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Daily Inspiration: Meet Austin LaRue Baker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Austin LaRue Baker. 

Hi Austin, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was first exposed to Photography through an elective film class in Jr High, and have always valued how it taught me to take effective photos. Even though I wasn’t super serious at the time, I enjoyed it a lot. Later, in high school, I returned to film as digital photography hadn’t completely taken off yet which in hindsight, I was grateful for. With digital, you can see what you’re doing, and you can edit after the fact, it is more straight forward, with film, there is no second take and you have to learn how to get the result with setting up, you have to understand the actual workings of the camera and the setting, exposures, light, speed of aperture, etc. which honed in my skill sets far beyond if I were just taking stills. My short attention span soon moved from film onto my love of wildlife. After high school I found myself traveling all around the state and falling in love with the Arizona wildlife. I had no way of documenting my journey except for in my head, so I got my first DSLR camera and just started shooting pictures of wildlife. It was the first time I felt like I really had bit of a talent for taking some pretty great pictures. At the same time, I was going to college for ecology. I realized it wasn’t my passion and decided to drop out and pursue a career in real estate photography as a way of honing photography skills while also starting my own business. 

I quickly discovered that my passion was for architectural photography. It has only been a few short years and I haven’t looked back. As much as I enjoy real estate photography, I feel the more artistic side of architecture and design held virtually limitless possibilities for me as an artist and for my business. I fell in love with photographers before falling in love with the architecture itself. People like Adam Potts and Aaron Kraft left an indelible impression on me and I wanted to go to the next level with my abilities. I fell in love with the work they did and strived to emulate them and improve my own aesthetic. My love of architecture came later. 

I had a voracious appetite for knowledge of every aspect of architecture and design. I exhausted YouTube for every expert I could find and then went on to purchase all the best tutorials available. After I devoured those resources, I hired a mentor and photography coach Tony Colangelo and I credit each of these in my pursuit. 

When I have been asked how I have been able to find my aesthetic and success in such a short period of time, I tell them that in just the last year I have spent more on educational classes and material than I have in equipment in my entire career. Education and training and a relentless pursuit of excellence born from that education I feel is my little superpower. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Even with the success of the last three years, I still struggle to see myself as a great photographer as I am constantly comparing my work to the top .01%. There were times where there were dips in clients and even with the pandemic, I sometimes wondered if I was doing the right thing. After the ups and downs of these first few years, I can certainly see why some good photographers might give up. I am so fortunate to have an amazing wife who believes in me and made it possible to continue during those downtimes. Erika believed in my abilities and gave me the time and space to pick back up and move on when things in this field got tough. Without that kind of unfailing encouragement and support during those tough months, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I specialize in architecture and design. Within that, my aesthetic is soft, natural, and real. I’m not going for high contrast or flashy, my goal is to capture the feeling of the space rather than trying to document the space. What is ironic is the amount of work that must go into making it look as natural as walking into a space and snapping a photo. With my photos, the realism I offer is what sets me apart. What sets me apart as an individual is my flexibility. I understand the need to deliver a product that captures the true aesthetic of the design from the rich designs of historical structures to the mood of the modern. I am a natural collaborator, working with my clients to artistically capture the design that they created. My clients depend on me to convey the intent of their design on everything from a grand entry façade all the way to the little details and textures that give a space life. 

I spend a lot of time with the designers, sometimes up to 12 hours getting the blueprint of the work that needs to be done. To work with people in that way you have to be able to make it fun so I pride myself on my relaxed yet productive approach. There’s a lot of trust that designers put in me to translate their art to another medium, and that is so cool. 

What was your favorite childhood memory?
I was a class clown in school but I walked that line between acting up; very ornery but very likable. I somehow finessed being disruptive but respectful at the same time. Senior year, my teacher allowed me to sit on the floor instead of my desk in a bargain to get me to stop talking. I was always somewhere between annoying and charming. As a kid, I tended to deep dive into activities full force and marinate in them for about two years at a time, learn as much as I could, squeeze everything out of it and then I would exhaust it and move onto the next thing I wanted to become obsessed with. I have very fond memories of an art teacher in Jr High; every two weeks or so we would have a new art project in this class and I would get overly involved on some projects and virtually ignore the ones I wasn’t hyper-focused on. This teacher understood this and let me prorate my grade based off of 4 projects a year. 

Once I spent 4 months creating a 3ft papier-mache goblin. I don’t know now why I chose a goblin; I must have just thought it was cool. My teacher allowed me the space to fully absorb myself into these projects which set me up to be able to do the same in my adult creative life. In architectural photography, you don’t say, “good enough.” There must be excellence and that takes full absorption into the project you are working on. Thank you, Mrs. Preston! 

Mom hated the goblin, so after living in my room for 6 months he got banished to the garage where she silently disposed of it sometime in the dark of night. 

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