to have the truck. And my clients, like, what are you talking about?
I literally grabbed the phone call my daughters and I tell I tell my daughter, which if you know my middle child, she doesn’t even order room service without me. Go to Michael’s, buy this and call Alex and my videographer. He has a truck. You’re going to put it on the truck and you’re going to bring it to my shoe. She’s like, no, I’m not. Yes, you are. Like, he was like fifteen minutes of just talking her off a cliff. Right. That truck has brought in. Oh my gosh. And I had a coupon so I didn’t pay thousands thousand. That truck has probably brought in ten thousand dollars.
I would love to see this truck now that you’re talking about.
It sounds I mean if you go on my website, Anabrandt.com, you’ll see it if you go on Instagram to see if you go on YouTube. We did a promo video about this truck. That’s a man. It’s sold out everywhere. So there are times where I’ll see something and I’ll I’ll think about it and then I’ll walk back. There was a three hour white chair that I passed up on a month ago, and I all of a sudden was building my Santa suit. And I was like, Alex, maybe you go get this chair. I saw a picture of the stranger. I can justify this student. Right? I didn’t know why I needed it. Pulled out my Christmas backdrop and realized it was white and gold and was like, I need that chair. Right? I mean, we did the twenty thousand dollars in the holiday sessions. So I just was like, I’m one of those people where I’ll look at it, I’ll sit on it, I’ll wait and think I’m compulsive buyer some. Sometimes I’ll miss things because I’m not an impulsive buyer. My rule is I’ve got to be able to make money from it. So I think that would be great if I don’t just buy. You don’t need ten foot, keep any more numbers, get one and then when it’s falling apart, get another one.
Right. I love it. And so you mentioned You Tube and I want to go back to that because you are hugely successful on YouTube and it’s very inspiring.
And you know, how what do you think is the number one thing that has really led to your success on YouTube? Because you have a hugely popular channel. It’s so impressive.
Consistency, consistency is success, consistency, it’s right before this interview.
My videographer, Alex, who’s been with me almost nine years now, we were talking about I was going to do a 12 days of Christmas live that we were going to kick off.
I don’t even know what data is. We’re going to kick it off on the 12th. Right. We were going to do live with newborns every single day for 12 days before Christmas. And then because of covid and shutdowns and everything, like we can’t do that. Right. And so for the past couple of days, I’ve been going. So finally this morning, I said we’re not doing it because then I was going to do a mixture of recording and we’re just not cut it just next year. Right. Alex says we should do live Q&A with colors. And I follow Marie Foleo on YouTube and I love her. Yeah. So she does that. So I immediately pull that Maries like Marie disaster, started listening to her interviews. And so we have a satellite studio that we got this year for training. And so we decided, OK, what if we build a set and we start doing live Q&A regularly on our YouTube channel? So we just have a meeting literally a half an hour before talking to you, saying we’ll do it and we’ll do a consistent schedule and things like that. So I it’s it’s just always consistency. And there have been times where I haven’t posted to YouTube for months and I forget about it. And then and then my staff or Alex will say, oh, you need to be doing this or my son my son is a videographer now. So my son’s always yelling at me, Mom, you have to do this. And this night I am not as consistent, believe it or not, with YouTube as I should be. I think that in the beginning. So I started my YouTube channel in twenty eight by myself with nothing more than a flip cam, right? That’s it.
He was a flip cam, I put it on my tripod. I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t even pay attention to it. I just was posting. And I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget the day that a woman, Karlo was trying to get in touch with me from Brazil. And she wanted me to teach there. And I didn’t understand why she wanted me to teach there or how she even knew who I was. Right. I turned this conference down for three straight years because of couple of reasons. I was freaked out to go to Brazil by myself. Every time they did this conference, it fell on my daughter’s dance competition weekend for some odd reason, right. I couldn’t do it. And so I turned them down, I think, for three years. And finally, when I got the courage to do it and I don’t even know how long ago this was now, but when I got the courage to do it, I asked my sister, who’s a Spanish teacher in New York, to meet me. We’d meet in Sao Paulo and she’d stay with me because I was so freaked out and I almost didn’t want to go. And my sister met me in the airport in Sao Paulo. And she’s like, Why are you even here? I’m like, I don’t even know. I’m supposed to just teach at this conference. And this woman asked me and I was so stressed because I heard that they go through your bags and the anxiety was horrible.
My sister’s like my sister doesn’t know anything about my career. She doesn’t even never even seen a video of mine. Right. She’s a high school Spanish teacher in New York.
She’s like, OK, Hannah, I’m here for you. I’m not that good with Portuguese, but we’ll get through this. Yeah, we pull up to the conference and my car pulls up and someone sees that it’s me. There’s three hundred photographers outside the car, like, screaming my name.
And I was like, I look at my sister. My sister’s like, what is it? What is it we didn’t know was right. Right.
