A native of Durham, North Carolina, Boun Loun, 27, began taking pictures when she was a sophomore in high school. Boun was the only and first Cambodian in her predominantly white community. While she was exploring her identity and trying to figure out how she fit in the society norm, Boun found true passion in many forms of arts and decided to put her energy in taking pictures. Like most artists, Boun sacrificed her time, energy and money in order to pursue her passion in photography, “I love to shoot all day, either I get paid for it or make it on my own. I love what I do,” she emphasized. These days, she is at Ocean Beach Starsbucks in San Diego, CA, a barrister, helping customers with their daily coffee wake up call. She is also a full-time stay-at-home mom. During her time off, Boun is a photographer and graphic designer. She has the passion for photography and works hard for it, “The most exciting part to me is when I am done with the photos and I hand it to the clients and they are very happy with the results. It is a great feeling when you know you make someone happy,” she said.
Are you a 100% Cambodian?
Boun: Mostly Cambodian, I have just a trace of Chinese and Vietnamese but mostly Cambodian.
Where were you born? Where are you based?
Boun: I was born in the Philippines and I am based out of San Diego, CA.
What kind of photography do you do?
Boun: I basically do everything. I do weddings, music, events, press reviews and family photos. Pretty much anything I can put my hands on.
What are you using to shoot with? Natural light or in studio?
Boun: I usually focus and capitalize on natural lighting.
When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?
Boun: Pretty early on, I remember as a sophomore in high school. My dad took me to a college fair. We were discussing colleges and majors. Right away I wanted to be a photographer. To my father, coming from a medical background, was kind of hilarious to him. He thought I was just kidding. I still perused it and now he sees the work that I do. He respects it and accepts that is what I do and have passion for. I have always loved art. I started drawing in elementary school. I think it has always been in my blood any type of arts.
Do you remember the first photograph you took, which led you to become professional? What was the photo of?
Boun: My first paid gig as photographer, I would say it was a few years back. I did a high school dance team. It was a nerve racking. It was with a completely different age group, which was of high school girls. It was a bit off guard too because they wanted to be on the beach and not at the school. They wanted something more on location. However, it was a cool as well as a great experience and the excitement that came with it was a rush. They kept me on my toes. It was good to test the water my first time shooting professionally.
What would you say was your most embarrassing moment on the job?
Boun: In general, it is always nerve racking. Actually few weeks ago, I experienced my first embarrassing moment when my equipment failed! I was on a shoot and for some reason my memory card couldn’t read any of the images! Basically I lost the images! I had to take it to the camera shop. Lucky, I was able to recover all of them. If I couldn’t recover it, you don’t really know where to go from there with the clients. It teaches you to always come prepared and have a backup, i.e. bring a battery and extra card. It is always hard to have backup in this industry because the equipment is so expensive. If you have friends who are in the same field, it is always good to borrow or exchange equipment with them. You just have to always stay clam and stay professional at all time.
What would you say the coolest experience and most exciting part of your job?
Boun: I would say, when you are with a band you get to be on stage with them and catching the moment is the coolest experience. The most exciting part of my job, I would say looking back after I got my photos done and hand it to the clients. It is a great feeling to see their excitement in the final product. The most exciting thing to me is when you see the clients are just so happy with their photos that you shot and you worked so hard on the project. It is a great feeling when you know you make someone happy.
What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?
Boun: I would say one of the challenges, as a photographer is that I can’t always control the conditions. You can’t always control the time of the day or the sun. Things that I run into a lot are time conflicts. I always think that I am finished but I end up staying longer. The clients need to understand quality takes a lot of time. That is a downside.
I noticed you received your BA degree in Graphic Design and not photography?
Boun: I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh to receive my Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. I actually do both photography and graphic design. To me, they really go hand in hand and complement each other. For example, if I need to do something graphically, I can use my own image through my own shooting. That is comforting because I can use my own image and work. I can offer a band by saying; hey I can do both your press photos and design your album cover. It is like the whole package but one person does it. Even though I do not have my degree in photography, I grew up using the camera and have professional experience. I am comfortable with the camera. The reason I got a degree in Graphic Design because it is more marketable.
When did you start your graphic design and photography company?
Boun: My business started while I was in college. I started with freelance jobs and slowly in 2007, I officially got my business license and website. Just recently that my business is starting to pick up through established clients. It is nice to build your clients. Then you can start doing their family and friends. I hope to look for clients that I can build on and lasting relationships.
What do you favor more? Photography or Graphic Design?
Boun: Its funny the other day, I was thinking what I like more? Sometimes I think I like photography more. Other times when I am working on a graphic design project, I think I like that more. To be honest, I love both them equally. They give me a different rush for different reasons. Being on the field shooting, you catch the moment. When you are designing something, it is like wow I created that appealing product.
What are your goals and hopes for the future for your company?
Boun: Ideally, I would like to continue with my own business or be a contactor for National Geographic or a huge band. I would love to shoot all day and either get paid for it or make it on my own. I love what I do. I get a rush out of it. I am in the process of shooting for a concert. The next big step is shooting for a big band. Right now, most of my clients are local. I meet them through Starbucks. As much as I do not like waking up at 4:00am, it is a nice way to meet clients.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into photography?
Boun: If you have a passion for photography and art, it is a great job. It takes a lot of time unless you make it really big and become well established, it is a hard living. You really have to sacrifice especially it is hard on your family. But it is all worth it when you doing it at the moment and out in the field. I am always pumped. If you are willing to put some hard work into it and have passion for it, then I say go for it.
What is your favorite Khmer dish?
Boun: Well I can’t say I have a favorite, but I’m a big fan of a variety of stir-fry with white rice!
For more about Boun Loun:
Originally Posted by Yenly T.
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