Photographer Spotlight: Michael Baxter

Posted by: on Jun 04, 2014

Photographer Spotlight: Michael Baxter

Photographer Spotlight: Michael Baxter

Michael Baxter is a commercial photographer and owner of Baxter Imaging LLC. Specializing in architectural and interior photography, he produces images for advertising, design portfolios, award competitions and editorial pieces. He’s been published in magazines like Spaces, Latino Perspectives, Arizona Home & Design and more. As the photographer of choice for Best Western International and Vestar, Michael is one of only three photographers in the United States to receive an associateship with the British Institute of Professional Photography.

Photographer Spotlight: Michael Baxter
Photo by Michael Baxter

My first camera was…

A cheap plastic, fully-automatic, point and shoot.

I got started in architectural photography… 

After leaving my first (and last) corporate job in 2003. After a year of freelancing,
I was asked by a family friend if I would like to photograph his homes for real estate sales. I photographed around 325 homes over three years. It became my proving grounds, where I went through tons of trial and error
 to improve the quality of my work, eventually realizing the need for using supplemental lighting. The houses 
kept getting bigger and better, which lead to work for several high-profile realtors in Scottsdale, Ariz. and then regular editorial assignments for design-related magazines, then finally to the architects, builders, and interior designers.

Photographer Spotlight: Michael Baxter
Photo by Michael Baxter

I wanted to become a photographer because…
Creating dramatic images is the only kind of work I could do continually, without getting burned out.

My first paying photography job was…

Probably a wedding, during my high school years. I really can’t recall.

I would describe my style or shooting philosophy as…
I approach my clients as a consultant. I am there to capture their vision, so I make recommendations on what works best. At the end of the day however, I am hired to get what they want vs. what I want.

Photographer Spotlight: Michael Baxter
Photo by Michael Baxter

Some of my industry role models are…because…
Jeffrey Jacobs because of his grand-scale, theatrical, and polished approach to lighting. Mark Boisclair for maintaining the highest standard of excellence in architectural imagery and Jeff Noble for teaching me the lost craft of building relationships with clients.

I knew there was no turning back when…
Ha ha, probably during the recession, when I considered a different line of work and realized this was the only thing I’m really good at.

If I could choose one dream gig, it would be…
Being commissioned to capture the people and landscapes of Ireland (in still and motion images).

Photographer Spotlight: Michael Baxter
Photo by Michael Baxter

Before I got started in the industry, I wish somebody had told me…
You don’t need a degree. You need to go assist an established pro and learn the ropes that way.

One thing NO ONE could have ever prepared me for is… 

The overwhelming “feast and famine” nature of this industry, which has taken years to come to terms with.

My favorite piece of gear is… 

That’s a tough choice. It’s between the Canon 24mm shift lens, the Kessler Cineslider, the 13ft Gitzo tripod, the Ghost 3-Axis Gimbal, and the CamRanger. Utilizing many different components together is what makes it fun.

Photographer Spotlight: Michael Baxter
Photo by Michael Baxter

One of the images I’m most proud of is…because…
That’s easy. It’s the evening interior of the Sagewood Rotunda by LCS (above). It’s the most challenging image I’ve ever produced because of the space limitations. I had to use a perspective lens and panoramic stitching to capture it. The problem was, I had no panoramic head, nor was I even close to the nodal point of the lens. I spent 11 hours putting it together and luckily I pulled it off. I now own a panoramic head so that it never happens again.

Do you shoot tethered?
I always shoot with a wireless tether via CamRanger. Since most of my work involves a lot of moving from room to room, a tethered laptop is too slow and cumbersome. So I use an iPad on a kickstand. This provides a constant connection, and an ideal previewing method for my client. It’s improved my workflow exponentially.

What is your current set-up? 

Canon 5D Mark II and 6D, wide range of Canon lenses and even adapted lenses by Nikon and Pentax, CamRangers, PocketWizards, tripods by Gitzo and Manfrotto, strobes by Profoto, Dyna-lights, and Alienbees, and an iPad.