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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Teacher and competition judge ‘Miller’ on what it takes to win PhotoMarathon

Phan ‘Miller’ Phearith advises his students to specialise in the type of photography they most enjoy.
Phan ‘Miller’ Phearith advises his students to specialise in the type of photography they most enjoy. Athena Zelandonii

Teacher and competition judge ‘Miller’ on what it takes to win PhotoMarathon

This year’s Canon PhotoMarathon, which will be held on Koh Pich on Sunday, will draw hundreds of prospective photographers.

Some years back, Phan “Miller” Phearith, a judge in the under-18 Student category of the contest, was one of them.

“I’ve loved photography since 2011, and I’ve already taught hundreds of photographers,” he says of his time as an instructor at the Canon Imaging Academy, where he’s taught since 2012.

The 38-year-old is responsible for teaching basic and intermediate levels. When he taught his first class, there were just seven students, he says. All have gone on to become professional photographers.

The key, he says, is concentration and determination. “They wanted to attend photography school and pay attention to what the photography instructor did,” he says.

“I can say that each generation has come with talent and passion, and now some of [my students] have become photography teachers or photography business owners.”

But it’s not just about being passionate, Phearith cautions. Depending on what field of photography one chooses, there is a set of techniques that need to be learned once students have picked up the basics, which, he says, takes about six months. In short, you have to learn the rules before you can break them.

“If [students] won’t come regularly to class, they will go wrong with their photography concepts,” he says.Moreover, while students in the past likely could not access the same calibre of equipment that is now available, they should not fool themselves into thinking that good gear makes them better photographers.

“Students nowadays may have good equipment, but they don’t concentrate like previous students who didn’t have modern equipment,” he says.

His advice to students is to know what kind of photography they most enjoy, whether it is landscape, street, macro, portrait or photojournalism, and then follow their gut.

“Taking a photograph is not hard, but it is not easy to take [it] well, because it has its own rules,” he says. “Commitment,” he says, is the non-negotiable element to being able to photograph well.

Phearith, who previously judged for the PhotoMarathon in 2013 and 2015, will return this year to evaluate photographs in the Student category, which is open to those under the age of 18.

He says a key challenge of being a judge is reaching consensus with the other judges, who come from diverse backgrounds.But it helps that the competition’s rules are crystal clear.

“If the quality of photo is great but it doesn’t fit the topic, we won’t choose it,” he says. “The photo’s meaning, creativity and quality are the main points to winning the photo competition.”

Phearith hopes PhotoMarathon will push people to keep appreciating the craft of photography. “I do hope that Cambodian people can better understand and value photography, because all of the photographers have tried their best to shoot quality images,” he says.

Among Phearith’s preparation tips: make sure batteries are charged, memory cards are empty, the camera’s settings are correct, and you understand the topic. And, he adds, be on time and be confident.

And though winning is an understandable ambition, the mere act of taking part is important because it can help photographers realise their strengths and weaknesses; failure this time might drive success next time – provided people learn from their mistakes.

Phearith speaks from experience. He lost in his first contest, but went on to win a later PhotoMarathon competition.“This is a fun competition – but if you don’t win, then it’s important to ask yourself the reasons why you lost, and learn from those,” he says.

The Phnom Penh Post is a media partner of the 2016 Canon PhotoMarathon. This year’s PhotoMarathon will be held on Sunday at Koh Pich. For more details, and to register, please go to: www.facebook.com/iQlickCambodia.

2016 PhotoMarathon: Key Points

– All participants must select one of the two event categories available: “Open” or “Student”.
– The “Student” category is open to participants below the age of 18 and registered in a school in Cambodia. Please note this category is not compulsory based on the participant’s age.
– All participants must wear the event T-shirt and registration tag number provided at the beginning of the event; the white tag number is for the Open category, and the red tag number is for the Student category.
– Participants can use any brand of digital camera during the Canon PhotoMarathon 2016.
– All photographs submitted MUST be in JPEG format, with a maximum size of 5MB.
– Storage formats accepted are CF/SD/MMC/XD/MS. Participants using other formats must supply their own relevant adaptors/drives. The organisers will not be held responsible for the inability to read/download images, or for the loss of any images.
– All submissions for each theme must be completed before the announced allocated time deadline. The organizers reserve the right to reject any submission once the deadline has lapsed.
– All submitted photographs must be taken on October 9, 2016.
– Submitted photographs must not be altered by any editing software.
– Participants must submit their entries personally. No proxy submission by any participant is allowed during the event.
– The organiser will not be responsible for providing photographic equipment including cameras, spare batteries, lenses or additional memory cards. All participants are expected to come prepared with all their own photographic equipment.
– No changes of submitted pictures will be allowed once the participant has provided the file to the organisers.
– All entries and their copyright will become the property of i-Qlick Marketing Co, Ltd.

The Competition Process
– Participants will receive Theme 1 at 9am on October 9 at the event venue, Koh Pich, Building L and K.
– Participants must submit ONE picture deemed suitable for the theme before 12pm.
– Theme 2 will be announced immediately after the deadline for the Theme 1 submission has lapsed (at 12pm). The Theme 2 submission deadline is 3pm.
– Theme 3 will be announced immediately after the deadline for the Theme 2 submission has lapsed (at 3pm). The Theme 3 submission deadline is 6pm.

The Prize-Giving Ceremony
– The winner must be present at the prize-giving ceremony to personally collect their prizes.
– No representative is allowed to collect the prizes on behalf of the winner.
– All prizes will be forfeited if the winner is not present at the prize-giving ceremony to personally collect the prizes. However, the winner will still be acknowledged as a winner of the competition.
– The prize-giving ceremony will take place between 6pm and 9pm on the day of the competition.

The Phnom Penh Post wishes all contestants the best of luck at the 2016 Canon PhotoMarathon.

This image, by Yin Phearun, took first place at the 2015 Canon PhotoMarathon in the open category for the theme Life and Shadow. Yin Phearun
This image, by Yin Phearun, took first place at the 2015 Canon PhotoMarathon in the open category for the theme Life and Shadow. Yin Phearun

Chao Lychou took second place with this image in the Student category last year (Life and Shadow). Chao Lychou
Chao Lychou took second place with this image in the Student category last year (Life and Shadow). Chao Lychou

The third-place photograph (Student category) in 2015 for the theme Unity. Vanna Sousata
The third-place photograph (Student category) in 2015 for the theme Unity. Vanna Sousata

Third place (Open category, New Phnom Penh) in 2015. David Chhunka
Third place (Open category, New Phnom Penh) in 2015. David Chhunka
Third place (Open category, Unity) in 2015. Ah Meng
Third place (Open category, Unity) in 2015. Ah Meng
Second place (Student category, New Phnom Penh) in 2015. Sony Sanisa
Second place (Student category, New Phnom Penh) in 2015. Sony Sanisa

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