In the fast-and-furious world of automotive content creation, one name stands out for his singular approach to capturing the beauty of cars. Alexander McInnes, widely known as The Car Creative on YouTube and Instagram, has carved out a space for himself in the automotive niche with his exceptional skills as both a creator and photographer.
Alex entered to the world of content creation in 2013, after having previously worked in documentary and commercial filmmaking. Today, The Car Creative founder is earning a living creating inspiring and educational content for a YouTube following 75K strong.
The Car Creative channel is a hub for all things automotive content creation, including helpful how-to guides (like how to shoot the perfect “roller”), reviews of the best photography gear and editing software, and even advice for aspiring creators. And that’s not even mentioning Alex’s array of digital products, including Lightroom presets that help his audience bring their automotive vision to life.
Here, we sit down with Alex to talk about his monetization and growth strategies, as well as his career milestones.
Tell us about your journey from documentary and commercial filmmaking to automotive content creation. What sparked your passion for photographing cars?
My journey as a content creator began in 2013 when I was hired as a photographer and videographer for a private school. There, I was able to engage in various commercial projects, including short documentaries. And, during the early days, I also covered weddings.
About three years into that job, I got the opportunity to photograph some cars for a local dealership. I soon realized that dealerships lacked effective marketing compared to global brands like Toyota, Subaru, and BMW. After recognizing this gap in the local industry, I started shooting for the dealership in my spare time.
The turning point that truly ignited my passion was when I got the opportunity to shoot a McLaren MP4-12C, and the owner generously allowed me to experience the thrill of driving it. This experience, combined with my love for photography and videography, and the beauty and engineering of cars, sparked a deep passion for automotive content creation.
How did your background in documentary and commercial filmmaking influence the way you approach content creation?
As a young videographer, I drew inspiration from watching filmmakers on Vimeo and researching established DPs in the movie industry. This was before YouTube became a prominent platform for filmmaking content. I sought to learn from the best in the business, rather than just following peers who had acquired new cameras and proclaimed themselves cinematographers.
My background in documentary and commercial filmmaking equipped me with a profound understanding of lighting techniques, proper camera usage, and most importantly, the “why” behind specific camera settings that could elevate a story or capture striking images.
What are some milestones that have shaped your career as a content creator ?
I started my YouTube channel while shooting content for the South Pointe Toyota dealership. At that time, I couldn’t have foreseen that it would become a full-time job for me. However, I set a personal goal to leave my full-time job within five years, envisioning a future in which I could work for myself, whether that was through commercial work or full-time content creation on YouTube.
The most significant milestone in my journey was when I achieved that five-year goal, generating enough income from my YouTube channel and commercial work to establish The Car Creative Inc. as my full-time venture.
What made you start sharing content on YouTube? How has it helped you connect with your audience and build a community around your work?
I found immense joy in creating car content, whether it involved capturing thrilling rolling shots while hanging out of a car window, or positioning a beautiful Porsche against a picturesque sunset backdrop. I believed that was a perfect niche for content creation, knowing that anyone with a passion for cars or seeking to capture their vehicles beautifully would find value in my content on YouTube.
YouTube allowed me to share a wealth of knowledge related to photography and videography with a strong focus on the automotive lens. This helped me build a community of like-minded creators who shared my passion. I believe that when you’re embarking on such a journey, your primary mindset should be about helping and impacting even just a few people. This, in turn, is what leads to a passionate and supportive community.
As my subscriber count grew and I received heartwarming comments and gratitude from my audience, I was truly blown away by the impact of sharing my knowledge and experiences with them.
What has helped you grow your audience on YouTube and Instagram?
To be honest, I haven’t actively pursued “growth” since my primary focus has always been creating relevant and educational content for my community. As a result, my growth on YouTube and Instagram has been steady but gradual.
I believe that my deliberate emphasis on providing valuable information and helping others has been key to gaining loyal and recurring viewership.
