Interview: Van Tran

Van Tran

From working with a variety of buyers on the platform to photographing her family as models, we sat down to get to know more about StudioNow Creator PRO | Van Tran.
Tell us a little about you. What are you passionate about? What do you do when you are not photographing?  What is your favorite color? You know, the important things.
I’m a mom, wife, full-time teacher, part-time vegetarian, nap seeker, and coffee addict. When I’m not photographing, you can usually find me wiping crumbs off the floor or devising a secret operation to discard two year old holiday candy without my son noticing, or coming up with a new argument to present to my husband for our on going home decor negotiations (six years and still no coffee table folks!). I feel very passionate about teaching teenagers to appreciate the magic of photography, almost as much as the magic of tidying. Beautiful natural light makes me feel giddy and so does a perfectly Kon Mari-ed drawer of kitchen towels. Long before The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Netflix series came out, my husband gifted me the book for Christmas and I’m certain it is the one regret of his life.
I love my life and I’m obsessed with going on adventures with my boys.
How did you get started in photography?
My fascination with photographs came from my parents. My parents were Vietnamese refugees and the only thing of value they brought with them were their photographs and as a small child I would spend hours looking through them fascinated with this magic of frozen time, place and people that I held in my hands. These photos taught me how precious and valuable photography can be, because without those photos, I would’ve never known what my grandfather looked like or see my parents on their wedding day. I took my first photo with my father’s Canon AE-1 on a summer trip to Duluth, Minnesota when I was 11 and I still use that camera today. I took my first photography class (film because digital wasn’t invented yet) in high school, studied art in college and spent a lot of time in the dark room developing Kodak Tri X Black and White film.

Your work has is warm and welcoming, with a very personal style.  What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from people and being able to see the beauty in the “ordinary”. I also get to live in Hawaii, where I’m a part of a culture that embraces the diversity of ethnicities, where people’s  kindness and compassion are even more beautiful than the surroundings. My high school students make my daily life fun and funny. My family is, of course, my favorite subject. I photograph my family with the intention of creating a set of history that will always let my son know and feel how much his parents love him. Although I’m not in many of the photos since I’m taking them, I believe photographs can tell more about the person taking them than the people in it.

I notice that you photograph your family for a lot of projects. What are the pros and cons to using them as models verses hired “professionals?”
For professional projects, I’d rather use hired models since you can set a time and location and know you can get the assignment done on that day, whereas with family, the commitment for a photo shoot can be broken over a lazy afternoon of stuffing our faces with popcorn and watching a movie.
You have worked with us for a variety of buyers. Tell us about a  project (or two!) you enjoyed working on. Were there any surprises, successes, or struggles?
My two favorite projects were for Hotels Tonight and the USPS. I enjoyed using the beautiful murals as my backdrop for Hotels Tonight and I got to work with two super fun and easy to direct models! For USPS, the challenge was trying to create a very ordinary object look interesting. In one of the photos, I had to lure a rooster into the photo with bread I found in a nearby trash can. I’ve enjoyed all the assignments I’ve received because it continues to push my creativity and skill to new levels. Even when I didn’t quite “succeed” in one assignment and I kept getting the editing wrong and, as a result, was asked to provide the RAW images (embarrassing!), I still appreciate the experience because I got to learn from it. Changing my mindset on failure, whether it’s messing up your editing, exposure, missing the focus, I couldn’t get those people to smile, this idea sucked etc., was the number one thing that helped me be a better photographer. I’m either going to create really awesome photos or I’m going to learn from it, and I think those are two really great options.
Do you have any advice or tips for fellow photographers?
Like many have said before, learn to see light and don’t focus so much on what’s in your hand. Put your energy into what’s in front of your camera: light, composition, subject. If you really want to be better at photography, you have to practice and put time into it, learn from your mistakes, there are no short cuts. There are countless excuses you can make in photography- the sun isn’t shining, I don’t have the right lens, my camera is old, this location is ugly, my model didn’t do anything, and so on; and if you allow yourself to focus on the problems, you won’t see the possibilities.
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