Behind the Lens: Michelle Johnson of MJay Photography

Filed in Behind the Lens — September 10, 2021

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Tell us about you and how you got into photography.

I bought my first DSLR camera just after I had graduated from a Master’s degree in Speech Language Therapy at UBC in Vancouver, Canada. I had NO idea photography would later become a full time business that I would leave my first career for!

For a few years I enjoyed photographing little bits of Vancouver. The ocean. Old buildings. Flowers. My healthcare job filled my weekdays, but weekends were spent city exploring and art gallery hopping. When I had my first baby, I started photographing him and the city daily during my parental leave from work. I posted the pictures I took to a blog to share with family and friends back in Calgary. I loved how photos could tell a story and that they could connect me to other people.

A few more years passed, we had our second son, and I started to feel a pull away from my job in health care. At this point, I had several online photography courses and workshops under my belt, so I decided to buy a professional camera and BE A PHOTOGRAPHER!

I have never looked back. I started by photographing everything and anything. Families, couples, products, food, and interiors. After about a year, I decided to specialize exclusively in interior design and architecture photography. Currently, I work with a variety of interior design studios, architecture firms, and Haute Stock.


Michelle's first love is shooting interiors and architectures. Learn more about how she started in Haute Stock's Photographer Highlight series!


What is your favorite subject to capture? Why does it inspire you?

My favorite subjects are definitely interiors. Within that subject there are lots of smaller layers that I love as well; furniture, art, the people that occupy them, light and shadows that fill them, the colors, lines, textures. I think it is exactly the interplay of those elements that inspire me. The way the subject changes based on how the furniture is arranged, from where you stand in the room, to the way the sunlight moves through the space.


What has been your favorite Haute Stock collection to shoot so far?

It is really hard to choose one favorite collection! The ones that stand out are Home Office, Dwell and Urban Loft. I loved creating these and especially love seeing how they have been used by so many other female entrepreneurs to help promote their businesses.



If you could do a photoshoot anywhere in the world, where would you go? What would you capture?

I have a LONG list! Top of my list are France, Mexico City, and Denmark. I would capture all the historical buildings and cultural design.


Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?

Once you feel confident in your photography basics and skills, I would highly recommend taking a business course or hiring a business mentor. You need to have a strategic business plan in order to monetize your art. You can be an artist that is compensated well for your work. Keep investing in yourself. Hire a bookkeeper.




What are your biggest business lessons learned?

This is a good segue from my last piece of advice. Looking back, I should have hired a bookkeeper the first day I opened my business. I swear to you my eyes glaze over and I black out when I look at a spreadsheet. I hate entering data into little boxes! I suffered without one for a few years, making tax seasons a fun mix of existential crises, questioning all past life decisions, and contemplating burning everything to the ground. Now I have my accountant, Spence, and bookkeeper, Jennifer, to keep me and my excel sheets in line.




Michelle Johnson

has loved the visual arts from a young age, but studied psychology in university, worked in health care and then digital marketing, before she finally found her way to photography, starting MJay Photography in 2016. Michelle is a Calgary-based photographer with a focus on high-end, refined interior design, and architecture imagery.

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