Interview with photographer #4: Javon Swaby (Canada, Travel photography)84LENS
Name: Javon Swaby
Country: Mississauga, Canada
Style: Travel Photography
Gear: Canon 6D Mark ii, Canon 16-35mm f2.8 ii
Experience: 2 years shooting professionally, picked up my first DSLR 8 years ago.
When did you first become interested in photography? What sparked it and when did you decide that it was what you were going to do? Tell us your story 😉
Photography first caught my interest when Instagram and Tumblr were becoming increasingly popular back 6 years ago when I was in Grade 10 of high school. I started off shooting on my iphone 4 and instantly fell in love with trying to capture every day objects in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Shortly after, I began a Media Arts class where my mom bought me my first DSLR camera ever, the Canon t3i (which I carried with me all the way to second year university).
Photography is and always has been one of my biggest passions because it allows me to create beautiful art that can put a smile both my face and the faces of my friends, family, and even people all across the internet.
Were you formally educated in photography, or are you self taught?
I learned the basics of how a camera works (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance) in Grade 10 high school. After high school, I learned more about my camera and photography on my own and with the help of YouTube, arguably the tool that has accelerated my skill progressions the fastest. I believe acquiring editing knowledge is what brought my work to the next level and set me apart from other individuals.
What is your ways of income from photography? Do you sell your photos on microstock sites? What else?
I sell my photography on stock websites such as gettyimages, istockphoto, stock contributors and Adobe Stock. I also have a donation option on my Pexels page. Aside from these sources, I do professional shoots often in the form of portraiture or event photography.
What else do you do besides photography? 😉
I like to play games and occasionally stream and make vlogs/videos! I’m also a student at the University of Waterloo where I study Environmental Biology! #SaveTheSeaTurtles
What mistakes did you make when you started taking pictures?
Ohh man, where do I even start? One of the biggest mistakes I made was over-editing my photos by sliding things like saturation, vibrance, and sharpness all the way to the right and it made my pictures look like a pexelly mess. Remember… sometimes less is more!
Which photo are you currently most proud of? Tell us a story about this photo please.
Probably this photo manipulation where I took a photo of me laying down on the train tracks of my university pretending to hang like I was climbing with a picture I found on pexels of a coniferous forest under me. This photo was heavily inspired by the opening mission of Uncharted 2, one of my favourite cinematic shooter games.
This photo did extremely well on Pexels reaching over a million views and getting much love on Instagram having many different artists re-editing and posting their pictures with some of them getting featured on big Instagram accounts such as @launchdsigns and @visualmobs!
Who have you learned the most from?
Creators on YouTube like Peter Mckinnion, Matti Haapoja, and Jessica Kobeissi with their massively helpful videos/tutorials and vlogs!
When did you start sharing your photos on Pexels and Unsplash? Many photographers prefer not to share their photos for free, but sell them on photo banks. What is your reason to do that? Does it helps you to attract new customers or you have some any other reasons?
I posted my first photo on Pexels on July 11th, 2018 when I just started shooting more. My Pexels didn’t really take off until a specific photo I took of a sparkler with some fireworks in the back. I hesitated to post this picture actually cause I thought my hand looked a little funny, but it ended up becoming my most popular photo on Pexels with over 2.61 million views and likely was the catalyst for getting my page out there and rolling!
I decided to share my photos for free because I saw it was a good way to get your art out there and recognized by people and show me what kind of photos people appreciate more than others, overall its been a very insightful and rewarding experience.
My pexels has definitely brought me both more lovely people to my Instagram to follow me and its also brought me clients which I am beyond grateful for!
How did you find your photography style, and what can you recommend to other photographers trying to find their niche?
I’ve always had a passion for travel and nature photography and just showing the beautiful places in the world. When I started traveling it was my mission to take as many beautiful photos of all the amazing places I went to so that I could share them with other people who are passionate about travel photography or nature just like how I was.
Its also my mission to show some beautiful less popular places to people to show that there is even more than what people thought to some popular tourist areas.
Your favourite accessory?
Probably wrist straps for your camera, they’re much more subtle and way less tacky than those giant neck straps cameras come with!
Favourite photography website?
Either Pexels or 500px. I like Pexels because it shows a lot of upcoming artists and their work whereas I like 500px more just for the amazing quality of a lot of the photos from some big professionals in photography and its extremely inspiring.
Top tip for any aspiring in your niche photographers out there?
Traveling is a lot more accessible than you think! If you find the right airlines at the right time, you can get some seriously cheap flights! This year, my flight to Ireland in May costed $150 CAD for a one-way trip, that’s amazing for a transatlantic flight!
You can also look into volunteer experiences abroad where you can get food cost and accommodation covered!
Another piece of advice I’d give is to not photograph what everyone else is photographing. Walk around and find unique perspective or objects to photograph so you can stick out from the rest who are trying to get shots that many many people before them have already captured.
To what degree do you retouch your photos, Photoshop? Lightroom? Aperture? Anything that you like to do in your photos in particular, such as add certain curves?
I edit the colours and lighting in my photos quite a bit. I really like to go for that subtle orange/teal look because it gives off a nice warm travel feeling. I also like to raise the blacks quite a bit on the tone curve to give a bit of a vintage/film look to my photos.
Do you use some photographer’s facebook groups/forums/subreddits/medium to share your experience or discuss something?
I’m in a group on Facebook called “build + bloom” established by Jessica Whitaker, a popular portrait photographer on YouTube. I mainly use this for advice on client work and opinions portraits/editing techniques.
Recommend some blogs or instagram profiles about photography you love to read.
Alongside travel photography, I like to create fantasy photography using photo manipulation with Adobe Photoshop. There are two artists I really look up to for this type of art on Instagram @calop and @jerquartz they both have amazing ethereal photo manipulations and they both provide very cool and insightful behind the scenes videos of how they make their work.
What promotion methods do you use? How do you find customers for your photo shoots?
The strongest way I’ve been getting clients is through word-of-mouth. I also have postings on Kijiji where I can get many clients requesting me for shoots. I also have people direct message or email me through my Instagram to inquire on sessions as well.
What apps do you use to organize your work? Maybe there are some interesting services that our readers would be interested to know about?
Outside of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom, there isn’t really any other service I use to organize my photos.
Final words of wisdom you would like to share?
If I have to leave you with any message, I’d like to leave you with this. Don’t compare yourself and don’t be afraid to take risks and be different!
One things that discouraged me a lot was comparing myself to people who were much more experienced at doing what I wanted to do and it killed my spirit. Remember that with a strong will to learn and improve and hard work you can get to the point you want to be at. Don’t compare, just do your own thing!
Also remember to take risks, because if I hadn’t posted some photos like the the sparkler I mentioned earlier, its possible my Pexels page wouldn’t have taken off the way it has.
Stay inspired and keep creating!
Thanks a lot Javon! I wish you the most juicy shots!