Interview: Naomi van der Kraan
Photographer Interview: Naomi van der Kraan
Naomi van der Kraan is a Dutch photographer of weddings and intimate portraits, she is a 30 Rising star by Rangefinder magazine.
Can you briefly tell us a little about yourself, where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Rotterdam, a city in the Netherlands. I lived there with my parents and two brothers and one sister (I’m the youngest of 4 kids). It was a warm and loving home to grow up in. I am now living a very happy life near Rotterdam with my husband and our two kids.
Have you always been a photographer? What was your path to photography and specifically to shooting weddings?
No, I’ve not always been a photographer and it actually never was the plan for my life. I was working as a social worker for 10 years and I loved doing that. I’ve always been obsessed with photo’s though. I spend hours watching old photo’s from my family, my grandparents etc. My father took a lot of photos of us and I was also the one that always carried a camera. I started photography a bit more serious when our daughter was born, which is eight years ago now. She was the most beautiful baby and I wanted to capture that beauty. I bought a Nikon D3100 and as with most in life that I’m passionate about: I got obsessed! Learned everything there was to learn, started a blog and that’s how my business started.
First there were friends and family asking me to take their photo’s and after a while I got my first wedding inquiry. I started doing weddings at the end of 2013 and I’m absolutely addicted ever since. Weddings are one of the most intense and beautiful days in life. It’s the bright side of life and after 10 years of working with people that are having difficulties, it felt awesome to step into that happy part of life. I feel blessed to witness that beauty and love every time again.
Do you remember the first moment or time a camera/photography jumped out at you as something different/interesting/worth pursuing?
I don’t think it was one moment, but more a process. I grew up with photography, it was always there.
Can you tell us about your approach to shooting weddings?
The first and most important thing to me is to build a connection with the wedding couple. That starts from the first e-mail I send. As said, I’ve been working as a social worker for a long time and connecting to others has been my job. Getting to know them, getting to know their wishes and dreams are necessary to capture them the way they really are. When I have that connection, I’m automatically drawn to the important moments. I’m a very sensitive person and that’s what’s leading me throughout a wedding day. Emotions and connections are my fuel during the day.
Next to that, I’m their to capture the story of a wedding day and I want to do that in a beautiful and artistic way. To achieve that I mainly focus on light, that’s how I get the look I want. I search for little details that tell a story: a touching hand, a kicked off shoe at the dance floor, the feet of a running child. And I try to capture the big story, the place we’re at, the weather and all the things that I want the couple to remember.
My goal is that my couple, when they look at the pictures in 25 years from now, they will see again how their wedding day was. Who was there, how they looked and all the events that happened. But I also want them to feel the wedding day again; how the sun felt on their skin and what the flowers smelt like. The complete story.
What/who do you look at for visual inspiration? It could be a favourite photographer or blog? movies? etc
I guess my daily life is my visual inspiration. I tend to look for pretty light everywhere I am and I stop whatever I’m doing when I see it (and I use my phone to take photos of it, to keep it as a inspirational diary). I obviously also talk about it lot, since our daughter (8 years old) started to point out pretty light when she sees it.
Apart from that I love to scroll the internet or visit bookstores in search for inspirational, artistic photographers or other artists. I try to find my inspiration outside the wedding industry, because I want to stay close to my own approach to weddings, instead of following trends.
Watching series and movies is another thing that inspires me. I watch them to relax, but also to see the light, colours and storytelling.
How important is it for your business to be true to your own artistic approach and not follow trends?
To me, that's very important. I want to create timeless photos (as much as possible) and I actually usually don't like the trends :) By staying true to my own artistic approach, I know that I'm creating the best images I can possibly can create, because it comes from my heart.
Do you have any sort of routine before a wedding to get yourself prepared before a wedding?
When my schedule allows it (with a working husband and two kids, that’s not always the case), I try to do a run the night before a wedding and stay away from my screen as much as possible. It’s a great way to prepare, feel healthy and clear my mind. A good night rest, a healthy breakfast and some time alone are the best way to start the wedding day for me.
With a busy family life, how do you manage your time?
Very good question and a constant struggle (for most families with young children I guess). We plan our week ahead on Sunday, so that we know when we can have our time together and when we're working. That helps a lot! Both our children go to school, so that's the perfect time for me to work. Together with the evenings, when they're sleeping. In between we are lucky to have a lot of family time together. But, it’s a struggle sometimes to find enough time to do my work to be honest.
What questions do younger photographers usually ask you?
I get asked a lot what preset I use. And to be honest, I don’t think it really matters. I bought one once and tweaked the shit out of it (which is always a work in progress), but my style of photography is mainly because of the way I use the light.
What questions should they be asking you?
How do I build a stable and successful business as a wedding photographer? How do I stay happy and inspired in the work I do and keep the balance? Mainly the long term questions.
To be a successful wedding photographer, by which I mean, to make the business into a career, have longevity, sufficient financial reward, where should their focus be? The art? The Business? Networking? Technique? Equipment? Or is it all Equal parts?
I think the hardest part is, that all those things really matter. I see a lot of people starting out as a wedding photographer, but after a while they realise that it’s not only about taking photos, but so much more. You’re running a business, a creative one, but still a business. For me, the main focus is on my client contact. To deliver the best service to them is what matters the most to me. But yes, all those other things you mentioned, matter and need attention.
If you could give your younger self advice when you were starting out in weddings what would it be?
Think long term! Where do you want to take your business, how do you stay happy and healthy, what do you want to achieve. Make a plan. I actually started out without a plan and it all went well, but I think I could have saved myself a lot of time and stress if I would actually had a plan.
Having seen lots of weddings, what would your advice be to a family member if they came to you and said they wanted to become a wedding photographer?
Don’t do it! Haha, no, kidding of course. It’s an awesome job!
But a lot of people think it’s all party and fun. You’re always working with happy people, you get to be creative, you can set your own work schedule etc. And yes, that’s all true. But, there’s also the part of working 50 hours a week sometimes, not feeling creative but having to be, doing taxes and having impatient clients.
I absolutely love the job, wouldn’t want to do anything else at the moment, but it’s hard work.