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Youth of the week: Ly Sotheany

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Ly Sotheany. Photograph: Phnom Penh Post

“I never thought I could win the first prize. It was unbelievable,” photographer Ly Sotheany said after winning her first big photography competition.

The petite 23-year-old won the Canon Photomarathon II in October, despite taking up photography seriously only the year before.

Sotheany always showed a talent for art and throughout her school studies earned several prizes for her drawing skills.

It wasn’t until taking a free course at the French Cultural Center however that she discovered her talent for photography.

Thanks to professional photographers and teachers, she learned a lot about photography and within a year she was ready to participate to the 2011 Photo Phnom Penh festival.

“I am not yet a professional photographer but with my ambition and the support I’ve been given, I feel driven to achieve it as a career,” Sotheany says.

“I bring my camera everywhere, and I feel like I am improving a lot, all the time.”

After recently graduating in design at the Sitec Institute, Sotheany was able this year to exhibit a lot of her pictures.

Although she is now working as an interior designer for a private company in Phnom Penh, Sotheary's ambition is to become a professional photographer. 

“I’ve found myself drawn towards artistic photography but at the same time I’m enjoying improving my skills,” she says.

Last week she joined eight other amateur photographers from the Canon competition in Siem Reap province for special workshops with the ICLICK company.  

So, what makes a great photo?

While light, composition and technical proficiency are all important elements, there must be a though-out concept behind the image, Sotheany says.

This can be a difficult thing to get right.

“I hold my breath each time I take a photo,” she explains.

“And when I have it right – that’s when I breath out… I won the first prize because my photo was meaningful and because it showed my knowledge of light, composition and angle.

“It is fundamental to have a clear idea of what the theme of our pictures is going to be, before starting shooting. My theme for example is communication."

Taking good photos doesn’t mean having expensive equipment, she says, and having a cheap model camera allows you to be more spontaneous and develop your creative thinking, before worrying about developing technical skills. 

“I used to wish I had a fancy camera but then I realised my imagination and skill were more important than what my camera could actually do.

''I think other people can achieve the same, as long as they give it their best shot.”

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