Jake Orr

There are some things in life that move our emotions and our viewpoints. Music is one of those such things. Not many have the ability to capture that raw emotion in its truest form. Jake Orr is a photographer from Grand Rapids, MI known for his dramatic concert photography. Music and photography are two powerful art forms, but together they are truly unique. 

What got you into photography?

            I went to college for it, and my mom pushed me into doing it in college, so I did it. I wasn’t really artsy at all before that, but I did 2 years of [college] and dropped out, because I wanted to pursue photography. Even though I sucked at the time, I still wanted to do it. And I don’t know what I was thinking back then because my work was crap. But I said “I’m gonna do this, I’m going to do portrait photography, I’m gonna make it.” I don’t know what I was thinking.


            I guess I was an Instagram photographer, just trying to build it up there. Then my friend Steven Malcom, he’s a hip hop artist, asked me to come to 3 shows for winter jam, and one of them was at Van Andel, another in Detroit and Chicago. I did that and connected with some artists, and I found a niche, and wanted to keep doing this. And that’s when I fell in love with concert photography. That brought in a love for wanting to be creative with [photography]. Not just do what everybody else is doing, all that trendy stuff. Really, Steven pushed me to do that, and I heard stories of him staying up all night in the studios, and I thought, “why can’t I do that with photography? Why can’t I stay up till 3am editing photos, creating ideas, and putting stuff into place?”


So, after that first show was when you realized, “this is for me”

            My first show sucked, I don’t post the pictures, none of its in my portfolio. Chicago and Detroit, I could say that I had some killer shots, and there’s some I still love to this day.


Is there one person’s work that has inspired you the most?

 Photo by: Jake Orr

Photo by: Jake Orr

            As far as concert photography, it would definitely have to be Brad Heaton, he’s the 21 Pilots photographer. The way he does shows is crazy, and that’s kind of what pushed me to put this as art. He just makes it look so artistic or cinematic. The angles are crazy, and he just inspired me to keep going after this, and that it was cool to be a concert photographer, or that you can make it look cool, and just capture those moments.

            As far as just portraits go, locally, it would have to be Samuel Marz. He’s my favorite, I’ve been trying to meet up with this dude forever, but he’s always out of town. He’s a beast, and he usually does weddings, but the portraits he does are just cool to me. I think there’s a mutual thing where we both like each other’s stuff, and we just want to spur each other on and see where it can go.


What’s your favorite part of the creative process, from beginning to end?

 Photo by: Jake Orr

Photo by: Jake Orr

            Getting home and seeing the edits is dope to me. Seeing what I can do with them, feeling the mood out, whether its black and white, color, or if I’m going to do some extra stuff with them.

            Honestly though, I really like relationships. I’m super introverted, but like building relationships with artists and just the trust there to bring me out is super dope. I like being on the road and just capturing candid moments or behind the scenes.


When did you start using Instagram and social media?

            I would say it was a right away thing, because before I got into photography I would go around the city and just take random shots. They were cool but they weren’t artsy or anything. They were pretty straight forward. Like blue bridge type of stuff, if you’re from Grand Rapids you know blue bridge is cliché. So, stupid stuff like that. But yeah, I’ve always kind of been on Instagram, I’m a millennial so I kind of grew up with that implanted in me.


What’s been one of your favorite moments or memories from shooting a concert?

            As far as pictures go, my favorite one is one I took of Andy Mineo. He had the love sign and he was kind of facing forward at me and bending over towards the camera, and I didn’t find it till like three months after that show.

 Photo by: Jake Orr

Photo by: Jake Orr

            I went back and it was super dark, so I cranked that exposure up in post, and it was this super dope, grainy black and white. I mean, it’s my lock screen. At the time, I feel like it didn’t get the attention it deserves, but that’s kind of the millennial talking in me.

            But as far as [just] concert moments, every time I show up to a festival or show and seeing people you’ve shot for in the past and they know your stuff and they’re just like, “go do you.” There’s that connection there, creative to creative, whether its music or photography the mutual respect is there, I think it’s super dope.


What are some tips you would give to someone trying to do concert photography?

            I hate when people ask me this, but I love it at the same time. I wish I had a super dope answer like, “Oh, you gotta do this or that,” but whenever someone hits me up on Instagram with, “do you need a second shooter, or can you connect me with this artist?” The way I got here, the way I got a head start, to where I didn’t need to do local shows… I had those connections. I was always intentional about being in relationships. Like with my bro Steven, we just went to church together. I used to rap honestly, I’ve deleted all that stuff off my Instagram, but like… I would stick around them and we were just homies at church.

            My Pastor always says this, “faithful, available, and teachable.” We call it FAT at my church. And I was always those things, faithful, available, and teachable. I went to school for photography, but there’s always room to grow, and I just looked for those relationships. And I was always pure with my intent about it, never looking for a handout.


            Man, this is bringing me back, but it’s just super cool that I’m here with my bros now and that we get to go on the road together. I was just always pure, and faithful to my craft and available, like I always made the time to do it, and I was always teachable to learn what it’s like to be on the road, what are some rules to being at shows, dress code even. Like you have to be wearing a black shirt when you’re in the mosh-pit so you don’t stand out going on stage, stuff like that. Keep that, FAT. Faithful, Available, and Teachable, that’s something huge with me. And I will tell that to anybody. Nowadays, I can always see pure intent, like if they just want a pass from me or want me to plug them with someone or if they really want to just learn and build something like a relationship.

            I’m not a technical photographer, but with concert photography there are some rules like, you need that fast shutter speed, high ISO; don’t be afraid of the grain, I know portrait photographers always add the grain, but you won’t have to in concert really, the grain is just there. Don’t be afraid to hit [the ISO] to 6400. Just get the shots.

I would say, don’t take no for an answer. I don’t care, people will say “you’re crappy,” whatever. I started off crappy and I’m just trying to be a household name in CHH (Christian Hip-Hop) and in the concert world in general. So that’s kind of a goal for me.

I heard a quote from one of my friends and its says, “how are you going to make a ripple in a lake, if you can’t even make a ripple in a pond?” So start off locally and then build up.


When you’re not doing photography, what are your other hobbies?

            Honestly, I’m a huge introvert, so I’m like a couch slug. So I’ll just be chilling playing video games. I chill with my friends on the weekends. Go to the movies, I’m just a normal dude hanging with my bros. I’ll play sports every once in a while, but I’m just trying to come up with ways to better invent myself in different areas and better myself.

A huge thanks to Jake for doing this interview. If you're interested in Jake's work and seeing more of it, check him out on Instagram. If you have suggestions on who I should interview next, feel free to contact me using the contact form here.