A Leaving Cert student from Donegal beat off thousands off amateur and professional photographers to reach the final 12 on Sky Arts series Master of Photography.

Molly Keane (18), from Barnesmore Gap, is the youngest contestant in the series, where she is in with a chance of winning €150,000.

She has wowed judges including documentary photojournalist Darcy Padilla,  Oliviero Toscani and Guardian picture editor Caroline Hunter.

"It's such a prestigious jury - it was amazing to know that those three people chose me based on my photographs," said Molly, speaking to Independent.ie.

"The Skype interview was incredibly daunting. Our Skype wasn’t working properly. I live in the Barnsmore Gap in Donegal and our internet is a bit dodgy at the best of times! I couldn't see them but they could see me! But it was actually a good interview in the end."

Molly was sitting in a music class at Abbey Vocational School when she found out she was off to Rome.

The series is spread over eight weeks, during which the contestants face a series of tasks which test their abilities, skills and instincts in a range of styles and disciplines including street photography, travel photography, celebrity portraiture and erotica at a variety of locations including London, Hamburg, and Sicily.

Molly said that although she was competing against  professional photographers with years of experience, exhibitions or World Press Photo Awards, she felt she had an advantage.

"I'm only 18 so I'm not tied to a particular genre of photography. My style is still developing so I kind of saw that as an advantage. Obviously my lack of experience is a slight disadvantage but I felt I was more kind of open to exploring different genres," she said.

With just two weeks to prepare for the series, Molly missed her mock Leaving Cert exams. Sh earned full marks for her art portfolio and said she has applied to IADT Dun Laoghaire to study photography.

Since returning from Rome, where she was filming for the series, Molly said she has been working steadily, and even travelled to Derry for Martin McGuinness' funeral.

"I'm interested in photojournalism. I’ve sent my photos to different publications and set up my website which I update with new material every week or two and that has helped me get jobs.

"I got so many amazing opportunities to work with other photographers through Master of Photography. I might be going to New York at some stage to work with a photographer which would be amazing.

"There’s actually so much I took away from the whole experience. It really was a life changing experience in so many ways. I met so many photographers who I will stay in contact with for my whole life between the jury and the other 11 contestants themselves who I really admire. It's amazing."

Master of Photography airs weekly on Sky Arts from Thursday 25 May 2017 at 8pm

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