He spent the next three years learning his trade. "I used to study photographers' images and always tried to work out just how they achieved their results."
But when it comes to image capture he is completely self-taught.He holds no membership with any photo-organisation and doesn't really have any special photographer mentors.
But Mac admits: "I am a bit of a control freak. I throw myself wholeheartedly into everything I do and I have to do it on my own. No one has put a stamp on me - and from a creative point of view I'd say that's a good thing."
He adds: "The most important thing I ever learnt as an assistant was how to run a business. How to market it."
Mac's first big break on the music photography side of his business came back in 1994 when a designer friend who was doing some work for a record company, asked him to help on a cover shot for the Jamiroquai album: "The return of the space cowboy".
"He cut out a logo from a giant Rizla paper" recalls Mac. "And then we spread some cannabis in the middle to highlight the 'spaced out' theme."
But as soon as the poster campaign hit the billboards there was uproar in The House of Commons.
"Kids had started stealing the posters from bus stops and MPs were very upset about the graphic display of this drug", he adds. "The poster campaign eventually had to be reissued with a revised Photoshop'd version."
But the notorious campaign helped put McVirn Etienne firmly on the 'music shoot' map."I followed up with Jamiroquai's 'Half the Man' and some shots for my sister's band.Then I decided to go for it completely and went self-employed. I bought another Canon camera and a second-hand Bronica."
He tells Litebook: "When it came to lighting I had been used to employing nothing more than a couple of reading lamps.
I went out and spent £50 on a couple of very old Bowens 750s - and they were just brilliant. Later I moved up to the 800E monolite. The flashtubes never broke and the equipment was always 100% reliable.
I have to say that I did try a competitor product at that time but I hated it. There was no individual control and I despised the fittings that came with it. Additionally, the light was just cold. With Bowens you get clean warm light."
Money was still tight at that time for Mac - but some opportunistic work for a camping equipment company enabled him to invest in a 5x4 camera and set up a darkroom in his house.
Then one day the phone rang.
He remembers: "Someone was looking for my brother and I ended up chatting to him about photography. It turned out he managed a band and needed some work. As soon as he saw the Jamiroquai material he gave me a commission that turned out to be worth thousands of pounds."
Mac made the digital switch six years ago but still loves to shoot film.
"Digital is great - and I now use a Nikon D200 - but I believe digital imaging has removed some of the mysteries of the capture process" he notes.
"At the lab we used to get good photographers coming in with mediocre imagery - and they would instruct us to make the pictures look great.
I swore that would never happen to me. I wanted to shoot and develop it all myself. It's about control from start to finish.
It takes skill to get the right exposure on film. I still love the feel and look of it and I adore black and white images printed on Oriental Seagull paper.
The Societies of Photographers Convention and Trade Show at The Novotel London West, Hammersmith ...
You have 212 days until The Societies of Photographers Convention starting on Wednesday 15th March 2023