Let’s talk about your Lightroom presets. What inspired you to start creating and selling presets specifically for automotive photography?
The idea of creating Lightroom presets for automotive photography wasn’t initially a strategic business move, but more of a gut feeling. In hindsight, it turned out to be a stroke of genius, although I had no idea what I was doing at the time.
I was merely editing my photos and decided to export a preset I had used for a photoshoot with a Honda Civic Type R. I put this preset on my website for a nominal fee of $1, and mentioned it in a video about car photography and on Instagram. Surprisingly, the video gained traction and numerous people purchased the preset.
The stackable presets were born out of my repetitive editing processes, which involve curves, HSL panels, and color grading for many of my photos. Additionally, I had acquired presets from other prominent creators that didn’t work effectively across various types of photos. Recognizing the need for adaptability in presets to suit diverse photography styles, I introduced stackable presets. These presets allowed users to make specific edits to colors and curves, or apply filters designed to accentuate the beauty of the car. The first edition of my favourite presets took me over a year to compile, while V2 emerged when Lightroom introduced advancements in subject detection and starter filters.
How do you ensure that your Lightroom presets cater to the diverse editing styles and preferences of your customers? Do you provide any customization options or guidance to help them achieve their desired results?
The stackable presets have proven to be highly beneficial in accommodating the diverse editing styles and preferences of my customers. Most photographers have their preferred editing style, but might need slight adjustments to brighten an image or modify the curves to enhance the mid-tones. With stackable presets, quick adjustments to specific areas become seamless and efficient.
Moreover, I have consciously kept the color adjustments in my presets minimal to suit the vibrant and bright colors often seen in automotive photography. Unlike many presets available in the market that heavily adjust colors, my presets aim to maintain the authenticity of the car’s appearance.
What marketing strategies have you found most effective in promoting and selling your Lightroom presets?
A key strategy that has proven successful in promoting and selling my Lightroom presets was the introduction of the $1 preset offer.
When I set up my website, I wasn’t aware that visitors would be providing their emails to access the preset. This unexpectedly turned into a significant email grab that I now use for marketing purposes. I can notify my audience whenever I launch a new preset pack, or have important content to share.
Additionally, I create niche content that genuinely benefits my viewers. When I demonstrate the use of my presets in editing videos, it serves as both an effective marketing strategy and an authentic means to assist fellow content creators in my niche. This approach fosters a win-win situation, where viewers find value in the content, and I gain exposure and potential sales for my presets.
Have you collaborated with other creators or brands in the automotive industry?
Through the growth of my channel and niche, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with remarkable brands like Porsche Canada, Subaru Canada, Paramount Pictures, Piloti Shoes, and my favorite music licensing platform, Musicbed. These collaborations have contributed to the growth and exposure of my content.
Working with such reputable brands adds credibility to my profile, making it easier to approach other brands for future collaborations. Witnessing my content posted on their channels has been surreal, and establishing long-term partnerships has been instrumental in building a sustainable career as a content creator. As a content creator and entrepreneur, I recognize the value of these collaborations in solidifying my position in the industry.
Looking ahead, what are your goals for your automotive content creation, YouTube channel, and digital product offerings?
I have a number of ideas for expanding the business side of my automotive content creation. I’m eager to explore course development, especially in the realm of car photography. Creating masterclasses and offering more value through educational content is something I’m enthusiastic about. Additionally, I hope to witness my YouTube channel grow, although I intend to allow it to evolve naturally, without rigidly adhering to any specific YouTube “formula.”
I also have plans for other digital products, including wallpapers, and to continue enhancing the stackable presets in Lightroom as the platform introduces new developments. I intend to develop presets that cater to the needs of my community.
Ultimately, my greatest aspiration is to provide for my family through my passion for creating inspiring, educational, and entertaining content. One day, I hope to own a Porsche, which will not only allow me to drive and photograph it, but also symbolize the realization of my dreams and endeavors.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Photo: Courtesy of Alexander McInnes