Natalia Anja will make you feel beautiful.
I certainly felt that way after my first professional photoshoot with her this past fall. After months of hard work on diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, I decided it was time to do something for myself. I had also been wanting professional headshots taken for use on social media profiles and here at Things I’m Loving, so began researching local photographers online.
I came across Natalia through RAW Beauty Talks, an organization that strives to help women find confidence in their unique beauty by advocating for transparency in media and providing a platform for honest, authentic conversation. Their goal is for every woman to feel comfortable in her own skin. Natalia was contacted by RAW about taking part in the project, and photographed participants without make-up or the use of Photoshop.
On why Natalia decided to participate, she says “I’m such a huge fan of the message. Being a photographer you hear a lot of people being far too hard on themselves, I do it myself. With our generation’s standards and expectations of “beauty” it’s hard not to be. I have photographed a few women for Raw Beauty now and there is no makeup, no photoshop and no filters. Just Raw pure beauty and it’s wonderful.”
Natalia’s portfolio speaks for itself, and I loved that she supported such an initiative – I had found my photographer!
Looking back on our Saturday together, a few things stand out. While the astoundingly talented Shelley Ainsworth did my hair and make-up, we all chatted away and Natalia had us cracking up over cheesy jokes a friend had sent her. In fact, we laughed a ton that day!
She also didn’t bat an eye when I brought a million outfits to her studio to choose from, and was so helpful in sifting through to determine which would look best on camera. No surprise, since Natalia has great style of her own. I appreciated the discussion and advice, which felt “above and beyond” to me.
Also, Natalia provided excellent direction for a first-timer like me– suggesting poses, letting me know when something was working, and reminding me to keep my chin forward and down. I felt completely comfortable and at ease with her.
Plus, we used a fan! What woman doesn’t want to feel a little like Beyonce, right?!
Being a full-time photographer, Natalia’s schedule is demanding and varied. Most days are quite different, but generally she’ll shoot in the morning and edit in the afternoons/evenings, hoping to squeeze in a workout at some point. “One thing that’s consistent is that I don’t sleep enough; I get a little too excited and want to squeeze 30 hours into 24!” she says of her schedule. Natalia also paints, writes, and gets involved in charity projects where she can.
Natalia has an adventurous side – “On non-shooting days I love to explore. Do something I’ve never done before and see something that I’ve never seen.” She gets the opportunity to travel occasionally for work, with plans for a trip to Jamaica soon to help friend Dan Rizzuto photograph a project related to the not-for-profit he co-founded called Project Solution Jamaica. Recently, a group of amazing people came together to help raise $6,650 to feed 500 kids for an entire year!
Based on her bio, I’d say she caught the travel bug early! Natalia was born in Poland, moved to Greece as a child, and lived in Ontario for a year before finally settling in Vancouver. She studied photography while living in Italy through the New York Institute of Photography, and also spent some time living in the States. “I have a tendency to move around a lot and crave change and adventure, but Vancouver will always be home base, I love it here! The rain, the sunshine and the wonderful people,” she says.
Natalia recently entered a contest to be the youngest girl to travel to every UN Nation – that’s 193 countries! If you’d like to watch her video submission and throw a vote her way, it would mean the world to her!
1) Click here
2) Vote by pressing the ‘like’ button next to “Natalia Anja” Video submission
3) Press the “Share” button and you rock!
Please “like” the Global Degree FB page and “subscribe” to their Youtube Channel.
During our shoot, Natalia captured so many wonderful images, it was hard to choose 10 for editing! She really brought out the best side of me and you can see my level of comfort reflected in the photos.
I expected to come out of our shoot with great images, but what I received in addition was an incredibly empowering experience, and a new friend.
I strongly feel every woman should do this for herself, regardless of age, size, confidence level, interests, or profession. Sure, do it for that profile pic, do it so a loved one has a keepsake, but most of all, do it for you.
Q: When and how did you get into photography?
My dad was always the guy that had a camera strap around his neck…like a true tourist. My entire life has been documented since the day I was born. I’m surprised my dad isn’t a professional photographer himself; his landscape and underwater shots are incredible. He has such a great eye for it. I have always loved the way photos make people feel and the memories they embed into our minds. You can look at a photo and there’s so much more than just an image. It’s a connection between people, a place, a feeling and there’s always a story. Whether it is as simple as comfort or discomfort, happiness or vulnerability.
Q: What do you love most about photographing people?
The connection. I have an overall love for people so it truly is a dream job for me. A majority of people I photograph are terrified in front of a camera and those people are actually my favourite to shoot because they are stepping outside of their comfort zone …and that is a scary no fun zone! Overcoming a fear is such an awesome feeling it’s nice to be a part of someone’s experience.
Q: Describe your dream shoot!
This is a personal one for me. I think about this daily and it will last about a month… When I travel to Cambodia and Thailand I can’t wait to take an abundance of candid shots of the people and to explore to find beautiful beaches and waterfalls (I’m slightly obsessed)…that would be a dream. Nothing staged just pure, genuine life moments.
Q: Which photographers do you admire? How has their work influenced you?
There are so many that are amazing but two that stand out are Rob Daly and Kharen Hill. Rob is an absolute genius! I think he creates pure magic. Every photo of his takes my breath away. All of his work is so original and creative. He really inspires me to start doing more passion projects and to step outside of the box. Kharen’s work also speaks for itself, it’s incredible and she’s one of the loveliest people I have ever met. Kharen was super helpful when I was first stepping into photography, I really admire her.
Q: What advice would you give to others wanting to pursue this career?
I think in general if you’re extremely passionate about something and you’re willing to put all of your time and effort into it you’ll do anything in your power to make it happen.
Q: How do you help clients feel comfortable, at-ease, and beautiful in front of the camera?
I genuinely find beauty in everyone. As cheesy as that sounds every person is so beautiful in their own unique way and that needs to be highlighted. I love to talk to people and really enjoy learning about them, listening to their stories so I hope that allows people to open up to me and feel comfortable
Q: What’s the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur? And the most rewarding?
The most challenging part is taking time off. I went over a year without taking a single full day off. I get very addicted to what I do and I really enjoy it so it’s hard not to focus on it especially when you’re trying to build a company from scratch. I also have a hard time saying no and take on too much. The most rewarding part is waking up in the morning feeling like life is surreal because I love what I’m doing so much.
Q: What brings you the most joy?
Making and seeing people smile, feel confident and happy. Stepping outside of the silly thing we call a comfort zone and trying new things, making mistakes and learning from them.
Q: Complete this statement: I can’t live without my…..
Radio. (That’s a terrible joke that no one born in the 90’s will understand.)
Images in this post by Natalia Anja, with thanks to Shell for grabbing the one of us together. My hair and makeup by Shelley Ainsworth.
Thanks for chatting with me Natalia!