Jane Sweeney


When did you first become interested in photography and what sparked your interest?

I first became interested in photography when I travelled to compete in International gymnastic competitions.  I wanted to capture the places I visited but I only had a small instamatic camera which didn’t do justice to the beauty I remembered. I was so disappointed that I decided that I really had to buy a ‘proper’ camera and learn how to use it.

What did you do in your life before shooting travel stock images?

At college I studied child care then worked in a special school for 2 years, but I really wanted a job that would enable me to travel so I became a sole charge nanny – choosing jobs that involved extensive travel. Whenever I had saved enough money I would go on overland trips and after showing the company I travelled with my images I eventually got my perfect job working as their brochure photographer. I worked my way up the ladder at first getting a discount, then a free trip, then expenses, and finally I got paid for my time! They would send me on trips ranging from 3 weeks to 5 months

How many photo trips do you do in a year and how long do you spend on the road?

I tend to do shorter trips these days so I am not spending too long editing on the computer when I return. Trips vary in length from maybe a week to 10 days on a city shoot but could be up to a month if I am shooting somewhere further afield, I guess an average trip would be around 3 weeks. Usually about 6 trips a year.  I tend not to shoot in the summer as the air fares and hotels are more expensive and the days longer – which means getting up at a really ridiculous hour!

What have been your favourite destinations you have photographed and why?

That’s a hard question, however Cuba is a special place – the people are so friendly, the music amazing, and even though I don’t drive I love the old American cars – Cuba just has its own special charm, such as when I spotted a man delivering bottles of milk – on horseback! I also feel very safe shooting there which is always a bonus! It’s one place I would never hesitate to return to, even though I’ve already been there 4 times.

Cuba, Trinidad, Milkman on horseback delivers bottles of milk to house

Do you have a favourite technique or piece of photographic equipment?

I enjoy shooting long exposures at dawn or twilight especially images of buildings reflecting in water, therefore I would be lost without my filters. I also love my Canon 70-300 lens – it is so sharp, it has a permanent place in my camera bag.

What do you find most challenging shooting travel stock images?

The most challenging thing is to find an angle that is different from the norm. It is increasingly difficult to find places to shoot where tripods are not banned! Particularly annoying if you have found the perfect place to shoot from and at the critical moment some security guard appears from nowhere!

What’s your favourite image or images, and what do you love about them?

Camel herders arriving at Pushkar Camel Fair:

This is one of my favourite images I think it has a lot of atmosphere – you can imagine the sound of the camels and I love the light on the dusty sand in the early morning sun.

DM01399 Playa Cabeza de Toro, Punta Cana

I love tropical beaches and spend a lot of time searching out my idea of a perfect palm tree – of course with a soft white sand beach, for his shot I waited till a boat came into the frame for added interest 

Have you had a situation where it all went wrong and you didn’t get the shots you planned?

Whilst working for an overland company on an Africa trip our group got held up by armed bandits in no-mans-land between the Mali and Algerian borders, the ordeal lasted roughly 7 hours and ended up with the bandits stealing all our possessions along with the truck we were travelling in – this included the 50 films that I had taken, along of course with all my camera equipment and money. But at the time we were just glad to be alive – we all thought that the bandits were going to kill us. Thankfully they  dumped us in the desert about an hours walk from to the Algerian border, where we slept on concrete for 4 nights. When we finally reached Tamanrasit we pooled any hidden money and went underwear shopping (we only had the clothes we were standing up) however we couldn’t find any women’s underwear so we ended up having to buy mens Y fronts. Somehow the whole town found out about this – and of course they thought it the funniest thing ever! 

Is there any advise you’d give to a young person thinking of getting into this business?

You have to be absolutely dedicated to the job – passionate and totally self-disciplined. These days it is harder than ever to make a living from stock photography and for a young person entering the market, I think it would be advisable to have a plan B!

Do you specialize in a particular subject, geographic area or style?

I used to love shooting people especially tribal people but the demand for model releases has taken all the pleasure away. I don’t have a particular subject although I like to shoot archaeological and religious sites, actually anything that I find inspiring. As for the geographic area, new destinations are always more exciting for me than somewhere I have visited previously

To see more of Jane’s work visit her gallery page on AWL Images: https://www.awl-images.com/awl-images/contributors/jane-sweeney.html

About the author

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