It turns out that was a big epiphany for me because it turns out that I was the first photographer they had followed and they had got all of their newborn training from my YouTube website. I was just shocked. And I remember standing there still kind of if you ever see photos of me at conferences, I usually have a bewildered look on my face because I’m just like, how do they even know who I am? And it’s from YouTube. And so I was one of the first newborn photographers from America to teach in China to newborn, the first female newborn photographer to teach in China. And I remember being in China and there’s eight hundred photographers in a room. Most of the men this is like five, six years ago. And even though this guy stands up, he has a question, huge screen behind me, like the biggest you’ve ever seen. And he says, how do you market? And I looked at him and I’m like, how do you market? And he’s like, Guy. And I looked at him and I said, How do you know who I am? I’m a Puerto Rican girl from New York. I was left on the street corner four years of age, abandoned by my birth mother. The second time, the first time I was abandoned by my birth mother. I was two left in an apartment. Sometimes she left me on a street. So I’m this Puerto Rican street girl from New York. And I’m standing here in China where Puerto Rican girls from New York can say that. How do you know who I am? And he said, YouTube.
Yeah, YouTube is such a powerful thing. And I love what you said you were like. I just used my flip phone to start and I get asked all the time by photographers, how do I start? Where do I start? I’m always like, you just start. You just do it. You just take a step and then you continue. And when you know better, you do better. And from interviewing so many really talented and successful photographers, I found that we all have this one thing in common. We may not have known what to do, but we just do it. And I love that. I think that’s such an inspiring, entrepreneurial thing. And I love that story, though. So you do do a lot of traveling and you also have this education side. Then you also have this really cool store, which I totally checked out. And I was like, oh my gosh, I like that. I like that. I like that. So how do you manage all of these things? Because time management is another thing that I get asked about a lot, and I’m not the best at it because I work very, very hard at work. Long hours. So how do you feel about your time management and how do you manage it all?
Ok, so I’m a huge believer in time walking. Yeah. How I live my life because I’m I’m a Virgo. I’m very, very type A and I get stressed when there’s so much to do. Sometimes that nothing gets done. You know, he’s like you’re your to do list is so long you just start cleaning the house or your ear or. You’re just overwhelmed whenever I come out with, like a good blow dry, my daughters would be like overworked. I’m like, Yeah, so I look over here right now. Yeah. So I’m a big believer in time blocking in notebooks. If you were to see someone around here, I have like four little red notebooks. I’m obsessed with stone paper so that I found these red stone paper notebooks that I’m obsessed with. But I keep notebooks for everything and I block off time. I’m also a huge believer in sleep because I can’t function without sleep. So Saturday night I went to bed at eight p.m. and I woke up at eight a.m. on Sunday, 12 straight hours. In fact, my videographer, Beautiful is like, Did you sleep? Because I it was my first weekend off in thirty five days.
I haven’t had twelve hours of sleep because my children are all little. I have a seven year old, a four year old, that year old. So there isn’t. There is. That’s going to be a while. OK, so you’re not going to do that for like fifteen years. I know, but it sounds beautiful, right. Beautiful.
But I have teenagers now so and keep in mind, that’s the first time I’ve done that.
I don’t even know how long that is scheduled. I actually scheduled that sleep time is my point is that, you know, my kids are all ten years apart. So I remember the 02 enforced age. I remember the two, four and six age. I remember my you the first studio that I told you about. Oh, my God. People would look at me like this woman is crazy because I was like dropping off a toddler and then pregnant and then carrying a toddler and then nursing. And I was that person that probably anyone would feel sorry for because I could juggle or of you.
And they’re like, you have your hands full. Yes. Yes. No, you have your hands full retail. But we’re doing OK. Thanks for that a lot. I got that all the time. Pretty much.
I don’t think it’s slowed down. OK, I remember another epiphany moment when Ava Ava went to kindergarten, she went to private school.
She was the only one to start private at kindergarten and she was five. So there were five, seven and nine. And it was the first time. In 10 years, because Evan was born in two thousand and Ava was born in two thousand five. So now she’s five. So it was 10 years of doing what you’re doing. Right. And when I dropped her off at school because it was private, it was till three o’clock I sat in my car and cried because it was the first day in 10 years that I would have eight hours without a child.
So I’m not there yet. It is, and especially with covid, which is another thing I want to go out, but with covid, you know, we’ve kept all of our kids home.
So my husband, God bless him, he is managing the children and their home. So but how are you working through covid with. Working with? I mean, I work with adult women, so, you know, I’m able to say, listen, have you had any symptoms? I’m good. You good? We’re both good. All right. Awesome. But you’re working with newborns and so they’re so fragile. And my daughter, actually, my scarlet had viral meningitis when she was seven days old from the coronavirus.
Not this strain, but a different one. And we almost lost her.
