If you ask Tanja Brandt what she does for a living, the answer is: "I'm just me". Brandt is a career changer in photography and has already done many things in her life. For example, before her career as a photographer, she owned a trucking company. After a stroke, she decided to turn her hobby into a career. Today, she is best known for her animal photos, especially of owls and dogs. In many cases, these are Brandt's own animals.
Eagle Owl, Owl, Wolf & Co.
Animal photographer Tanja Brandt not only inspires with her powerful animal photos, she has also become a wide-reaching social media phenomenon in recent years. She shares her experiences with her CG2700X and CS2740 4K ColorEdge monitors here.
Malinois and wolfhound provide action
Tanja Brandt has almost always had dogs. Her love is the Malinois. For ten years, the friendly male dog Ingo has not left her side. And for almost two years, Dio, the young Czechoslovakian wolfhound, has kept Tanja and dog Ingo on their toes. Not only does Dio look confusingly similar to a wolf, the breed is also very similar to its wild ancestors. "A wrecking ball on four legs, meanwhile super trained, but because of his size just quite impetuous," Brandt characterizes "the gray."
The dream of own owls
To be able to realize her dream of owning her own owls, Brandt took the hunting and falconry license. That's the law in Germany. Since then, it is impossible to imagine her everyday life without the owls. But two large and extremely agile dogs, how does that get along with the delicate owls, especially if you raise them yourself?
Brandt's numerous followers can easily answer this question, for example, on Instagram: amazingly well! There you could witness up close how Ingo and Dio Brandt helped with the hand raising of the eagle owl lady Bruni (actually Bruhnhilde) as furry playmates. Bruni's partner, the Siberian eagle owl Klaus-Bärbel, has also had a close relationship with Ingo since he was a chick. In addition, the barn owls Lusi (male) and Carola as well as the hawk owls Rüdiger and Lutz still live in the aviaries.
The biggest stars on the social web, however, are the chronically bad-tempered Gandalf with his mate Gerd (both white-faced owls), the fearless stone owl Albi, which Brandt found as a tiny chick more dead than alive and nursed up by hand, and her shy mate Siggi. As the only non-owl, the desert buzzard "Phoenix" still belongs to Brandt's flock of birds.
Suddenly a social media star
But Brandt inspires not only with her pictures in books or calendars. With almost 400,000 followers on Instagram and over 220,000 fans of her various Facebook profiles, Tanja Brandt is now one of the photographers with the widest reach on the German social web. When asked what social media strategy she has used to achieve this reach, Brandt shakes her head in perplexity: "I have no idea about that, I just do it." No question, cute animals are in themselves a good prerequisite for successful "content production." But if you're also a good photographer, that's also an advantage, of course. But it's more detrimental to your career if, like Brandt, you turn down most invitations to appear on TV. The reason: she simply has too much stage fright in front of the camera. Fortunately, that doesn't apply to her own smartphone. And here comes another success factor: Tanja Brandt is an excellent storyteller. This not only benefits her when writing her books, but is especially indispensable for the story function on Instagram and Facebook.
New home in the Hochsauerland
In practice, living together with owls is not so easy. Brandt has always had difficulty finding a suitable property on which she could live with her owls. A few months ago, she found a former village bakery in Hochsauerland with her partner Christian Borchart, a mechanical engineer with a doctorate who allegedly "doesn't like dogs," as Brandt says with a wink. This the two are now gradually converting into their new home.
Here they have enough space for the aviaries and tolerant neighbors. So that they always know that their birds are doing well, Brandt has installed surveillance cameras around the aviaries. The property is located in the middle of the village of Hoppecke, near the church. But Brandt quickly realized that she shares her property with a gang of raccoons, numerous cats, martens and various foxes, especially at night. The latter pose a great danger, at least to the smaller owls, and made immediate reinforcement of the aviaries necessary.
Brandt is immediately captivated by the animal activity on her property and shares her enthusiasm with her followers. As a result, foxes Theo and Thea, martens Bernd and Berni, Ninja-Cat, and the raccoon gang are now also among the stars of Brandt's daily social media coverage.
Success with content, authenticity and personality
The hackneyed truism "content is king" thus proves true at Brandt as well. Owls and dogs are simply cute. But that alone doesn't explain their reach. Another important success factor is authenticity. A quality that many social media stars and influencers are not infrequently denied, and rightly so. "I simply let my followers participate in my usually somewhat chaotic life," Brandt explains. She often gets feedback that her pictures and stories make a lot of people feel good. For her followers, her work is a distraction, entertainment, mood lifter, but also a role model.
"I myself was recently diagnosed with a form of Asperger's syndrome. On the one hand, that scared me, but on the other hand, it made me feel a lot better, because it explains to me a little bit why I am the way I am," Brandt explains. Of course, she said, she thought about how to deal with it and decided to be open about this diagnosis as well. "Why should I make a secret of it? I didn't choose it, and a psychiatric condition is no more something to be ashamed of than something physical," Brandt says, explaining her decision. So Brandt is a social media phenomenon who is successful primarily because she is Tanja Brandt. It's a secret to success that other photographers have difficulty transferring to themselves. Nevertheless, she impressively proves that, on the one hand, you need "content," on the other hand, you have to have personality and character, and thirdly, you have to be a good storyteller who conveys the "content" in an entertaining and exciting way.
You might already suspect it, but even when you ask Brandt about her business concept, you again get a somewhat perplexed shrug of the shoulders. It developed over time, she sums up. Today, Brandt can look back on numerous book publications. Among them are photo and non-fiction books, illustrated books and her biography. Brandt also sells calendars, posters and other merchandising items in her webshop. Another component of her business model is cooperation with companies from the photo and pet food industries. In addition, she offers lectures, workshops and coaching sessions. These differ from many similar offers. "I'm a real techie," Brandt admits. "I would prefer to deal with it as little as possible." Brandt doesn't claim to have perfect mastery of programmes like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop down to the last detail. She teaches how she uses the tools to achieve her results and thus strikes a chord with many other photographers. Because in the end, it's the result that counts for Brandt, not the way to get there.
Razor-sharp 4K resolution
What applies to the photographic equipment and software also applies to her monitor. "A monitor must show me an absolutely precise view of my picture," Brandt sums up her expectations. What sounds so simple and self-evident, however, requires a special graphics monitor that also has to be calibrated regularly. Brandt herself has been using various monitors from EIZO for this purpose for many years. "I started with a ColorEdge CG2730", Brandt reports. "Unfortunately, it didn't survive the last but one move on the back seat of my car. I had strapped it on specially," the photographer recalls, visibly saddened. Since then, she has kept the transport boxes. She then switched to the ColorEdge CS2740, which she particularly appreciates for its pin-sharp 4K resolution.
My latest monitor is the ColorEdge CG2700X, which recently hit the market. It combines the brilliant features of my two previous EIZO monitors: the built-in calibration and the high resolution. It just feels good to know that I can always rely on my EIZOs and have the assurance that the image I see on the monitor is actually an exact match to my image file. The built-in calibration sensor and automatic self-calibration also ensure that it stays that way.
In the coming months, Brandt and her partner Christian Borchart will also renovate the old bakery piece by piece. On the first floor, there will be office and work-shop space for the photographer and the IT consultant. The upper floor will be used for living quarters. The top floor, which Brandt calls only Bates Motel, will remain unused for now. "I think it's haunted," says the photographer - and grins. She herself doesn't seem to know exactly how serious she is. If it is indeed haunted, the ghosts will certainly be included in Brandt's social media club and, together with Ingo, Dio, Bruni, Gandalf and the raccoon gang, will ensure positive Insta-vibes.