The Secret to Peter McKinnon's Success | Artlist
YouTube Channel Breakdown: How Peter McKinnon Trailblazed His Way to the Top YouTube Channel Breakdown: How Peter McKinnon Trailblazed His Way to the Top YouTube Channel Breakdown: How Peter McKinnon Trailblazed His Way to the Top YouTube Channel Breakdown: How Peter McKinnon Trailblazed His Way to the Top YouTube Channel Breakdown: How Peter McKinnon Trailblazed His Way to the Top


Peter McKinnon is fast becoming a household name on YouTube, and we're taking a look at why he's been so successful
After starting to go viral at the end of 2016, Peter McKinnon grew his channel to 1 million subscribers in just 9 months
Key factors that make him tick include his exceptional high bar on quality, extensive knowledge of the Adobe suite and plenty of fun collaborations along the way

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If you’ve been watching YouTube long enough, you may just about remember a time when Peter McKinnon wasn’t a YouTube sensation. Way back in 2016, in the heyday of the Casey Neistat vlog era, the whole space looked very different. And then, on December 8th, 2016, Peter uploaded this video:

Although he’d uploaded around 180 videos over the previous year, this was his first “viral” hit – the moment when people began to sit up and take notice. It’s from this moment onwards that McKinnon hasn’t stopped running. In just 9 months, he reached 1 million subscribers.

With his unique style, innovative takes and trailblazing of new genres, Peter has become a household name on the platform. He’s a creator who has forged his own way and set up the success and inspiration for thousands of others to follow.

Looking for helpful Adobe Premiere Pro tutorials? Want to know how to capture beautiful B-roll? Interested in high-quality camera reviews? This man has what you need, folks. Here’s how he did it.

At a glance

Peter McKinnon is a man who wears many hats (both literally and figuratively), so it can be hard to nail him down as just one thing. Still, if we had to sum up his channel, we’d say he’s a Canadian photographer vlogging moments of his life, creating beautiful documentary films and teaching practical knowledge on a wide range of topics within photography and cinematography.

What makes him so watchable is his high-energy, unique personality, magic-trick quirks and consistently outstanding quality. Here’s what he has to say about his channel in a few short words…

about peter mckinnon youtube channel

Value and knowledge

One of the first types of videos that really helped Peter “explode” on YouTube was his tutorials, which were unique at the time. Peter’s tutorials were well-produced, fun and witty, quick and straight to the point, simple and easy to follow with step-by-step guidance. Peter checked all of the boxes, and his knowledge of software across the Adobe spectrum is impressive, covering Lightroom, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, After Effects and more.

It’s this expert knowledge and the fact he was providing so much value to his audience for free that helped him grow. Viewers very quickly understood that Peter was an expert and a great teacher, which helped build a solid relationship between them and him, ensuring the audience kept coming back for more videos and the subscriber count continued to swell.

In the years since Peter began doing tutorial videos, you’ll notice that many other tutorials you now watch follow a similar style and pattern. Because McKinnon’s style was so successful, many others have followed and tried to emulate it.

He’s always himself

Not only is Peter a great teacher full of expertise, but perhaps more importantly, he is also a great personality. Time and again, you’ll find that the reason you go back to your favorite YouTubers is that you enjoy watching them. You have a connection with them and feel like you know them. That’s something that Peter has always thrived on – you can tell that he’s always being his raw, authentic self. It shines through every video, and it’s clear he attributes that to his success on the platform. In a video at the end of 2021, he reflected:

“I don’t think what made my channel successful was necessarily my abundance of skill within the realm of filmmaking and photography. I’m good at teaching it because I’m passionate about it – I like doing it. But I think it’s the charisma and the individuality and the uniqueness that I apply to that trade craft, to this industry – I think that’s what’s fun about YouTube – it’s more about the relationship you end up building with the person that’s making the content. That’s what’s fun and unique about it.”

Exceptional quality

If you’re going to position yourself as an expert in the fields of photography and cinematography, you sure as hell need to back it up. Peter is an exceptionally talented creator who’s clearly at ease and comfortable when behind a camera. You can tell that he was doing this as a profession WAY before he ever started YouTube.

Whether it’s his photos in British Columbia or his gorgeous soft-focus B-roll in one of his documentary films, you’ll notice how professional everything feels. Peter doesn’t just talk but backs it up with what he does. His work cements his position as an expert in the industry and makes every video he puts out an absolute pleasure to watch. It’s hard not to leave his channel feeling inspired!

At the time when Peter was first making inroads on the platform, this consistent level of quality on a YouTube channel was quite rare – it stood out and placed him as a cut above the rest. And since his breakout, I’d argue that he’s elevated and raised the bar on what’s expected from a photography and filmmaking YouTube channel.


Just like any other successful YouTuber, Peter McKinnon has collaborated with plenty of other YouTubers, no doubt helping to grow his channel further. The first and most notorious collaboration came about through his friendship with Casey Neistat. For someone as big as Neistat to recognize McKinnon relatively early on was a huge deal and helped propel Peter’s channel further, bringing plenty more subscribers his way.

In general, you’ll find him regularly hanging out with other great tutorial creators such as Matti Haapoja and other members of the “vlog squad,” including Jessie Driftwood and Chris Hau. Peter is also comfortable branching out, stepping outside his lane to collaborate with different creators such as minimalist wizard Matt D’Avella and comedy queen Julie Nolke. Who knew he could act as well?! Their video together is one of our favorites:

Innovation is key

This brings us to our final point about Peter. He’s a creator who’s never happy to sit still. So when he found a winning formula that started working for him back in 2017 with his tutorials, he could’ve played it safe and continued to churn out similar videos on a consistent basis.

But what makes McKinnon so great – and the reason he’s still at the top of his game 5 years later – is that he consistently innovates with his videos. He’s always trying something new and different (such as the Julie Nolke collaboration), unafraid to switch things up.

If there’s one thing we’ve enjoyed while following Peter’s journey so far, it’s that he constantly pushes, inspires and motivates us to focus on and create the work that makes us happy and brings us joy.


So, are you subscribed yet? We’re almost certain that if you’re serious about filmmaking and photography on YouTube, you’re already subscribed to Peter McKinnon’s channel. He’s been going strong for 5 years now and shows absolutely no signs of letting up. We’re excited to see how he continues to innovate and trailblaze, inspiring us all along the way.

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About the author

Josh Edwards is an accomplished filmmaker, industry writing veteran, storyteller based in Indonesia (by way of the UK), and industry writer in the Blade Ronner Media Writing Collective. He's passionate about travel and documents adventures and stories through his films.
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