PHOTOGRAPHER: Caroline Tran
BASED IN: California, USA
KNOWN FOR: Family, baby and lifestyle portraits
SHOOTS WITH: FUJIFILM GFX 50S Camera, FUJINON GF63mmF2.8 R WR Lens, GF110mmF2 R LM WR Lens
Caroline Tran is a wedding and lifestyle portrait photographer based in Los Angeles. She discovered photography during her Bachelor of Science degree in physics, and continued it as a hobby while studying for a Masters of Education at UCLA. Her portraits of friends and family garnered attention and she soon had a calendar full of paying jobs. Now her beautiful, emotional, intimate portraits tell the stories of families and are sought by clients worldwide.
How did you get started in baby photography?
I started photography just after getting married, and that made me want to photograph weddings, too. But what I really loved about shooting weddings was the stories I got to tell. It was always such an honor every time someone opened up to me, and shared a piece of their world with me… they trusted me, and felt safe enough with me to share a glimpse into their soul. That takes vulnerability, and trust. I started to photograph the people all around me – coworkers, friends, cousins – who happened to mostly be parents of young children at that time, so I photographed a lot of their pregnancies, and babies. I ended up really loving following the same family, documenting their kids and their family’s growth.
What is a typical Caroline Tran shoot like?
Most shoots are very personal. They are either returning clients or will become returning clients. We catch up on our kids and swap some fun stories. From this, I get a sense of what their dynamic is and what the child or children enjoy. I play with them and just capture the kids being kids. I have a general idea of what images I want to create but, ultimately, the kids make the shoot their own. If baby wants to play, then I roll with it and create games for them – that helps create the shots I envisioned. But if they’re feeling cuddly, I’ll get tender photos of parents holding their children. These shoots capture the beauty in their story.
Your images have a timeless look and feel to them – how do you create this?
My work is inspired by how I see the world… how I remember my own childhood and what I would want to remember as well. My look also became defined by my use of medium format film cameras. Film never goes out of style. It’s how my childhood was documented. It’s how history was documented. It was beautiful then and beautiful now. So even though I shoot both film and digital now, I still am drawn to the timeless aesthetics of film.
What are the other secrets to success with baby photography?
Building relationships and knowing how to engage with children is key. You need to build trust with the children so they are happy to see you again and again. Once you have that, you will become their lifelong photographer. Aim to be their family photographer and invest your time in their story.
Do you think it helps being a parent yourself?
I’ve photographed babies both before I was a parent and afterwards, so I don’t think it’s a prerequisite. However, I think I understand babies and parents better now, and my clients often call me a baby whisperer. That could be down to me being a parent now, or it could just be from all this experience working with babies – I’m not sure. I will say, however, that being a mom has made me more confident in handling babies. I was scared to hold a newborn before, even though I photographed so many of them! I used to have the parents hold their newborns for me, but now I get the parents to relax while I take care of the baby for them. Babysitter is another nickname they jokingly call me.
What three mistakes do you think many photographers make when photographing babies?
Safety is the first one. Many try to mimic baby poses they’ve seen from other photographers, not aware that some of those were photoshopped, or that right out of frame is a bed to catch the baby in case of a slip.
Having an uncomfortable subject is another error. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but I work against it now. There have been moments where I was so focused on posing or getting them to do something that isn’t natural to them that it ended up showing in the photo. Rather than forcing these moments, you should always play off genuine moments. Those moments come from building a relationship, not trying to force things.
The last thing is using too many props. Babies are precious just as they are – they don’t need to be overly styled. Again, I’ve made this mistake in the past myself – that’s how I know. You want to try everything you’ve seen in the cutest baby pics, but in the end, that doesn’t tell any story. It just looks like a mishmash of things. Don’t take the focus away from the baby. Anything you incorporate should enhance their story, not distract from it.
What’s your favorite type of baby shot to do, and why?
I actually love the one-on-one interactions, where it’s a shot of a baby with their mom or dad. I love how clean and simple these shots can be, because it gives you a chance to really focus on the relationship between parent and child, and the way their story is growing.
Which FUJIFILM equipment do you use, and why?
I love using the GFX 50S. I need my digital photos to blend with my film images and I found GFX, in combination with Refined Presets, to be my winning combo. I use the GFX 50S for my fine art portraits. I also use an X-T2 for lifestyle shots and shooting my own kids.
What would you say is the most important piece of advice for budding baby photographers?
Practice and experiment. Find your signature look and understand how to deliver consistent looking photos to build up a recognizable brand. Clients will then continue to come back to you for the consistent service and look.
Caroline Tran is a FUJIFILM-compensated Professional Photographer.
To see more of Caroline’s work, visit her website.
To explore the full GFX system lineup visit GFX Gear Chooser.