By Craig Gum
This is a plea to all of you photographers out there who love taking pictures and genuinely have a desire to improve your skills. If you want to get better just for yourself, or maybe you want to start offering your prints for sale, or even a gallery showing, I suggest you push your comfort levels and expand your photo taking horizons. Every niche within photography has its own methods and equipment that work best. By learning some of those methods and how to use equipment that is foreign to you, you open up doors of opportunity for you to improve within your selected niche.
I’ll talk about my own experience. I started my photography career with sports about 18 years ago so naturally almost all of my photography was done in available light. My camera was very fast as to stop motion at sporting events and my lens was long to be able to get up close to the athletes for added interest in my images. I scoffed at those who used strobe-lights or off camera flashes by saying I had zero need to learn those type of skills because I would never need them. I thought that artificial light looks just like it sounded, it looked fake to me.
I held my ground and my beliefs for over a decade never ever bothering to learn how to use strobes. If I am to be really honest about it I was also intimidated by it. I couldn’t wrap my head around how those flashing lights worked, or how people could determine how or where to set them to get a good picture. Since I already considered myself a good photographer, I didn’t want to humble myself and ask for help. When other photographers would mention using flash, I would just respond with, “I only shoot in natural light,” trying to believe that it was somehow superior to studio photographers.
Flash forward, (pun intended), a decade later and I shoot almost 80 percent of my work with some type of controlled lighting. It’s either blended with available light or exclusively artificial. Today, I am widely known for my lighting techniques and for the images I’m able to create with them. The learning curve wasn’t as bad as I feared, and it truly gave me avenues to explore that I had previously never even considered. I own and run Craig Gum Studios, right here in Athens, with five other photographers who have come here to learn from me and to practice their skills with my help. I have even come full circle with sports photography, where I would have once laughed at the thought of using artificial light with sports. I now have blended the techniques. I learned to create some spectacular images that wouldn’t be possible knowing just one of the two styles of photography.
I urge you all to learn and push yourself far outside of your comfort zone and learn something completely new. Try landscape photography if you work on a macro level. Try model photography if you only shoot kids. Try sports photography if you only shoot wildlife, and if you want to learn studio flash photography, please give me a call and maybe you can come learn it with me and several others at my studio!
Craig Gum is a local professional photographer. His work is breathtaking and his pictures are full of stories. He specializes in creative and conceptual photography that has been featured in many galleries, art shows and countless magazines.