I Would Not Be a Photographer if Not for Peter McKinnon

I Would Not Be a Photographer if Not for Peter McKinnon

He has played a significant role in making me into the photographer I am now, so much so that I would've quit without getting started if it was not for his content. This is probably true for a lot of "new generation" creators. Yet, there is a lot of debate surrounding him, as well as other creators. The core of this debate is simply that YouTubers are not "real" photographers and should not be listened to. In this article, we will discuss the importance of educators, presenters, and, of course, real photographers. 

I have a lot of people to thank for what I am now. More than I can remember, probably. All the influence I had from my surroundings, family, friends, and colleagues has played a key role in forming my photographic taste and making me a photographer, from my mum who took me to see the ballet and opera at the age of 3, to architecture, and, surprisingly, Peter McKinnon. Now, I get your question, what can a YouTuber do to inspire someone passionate about fashion? After all, what can watching vlogs, camera hack videos, and gear reviews do to get someone interested in photography? Turns out, a lot.

My Journey

The path that brought me to fashion photography is rather long, but I will try to condense it into a paragraph. Perhaps the biggest inspiration was the fact that I was presented with theater from a young age. I was not interested in the plot, but rather in the way light, set, and clothes were able to create completely different worlds on a simple stage. Then, around when I hit my teenage years, I explored abandoned buildings. I watched a few YouTube videos and saw how those people were able to capture a fully bright picture in what looked like a pitch-black room. Again, I was fascinated by light transforming a space. Eventually, I got the hang of long-exposure techniques and started to photograph my friends. By pure coincidence, I ended up assisting with a fashion shoot. The rest is history, which led me here.

Using watermarks to protect the invaluable intellectual property of this authentic work of art. 

Shooting roofs on film was also part of my early work. 

How Peter McKinnon Helped

Peter McKinnon has made me into a photographer because, during my path to those first shoots, I would religiously watch his early content, try some of the things myself, and eventually even go for a similar hairstyle. It was not so much about the content of the videos for me; it was more about someone being a photographer and showing how much fun it is. Whenever I felt like putting my camera down, his content inspired me to move forward. Sure, his content might sometimes be overly optimistic, but in any case, it was plenty to get me inspired. I loved seeing how he traveled, took photos, and interacted with people. The energy he gave off in the videos made me fall in love with photography. But, what I do is very far from Peter McKinnon. Not only do we work in different genres, but we also make money in different ways. Some might say that I do a “pure” form of photography, where my images make me money. The same group of people might also refer to Peter McKinnon as a YouTuber, hence not a real photographer. That isn’t exactly right, and here is why.

Presenters Versus 'Real' Photographers

Peter McKinnon inspires people to become photographers. He presents the lifestyle of a photographer, and he is great at that. The truth about being a photographer is often that you can’t show what you do. If it was not for his presentation skills, I would not be looking at photography as a career option. The world needs people who are presenters. 

Let’s switch gears and look at Top Gear and its role in motorsports. The iconic trio of presenters was able to entertain millions of car enthusiasts and get people interested in cars in general. They are not real racing drivers and would not compete in the next Formula 1 race, but their value should not be underestimated. That said, I have every confidence that James May can be a car mechanic and Clarkson and Hammond could race at some level. Simply because they choose to be presenters and not race drivers and mechanics should not mean they are not legitimate.

Automotive photography never looked so good, or has it? 

Peter McKinnon is like the Top Gear trio: he is a presenter. His job is to entertain, present, and review photography. His YouTube channel is one of the best places for a beginner photographer to get inspiration. That said, he has put a lot of work into creating this resource. With the talent and dedication that he put into this channel, could he have become a successful working photographer? Absolutely! He has all the talent in the world to take beautiful shots that will see commercial success. Perhaps this is why his work has been praised not only by other photographers online but by people who would hire photographers.

Presenting Is a Craft in Itself

Being able to present something is a craft in itself. To become truly great at anything, you need to focus on that thing and only that thing. Becoming a presenter is perhaps even more difficult, as it requires one to master not only the skill of presenting but also the thing they are presenting. Some time ago, I always wondered why images in gear reviews often lack artistic merit. What I failed to understand is that doing a review is not so much about capturing the next great photograph but simply presenting what the gear can do. Going back to Top Gear, while Clarkson is a slower driver than, say, Verstappen, he is a much better presenter and communicator who can communicate more than anything. If not for presenters, I wonder if there would be as many drivers. The same applies to a lot of other industries, including photography. 

One day, one day. 

That said, it is important to be able to tell the bad from the good. There are plenty of channels that claim to be giving advice on how to be a photographer without ever having done it themselves. You should be able to differentiate between someone who is a scammer, a presenter, or a working photographer. Don’t fall for get-rich-quick schemes that some scammers try to sell to you. While there may be five camera hacks for better images, there are no five hacks to make money today. In general, it is best to stay away from such channels. Nobody can promise you what is outside of your control. Landing a job is outside, unfortunately.

Final Thoughts

It is fairly narrowminded to think that someone is not a real photographer because they are a presenter and educator. They play a far more important role than we think, and if it wasn't for one of them, I would not even be a photographer. This is why, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Peter McKinnon, a presenter as well as a “real” photographer.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya Ovchar is a fashion photographer based in Europe. In his work, Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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As a smartphone only photographer/videographer, I like to watch Indian photography/videography YouTube videos. They don't seem to be equipment or money-obsessed as in the West, but use their smartphones only & seem much more creative than their Western counterparts.

@Desert Vulture - can you recommend any Indian YouTube Wedding Creators for me to check out?

There are many different roles to play in the photo industry, many moving parts. For instance if someone promotes photography they are also as a matter of fact promoting the sale of cameras and lenses which means the camera companies become inspired to make newer and better cameras and lenses. Everyone plays a role. Everyone benefits.

Absolutely! It is a huge industry with many important roles beyond the photographer.

Although I haven't watched a PM video in more than a year (not meant negatively - just so busy), I also like his presentation, as you've stated, Illya. He also inspired me to dive deeper into photography. My son Dylan is almost 3 years old and has been my hobby's main subject since he was born. He inspired me to begin making my own YouTube videos WITH Dylan as a co-host just for fun and to reflect on our time together in his early years...I use photography as the backdrop for these videos. Kudos to Peter (a fellow Canadian), and I hope he keeps inspiring others to venture into the world of photography, where personal rewards can be as "valuable" as monetary ones! Cheers!

Awesome to hear that! Fully agree with you on the personal rewards point!

There are a LOT of photo-centric YT channels out there. Some are terrible, some are amusing and some escape me. McKinnon escapes me. Don't misunderstand - his channel is really good. But it's not significantly better than several others nor is he filling a gap that doesn't exist. Yet he somehow has managed 6 million followers on essentially the same content as many many others. Good for him but I don't get it.

Charisma, sick video skillz and being able to throw in some proper knowledge once in a while. I've watched a lot of his video, but they tend to repeat themselves sometimes, but as the author says, he is a presenter, an entertainer, who knows how to captivate his audience.

He can get repetitive with his videos I noticed that too. Though, it is hard to keep pumping out original videos for so many years. I admire him for being able to do this for so long!

The YT photo bubble is quite saturated at this point. I guess his following came from him being relatively early (2015-2016) to the game.