Family Travel

Results: Teaching a Photography Workshop in Cambodia!

Me Ra Koh

We had one day for teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia with the teens at Water of Life orphanage.  When we hit the point of no one knowing a word for aperture in Cambodian, I felt the freedom to really drop the technical jargon and just go for it!  LOL! And so we did!  The teens totally got buttery, blurry backgrounds!  More than good enough for me!

Teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia was one of the most humbling experiences.  It’s already challenging to teach someone Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO when you both speak the same language.  But to take it a step further with someone trying to translate, I wasn’t sure if anything was really making sense.  But the teens were so hungry to learn and hung in there with my lack of experience in teaching with a translator (Rith and Rin were both AWESOME translating, but it was a different dynamic for me and Brian—no other way to get better then jump in!  :).

Everyone wanted to keep pushing forward.  So we did the Magic Three that I teach about in the Beyond the Green Box dvd.  We also talked about the story telling elements, I teach in Refuse to Say Cheese. They all knew “cheese”, and we talked about what it means to not say that dreadful word and instead capture someone’s life story.

Teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia to teens at Water of Life orphanage by Me Ra Koh.

And then we hit the streets of Phnom Penh and decided to take a few hours and shoot away. 

Teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia to teens at Water of Life orphanage by Me Ra Koh.

We brought as much equipment as possible with us so they could try the gear out.  Sony is HUGE in Cambodia.  You see the Sony signs everywhere, so they were super excited to try the cameras.  I had no idea what had sunk in and felt a little down on myself.  But then the guys, and our token sweetie, Sreyown, our only girl—started asking us questions while shooting.

Teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia to teens at Water of Life orphanage by Me Ra Koh.

EVERY PHOTO that you see from this point on was taken by the students.  Every ONE!

Student Results from Teaching a Photography Workshop in Cambodia

“Is this what you mean by the Third’s Principle Me Ra?

Teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia to teens at Water of Life orphanage by Me Ra Koh.

“Is it the lower numbers for f-stop that give me the blurry background?”   (Bora Sang is with Blaze. He is Rith’s younger brother who is now at Water of Life with Rith.  Bora’s smile and tender heart got into my heart that I cried at the airport when we had to say goodbye.  But we will see each other again, yes, we will Bora!)

“How do you focus and then move your camera so you can do the Third’s Principle without losing your focus?”

Teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia to teens at Water of Life orphanage by Me Ra Koh.

“Wow, that makes sense!”

“Me Ra, since the sun is so bright, do we use the lower ISO?”

Teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia to teens at Water of Life orphanage by Me Ra Koh.

“Will you look at this and tell me if this is what you mean by Filling the Frame so the picture is only full of the story you are trying to tell?”

This is Me Ra—I LOVE how the photo above and below has so much emotion, action, and diversity in both images.  And yet, EVERY THING points to the story the photo is trying to tell. 

Rin, the amazing art teacher that I told you about yesterday, had some wonderful conversations with me.  He wanted to learn photography so he could enhance his drawings, and he wanted to be stretched in his creativity. 

We talked about the importance of shadows. 

We discussed how important it is to add mystery to your images or drawings—to invite your viewer in.  What does it mean to take away light and clarity?  What does it mean to cause someone to lean forward, want to know your image’s story, be captivated by what they see but want to understand more of?  I talked about different techniques to try.  This is one of the photos Rin took from those conversations.

The students were so focused, so intent.  This is Tongchou Fleming, and he embraced the camera like nobody’s business!

Teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia to teens at Water of Life orphanage by Me Ra Koh.

They were determined to learn as much photography in our time together as possible.

And they LOVED seeing their results.   Even the kids jumped in at times to help explain something.  Such a gift to me and Brian!

I thank SONY because the Live Preview helped the students grasp these crazy technical elements so fast!  

The students could SEE the Live Preview getting darker if they increased their Shutter Speed.  They could see the Live Preview get brighter if they raised their ISO.  They could watch me show them how to frame with the Third’s Principle.  It was pretty, freaking AWESOME!   There is no way that such technical ideas could be grasped with this much understanding in one day, not to mention a language barrier and so many other barriers.  But to see it—is to believe it!

Brian and I took them all out to ice cream afterwards to celebrate. 

Teaching a photography workshop in Cambodia to teens at Water of Life orphanage by Me Ra Koh.

They kept thanking us and telling us this was the best day.  But oh my goodness, they have no idea how much they gave to me and Brian.  They opened their hearts to us.  Each one took a risk with their creativity and insecurities.  They showed us how they see the world.  And this inspired us beyond words.