So I’m very aware of newborn safety. And how are you handling covid with you? Because you’re still shooting. You know, I see your pictures and they’re gorgeous. And so you’re still working, too.
How are you handling the safety protocols and, you know, liability and things like that with covid?
So I will tell you about just the previous question, what I want to tell you and every other person who has children under five, especially this over time. Give yourself a break. It is blood, sweat and a whole lot of tears. Those first five, 10 years, I. I couldn’t get four hours of sleep. I was doing everything. My husband traveled. I always had a child of my head. There were days where I would just sit on the floor and sob because someone’s teething or someone’s someone’s not nursing. So what I tell him to do is, number one, give yourself a break. It’s not going to last forever. You’re going to blink and are 15, 17. And my son just turned twenty. So they’ll all be 16, 16, 18 and 20 soon. Remember the days where Olivia was that terrible Teather and Evan was climbing out of the crib and I was like, I just want to go to the bathroom alone. Right? Motherhood and fatherhood is every breath that you breathe. It’s absolutely one of the most exhausting, hardest jobs in the universe. But every parent will tell you that it goes, it goes, it goes fast. And then all of a sudden you realize their teenage son. Yeah. So give yourself a break. I didn’t have time blocking when my kids were little. There was no time blocking. There was no time. It was survival.
Right. And that’s all it was through easily. Say now, yeah, I can time a because I’ve got teenagers, but they are very busy, creative teenagers. And when I come home it’s like a board meeting. My friends like building a studio and he’s building a podcast. Rheumatiz building sound panels. Amazing. You know, they’re so busy that it’s not like I can just be like, oh, let’s order pizza for dinner. I have to have, like, braiding each one of them, so. Right. As far as covid. Oh, gosh, what a living nightmare. This has been a nightmare. I shut down like everybody else did back in March or April. I was scheduled to be in Australia for spring break with my one daughter. The other daughter was going to be in Japan for her spring break. I had been in Thailand with my son. We flew back from Thailand about a month before the world shut down. And so I had just finished international with him and I was going international with my two daughters. I was supposed to be back in Dubai. I was supposed to be, I think in seven different countries. I had to cancel. I had to cancel fifteen domestic trips. I’ve lost probably thirty forty thousand dollars in travel and expenses. And yeah, I think this year, all told, will probably cost me one hundred and fifty thousand dollars when I look.
Absolutely, absolutely. Being conservative. Originally I was paying all my staff during quarantine. I didn’t even put them on, let them go on unemployment till like towards the end. Then they were like Anna we can go on unemployment. I didn’t even like it. So we shut we had to shut the first the first shut down. That was the big shut down. We have to shut down. Right. Remember the time being just absolutely terrified. I think mostly because the media and what was going on in you were just hearing people dying and I had never seen anything like this to be near a newborn was like, no, right. I remember during quarantine time, my daughters were only going to go to the grocery store one out of every 10 days. I ended up losing like 13 pounds in quarantine because I started walking three miles a day with one of my daughters because I was so stressed out. Right. We would just walk three to five miles a day. Then I ended up going live from my home and we did a bunch of live broadcasts from there. I’m I’m a very busy person, so I was able to keep myself ridiculously busy exercising. But the anxiety of working with newborns was very overwhelming. Yeah, I’m sure when we first came back, I was terrified. So what I said was I was only going to do one baby a day and I wouldn’t have any other babies that day.
We’d clean the studio. I have a woman who works with me as I’m shooting, who cleans up after me, and then I have a cleaning crew that comes in. So I buy a sanitizer, a warming sanitizer that we had seen when I was in China, because that’s what a lot of what I learned. I had already learned being in Asia, and they did a lot of those things already. So they had warming sanitizers when we were there. So, yeah, it’s like the first thing I bought and we had already had masks because we had just come back from Asia and APRON’S because I teach clinics. So it’s like, OK, we know how to do this. Let’s just pretend we’re working in Asia, though. My staff and I, we just were like, OK, we’re going to I asked all of my staff to just stay home unless you were in the studio. And then I even cut down my shopping in person. But ten day grocery store, I went to insta car and stopped going to the grocery store. So I said to my my immediate staff, my videographer and my direct assistant, let’s stay home and only come in for Newborn and then you go home afterwards. Yeah. So for the first I think a couple of months, that’s what we did.
