If you’ve been following US on IG, you’d have seen the superb work of concert photographer Derek Baker. His images capture the intimacy and grandeur of live performing, offering a glimpse into what it feels like to be at some of the most exciting shows the city has to offer. We got to catch up with Baker while he was enjoying downtime between shooting shows and editing the results. Read up on what makes this photographer tick, and see some of his favorite shots from over the years.
Union Stage: How did you get into concert photography and how long have you been a photographer (professional and/or for fun)?
Derek Baker: I’ve always had a love for music but back in 2015 I really started going to a lot of concerts. Then in 2016 I went to 40 different shows, all just for fun but I would also take my point and shoot camera that was permitted into most venues and try to capture a few moments for memory. The following year in 2017, I had the thought of “what if I tried to capture theses moments for real with a DSLR” so I reached out to a few artists as they were passing through Charlotte, NC (where I’m originally from) and asked if they’d be interested in having me out to cover the show. My first show was with Bryce Vine in a smaller venue and the following was part of a holiday radio show in an arena working with MAX who also happened to be on the same lineup as the Backstreet Boys. I loved it so much I’ve been doing it ever since.
US: Who are a few of your inspirations when it comes to photography and were you inspired by any concert photographers to pursue the career yourself?
DB: When I first started I wasn’t really focused on certain photographers, as it was more of a personal passion. Over the years though, I’ve come to connect with or discover certain photographers in the industry that constantly blow my mind most of which through social media and others in the photo pit. Some of which include @DullahVision , @AnnaLeeMedia , @photorushin and @SkylerBarberio just to highlight a few.
US: Which artist (or artists) have been your favorite to take photos of? And photography aside, what are some of your favorite concerts you have ever attended?
DB: Oh man, this is a tough one haha. As far a photography is concerned I would probably say Justin Timberlake, Shinedown, Judah & The Lion, P!nk and Lewis Capaldi to name a few. They all blow my mind with their talent and performances.
Some of my favorite concerts I’ve attended is a long list but here’s some of my top shows, and the shows above are definitely included but here’s some others. Twenty Øne Pilots, The Struts, Bruno Mars, SYML, Sugarland and the Macklemore and Kesha tour.
US: What is one of the most difficult aspects of being a concert photographer?
DB: I think this could have a few different answers. In my opinion, concerts are really fun because they can often be tricky to actually capture with constantly changing lights and fast moving subjects. That is also what for me makes it really exciting though. There’s also the comparison effect, it can be hard to see other photographers images from shows that blow your mind and as a photographer you can look at your own images and be like “wow, mine are nowhere as good”. That’s something I’ve started to step away from though. My images and edits are my perspective and my story and I’m happy with that.
US: Being a concert photographer means having a different office (or in this case venue) each night! How far have you gone outside the DC area to take photos for a concert?
DB: Since moving to DC in 2019, basically every show has been in the area. With the occasional visit to Fillmore Silverspring. Mainly because I left my car back in NC haha. Living in NC though, the longest I traveled was about two or three hours and that was to cover Shinedown.
US: I have a good friend who is a concert photographer and one of the things I notice that really consumes his time is going through all the shots after the show and editing the ones he likes. Where do you like to go to edit photos and what is the most amount of photos you’ve taken at a single show?
DB: Sooo many photos! With a lot of shows, the allowance for a photographer is to shoot three songs then your done. So that can help to reduce how many I take but when I’m allowed to capture the whole show… the number grows. If the headliner and opening acts are really energetic and the lighting is solid there are some shows I’ve walked away with close to 3,000 photos. After every show I typically go home and load them into Lightroom and quickly glance at them all and flag the ones that stand out and prioritize editing those.
Q: Lastly, what shows do you have lined up to take photos of in the future?
A: 2020 is turning out to be big year for concerts and there are a lot of great acts coming through. At Union Stage, you’ll find me snapping shots of Ally Brooke, Brent Cobb, Inhaler and Hot Chelle Rae and many more. If you’re at a concert there’s a good chance you’ll see The Photographic Ginger floating around somewhere, so say hello.
Instagram: Derek_ _Baker
Facebook Page: The Photographic Ginger
Interview by Jacob Tracey