The other day, I was introduced to Danielle Branje, a Dutch photographer who lives in Nantes, France. Danielle takes beautiful, natural portraits of newborns and children, and has just published a Guide to Family Holiday Photography (free for the month of August, so grab it while you can). In the guide, she shares some of her secrets about photographing children, and taking family holiday photos.
I invited Danielle to explain a little bit more about herself, and her craft. After you’ve read her answers – and if you want to learn how to avoid shouting ‘cheese’ for the twenty millionth time – do download the e-book.
Danielle, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a documentary photographer. My photography company ‘A Story of Childhood’ specializes in newborn and childhood documentaries. I also love to write, teach and help others to become absolutely great photographers. On my website I share free articles, books and courses.
What made you choose newborn and childhood photography?
After working for three years as a health innovation consultant, there was something missing in my life. In my daily job I couldn’t contribute to something bigger. Then I started to do what I was really passionate about: photography. I’ve always taken a lot of photos of children when I was travelling. Photographing children comes very naturally to me. It gives me joy and happiness to work with children. Above all, it feels so special to give newborns and children a life-long memory of a wonderful period in their life.
I’m not just a photographer shooting beautiful pictures. I want my work to contribute to children’s self-acceptance and self-confidence. I want to show children their true beauty and inner strength and that they are simply beautiful as they are. Photography and words are my instruments to bring a little change into the world.
It sounds as though you’ve travelled a lot. What do you like about seeing the world?
I travelled because I wanted to see how other people live their lives. I wanted to learn from those who grew up in complete different – often very poor – circumstances. What makes them happy? I was surprised and amazed by all these children who were full of joy and happiness, despite living in harsh conditions.
What would be your top tip for parents wanting to capture those beautiful family holiday moments?
My top tip would be: let go of control. Don’t try to push your children in any kind of way to smile and ‘be nice’ in the photo. Let go of the way you believe your children should be in a photo (nicely dressed, smiling, laughing).
I never ask children to smile if they don’t feel joyful. I believe that is confusing. In my best photos the children are covered with sand, mud or leaves. Observe your children. When or where do they feel good? When do they forget the time? Don’t disturb them. Just capture these moments of pure joy and happiness. Recently I did a photo shoot and the mother told me that her daughter loves to pick flowers and her son plays with wooden sticks. Then I make a photo of them doing this. Because I believe these moments will be valuable to them when they are older.