Artist Interview: Tyler McKay

Artist Interview: Tyler McKay


Get to Know Artist Tyler McKay!

Tyler McKay (@tylersjourney) is a Toronto-based photographer. He has dedicated his time to shooting cityscapes and street photography. His signature work focuses on fine-tuned Lightroom Editing and vibrant night street photography. Along with following him on his instagram, check out his work at   

What message or advice do you have for young creatives just starting out?

My biggest advice I will give is do your best not to compare yourself to others when you are starting out. Everyone started as a beginner so don’t stress if your photos don’t look the same as others. The most important thing is to get out there and enjoy photography, if you enjoy it that will make all the learning and patience you’re going to need much easier.

What inspires an image for you?

When I’m out in the world what inspires me most to take a photograph is rainy moody weather or a beautiful sunset, it almost gives me a boost of adrenaline & energy to go into overdrive and hunt around for that next epic scene.

What are things you look for when composing your shot?

I’m always looking for that wide epic scenery and a strong subject to place into my frame in a compelling way. I always intend for my photographs to have multiple complementary elements such as a strong composition with interesting background or foreground elements as well as a main subject (secondary subject when possible). I like finding interesting architecture framed or composed in a visually appealing way as my backdrop and then an interesting vehicle in my frame and a person somewhere in my frame that just completes it.

What's the backstory to your favorite photo?

This sunset reflection was a shot I’ve always wanted to take, every time I went the weather just wasn’t optimal. Then one day I made the mission to this location with only minutes to spare to capture this epic sunset. It is the best feeling after going to a location over and over and then finally getting that perfect image you’ve been waiting so long to capture. The feeling afterwards left me at peace and inspired to create more.


What do you like most about being a photographer?

I love the freedom to create what I want and when I want. There are so many calm, busy, beautiful and vibrant places in Toronto that I never would have explored if it wasn’t for my camera. I am truly so lucky.

Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful photo. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?

When it comes to my profession and passion I am almost always 100% prepared, as my photos show I love shooting in the rainiest of weather. Sometimes I spend 8 hours walking around the city in pouring rain so I have waterproof Arcteryx shoes, optech rain cover for my camera, rain cover for my backpack, raincoat and rain resistant pants and lots of small and large microfiber cloths because I’m endlessly wiping my lens. One important tip when shooting in the rain I’d give is always use a UV filter I’ve scratched so many of them and I’d rather be scratching that than the lens. I rather not use an umbrella because I love my hands to be free so I just have a large hood on my raincoat which gets the job done.

What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever spent on 1 image.

I’ve spent over a year sometimes fantasizing about an image I want to take and then also waiting for the right weather conditions and when I finally take the image I had in mind I spent nearly an entire day going back and forth on the edit until it was perfect. It's important not to procrastinate; just get out there and take the shot. Trust me, you will be happy that you did. :)

Can you describe that "moment" when you knew that photography was something you had dedicated your life to?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint an exact moment but I know there were a series of events that pushed me to take the leap to pursue photography full-time. I was living in California at the time for about 2 years doing a great job I was satisfied with and had a great friend around with me. I’d say I was comfortable but didn’t realize I wasn’t fulfilling my own dreams– merely someone else's. Then I went through a life changing event. I was visiting family back home and my appendix ruptured. I almost died and spent 6 months in recovery. Then I endured another year with a few other serious health issues that were found in the process. During that time I was unable to work and lost my job. During recovery I started watching timelapse videos by Emeric Timelapse and knew photography was my calling in life. Several years earlier I went to film school but never pursued work in the creative industry. At the time, I lived in the small town of Thunder Bay with no work opportunities in the field. After I recovered I moved to Toronto from California to pursue my dream and the rest is history.


Do you take photos more for yourself—or for others?

Its without a doubt for both, if no one was left on earth I’d still be just as passionate about photography as there is something beautiful about capturing a moment in time forever for me to look back on. On the other hand I want to inspire others to pursue their creative dreams because I know the joy it brings me. I’m proud of the work I do and believe all creatives should believe in themselves and strive to always learn new things.

What do you like to do when you’re not out shooting or in front of a computer editing?

I love riding my bike along the waterfront paths in Toronto and exploring the city aimlessly. I skateboard and also love people watching around the city.

How do you intentionally create photos that stand out from the crowd?

It’s always a struggle to create something new in such a large city. It's very often that photos overlap others' work and photographic repetition happens. The most important thing is if taking that photo will make you happy don’t let what others are doing hold you back from shooting iconic locations. Weather changes, subject matter changes and your creativity will stand out. Do your best to put your spin on this crazy world. For me it is the weather, I intentionally search for the moodiest weather and new subject matter within a frame to compel my viewers. Also composition is my number one passion, without a strong composition I usually don’t always take a photograph which also makes me sad because I feel like sometimes I’m missing out on those beautiful candid moments because I was too busy worrying about comp.


Focal Collective: Artist Interview Series

Focal Collective would like to thank our contributing artists! This recurring propensity to create and growing community continues to inspire us. Are you interested in sharing your story? Feel free to apply to our Artist Interview Series with your portfolio, IG, and a brief introduction via our contact page. We'll look out for your message!

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