Thank YOU Water of Life!  We LOVE YOU!

Read more about our Cambodia Adventures here!


Me Ra


  1. Monica says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I’m new to all this and your blog, but every morning now I check for updates on your travels. I had the privilege to travel to some of the places in Thailand and Combodia in 2004. Both brief and focused on “tourist” endevours, the thing that remains with me are the people, their warmth and genuine smiles. The children were beautiful cloaked in their poverty, but as you say, still having the ability to find joy. I read your stories with tears in my eyes and, like everyone here, I too am inspired. Can’t wait to finally meet you in May.

  2. Freida says:

    Totally awesome! 🙂

  3. Jill says:

    Wow, I’m tearing up write now (and I’m not one of those criers)!!! What a cool experience for your family. And what a way for you and Brian to give back. Thanks for sharing all of this with us.


  4. Abba abba abba says:

    Me Ra and Brian and Pascline and Blaze,
    I see you all in the pictures. It is incredible story you share with the world.
    They all look so precious and beautiful. It is wonderful you can share your knowledge with those young people. I am going to watch your blog more often here on.
    You being away from home so far, still I feel you are all around me in Tacoma, Washington. I am going to pray you all not going to get sick anymore in this trip.
    we are having nice weather this week end, and I am going to go to play a round of golf.
    Love you all,

  5. Addie says:

    I think there is no language barrier when you speak from the heart. You and Brian (and the kids) are proving this in wonderful, wonderful ways. You are helping these kids find the path to share who they are with the world and giving the world the place to hear their voice. What a beautiful gift both ways!

  6. […] link: Be Inspired! Results from Teaching CONFIDENCE Photography Wkshp in … Tags: aperture, both-speak, finally-meet, like-everyone, Poverty, shutter, speak-the-same, […]

  7. Kelli says:

    Mera I just love these! When I look outside my small world and think about placesfar and seems such a foreign place that it is at times hard to imagine that we ARE so similar in our desire to learn new photography! And to have your children there with you! We took our two oldest 4 and 5 to Guatemala last year and it was so satisfying. I am so glad we shared the experience with them. If you are ever interested in going to Guatemala and doing the same thing..count me in! Great work!

  8. Nickie says:

    What a wonderful experience for your family and the kids from Water of Life. They did an amazing job.

  9. jeramy says:

    fantastic shots! thank you for sharing this. great stuff!

  10. Lisa Hays says:

    awesome. Just completely awesome. Thank you soo much for sharing 🙂

  11. Wow! Inspired beyond belief! Their images are amazing and their enthusiasm and hunger to learn is humbling and contagious. Loved hearing how the extra features on the Sony gear helped in the teaching and learning process…The cross-cultural language of art is a beautiful thing! My next DSL might just need to be a Sony! ; )

  12. Ashley J says:

    I’m lovin’ these posts, MeRa! Keep ’em coming 😉

  13. Rhonda Kane says:

    What an amazing job they did! I wish I had unlimited resources and could send cameras to Water of Life so they could continue this journey. How amazing would it be for the school to own a classroom set of cameras that the students could use to learn from. I think I need to be praying about that for them 🙂
    They are blessed to have had you guys enter their lives and I know you are blessed to be a part of their lives. I just love how God works – a happenstance (or divine) meeting turned into amazing fruit for His Kingdom.

  14. Michelle says:

    So cool. Amazing what you taught them in such a short amount of time. I had to giggle at the idea of someone translating for you and Brian, knowing your funny interactions sometimes.

  15. Gina says:

    this is so fantastic… i can’t wait to open up your blog these days…

  16. Me Ra says:

    “I think there is no language barrier when you speak from the heart.” Addie

    Girl, I couldn’t say it any better!

    And wow, my dad “ahba” posted a comment on my blog! What a treat! First my grandma, now my dad! I love my family! You are always so supportive.

  17. Genie says:

    What a beautiful tale and life changing experience for all of you! They will surely be inspired to higher heights from this time with you. And to see Pasc and Blaze so engaged, growing up, helping them…wow. I learned more too.

    I’ve been supporting an orphanage in Thailand. I know they’d love to see you there too. Keep healthy – keep open. Love you!

  18. The shot of Blaze helping out with the camera was just awesome… I LOVED IT.

    These last few posts have been some of the best you have ever shared. Really. You are my inspiration (cue the music!).

  19. Marla-Dee says:

    Wow, lookes like you guys really had a lot of fun teaching the kids. They also looked so happy, that is so nice for them to have those memories and learn something so inspiring.