We did not do more than one baby a morning. We would come in, we’d right Max. We would sanitize five thousand times. Then as the summer went on and things got busier and things kind of let up for like, OK, things are OK, we’re OK. We’re still limiting where we go and what we do. Right. Well, then the fall hits and here we are again. And I had never really heard of anyone getting sick. And now all of a sudden it’s October and client after client is telling me they’re canceling sessions, they’re rebooking. We just had some discussion the other day that the husband was exposed and all of a sudden we’re like, oh, this is getting closer and closer. And I wasn’t even going to do holiday. I wasn’t going to do Saana. People kept asking me, please don’t leave, please do it. I was just so terrified. I was like, OK, we’re going to start with the tree farm outside and keep all many sessions, a minimum half an hour apart. There’ll be no fifteen minutes. There’ll be no it’s a minimum 30 minutes apart and no one is like allowed to step in in another kind of space. So on the farm outside, I brought a hand sanitizer like a standing sanitizer. And we every client, every interaction, we I my ears hurt so bad, last week I posted on Facebook the worst day of the year because I had been wearing masks for 40 straight days, eight, nine hours, and I was just losing my mind.
So with the tree farm, we’re like, OK, we’re going to just do it. And then when we decided to bring Santa in the studio, I was completely freaked out. I was like, oh, I don’t even know if we can do this. And so then I told my clients, OK. It’s true, half hour, you’re not even going into that room until the next client leaves the building, we’re going to say we’re going to wipe everything down, we’re going to clean just constantly. And we did. We did. We did the tree farm. We didn’t get sick. And our clients were very respectful. We had a lot of clients that said, I can’t come, I’ve been exposed, I’m not going to go. I think I had a wave of it in quarantine because I lost taste. But it was before anyone was talking about losing taste. And so you have antibodies? I don’t know. But I remember during quarantine. I remember that day going I think tastes good. And I think I threw away everything in the fridge. I even the like. I kept spitting things out. I remember telling my daughters, did everything go bad or bad or something? And then like two days later, they’re like, Oh, Mom, it was on the news that losing your taste is a symptom.
And I was like, Oh, I wonder. But that was it. None of my kids whose taste as well. And he took a test and it was negative. I’ve taken a covid test. It was negative. So, I mean, I don’t know. But, you know, where are we now? Now there is another order, but we’re considered retail. And so right now, the order with retail is just a minimum occupancy rate. So the only people that are here, as I’m talking to you, is my videographer and my assistant. We wear masks. My videographer, he’s on right now. He’s wearing his mask. So is my assistant. They’re wearing their mask and it’s just in the room. The only reason I’m not wearing my name is I’m talking to you. So we just super diligent, cleaning our hands, constantly wearing masks, even around our staff. All right. See, my clientele, we’re just very open and honest. We you know, when I send out my client prep guide, I ask them if they’ve been exposed or and things like that. And in my contracts, I do have them sign a waiver that as far as we know, I do not have covered as far as they know, they do not have covered that we are not liable for other. So that from a legality point.
But some areas like Los Angeles are shut down. We’re in Orange County. So if I was in Los Angeles right now, I don’t think I could. Could we work over in L.A. right now, Alex? I don’t know. I don’t know.
I don’t know if they can. Some areas are very restricted where they cannot. Wright County is not like that, thank God. But still, I we still have to clean. We still have to be diligent. There’s still that anxiety. There’s still that fear. And at any given moment, they could shut us down. Right. So I just have to make sure that right now, if I can work, I will work now, legally, I can work. So I’m going to work and just try and protect myself. And I said as much as possible.
That’s exactly where I am to it’s just yesterday I had a conversation with my because we’re on under an advisory in Delaware, which means stay at home if you can and don’t do anything extra. When I was talking to my sister, to my studio manager, and I was like, I don’t know, like, what do you think? This is such a hard decision? Because and say, listen, we need to you need to work while we can work because we don’t know where this is going to go and what’s going to happen. So it’s such a hard time for all of us. I so appreciate you coming and spending time with us and really telling us about your story, because it’s such an inspirational one and you are really just one of the leaders in our industry. So I really appreciate you taking the time to chat. You were wonderful.
Thank you for having me. And you know something you said earlier that we know a lot of people have said before us, when you know better, you do better. I think that people, whatever level you’re at, you just need to do it. You just there is it’s almost better if you don’t know how to do everything because you figure it out. Right. And I think that going through mistakes, I could write a book about all the mistakes I’ve done and things. It’s part of the process and just be patient in the process. Everybody wants to get there now. Be right now, make this now big thing right now. But every person, regardless of their industry, will tell you that it’s a journey. Absolutely. And it takes time. So just be patient and the process and allow yourself to evolve as you grow.
I love that. So I have Wisner’s on Tic-Tac and on Instagram also and for all of our podcast listeners. If they don’t know you or haven’t heard of you before, where can they find you out.
How can they follow you so they can pretty much just search and a brand and it’ll probably take you down a whole road. That was probably far too long. My website is Anna Brandt. I have an online school.
Baby school dot com, they can use the code, learn now and save 50 percent on online courses and learn online like tomorrow or today. But if they just search my name one in Anabrandt, they’ll be able to find all kinds of information and give me a shout out that you saw this podcast.
So I know you’re out there watching. I love that. Thank you so much. Was so good seeing you.