It is a bright sunny afternoon in Cades Cove. At the picturesque overlook on the back of the loop road, Eric Gebhart kneels to get just the right angle for a photo he is taking of a bride. The combination of bright sunlight and white dress makes it a hard shot for amateurs, but not for Eric. He knows how to apply just the right combination of f-stop, shutter speed, ISO and flash to make a photo that she’ll treasure forever.
Eric has been a professional photographer for 22 years. His business, Eric Gebhart Photography, covers weddings, commercial, architectural, portraits, concerts and live events.
“I got into photography when I was 15 or so,” Eric says, “I don’t remember how. I liked to play with my dad’s camera. I guess he noticed because my parents bought me one for Christmas. I took a photography class in high school. I had wanted to play music, but I wasn’t any good at it. I didn’t have the patience. Photography came more naturally to me.”
By the age of 17, Eric had started doing odd jobs for real estate companies near his home in Clearwater Beach, Florida. “My first regular photo job was in a one-hour photo lab. I worked for a school photographer for a couple of years. Then I started doing weddings.”
Eric said he avoided doing weddings for a long time because other photographers had told how awful they were. But after he had shot a few he felt they were kind of fun.
Eric has been married to his wife, Tracy, for almost 20 years. They have three teenaged children, including twins. The family moved here ten years ago. “We visited here a lot when I was a kid. I saw all the weddings that were happening here and decided to move my business. When I arrived here, I realized what a different wedding market this is compared to a typical city.”
“In the city, people hire a lot of different people for a wedding: a church, minister, photographer, florist and baker. Here we must get them whatever they need. Weddings here are smaller and people seem to expect packages where everything is included. When I moved here, I did half my work in Knoxville and half in the mountains. But my business kept gravitating toward the mountains.”
As Eric continued to work with his wedding party in Cades Cove, posing them for photos and talking easily about the kinds of shots they wanted, it was easy to see that he had a system. In a typical week, Eric will do several weddings, a commercial job and a family portrait. He spends half of his time on the phone and the computer dealing with customers and the other half shooting photos and editing them.
“It isn’t nearly as glamorous as people seem to think it is. It is a hard business to start, and if you don’t love it, you will quit before you can be successful. My business has grown so that I have been able to streamline what I do and provide better service.”
Does he ever get tired of it? “Photography never gets boring, because there is always something new to learn. Recently I have been on a personal project of shooting live concerts and portraits of musicians.”
He has shot everyone from Snoop Dog to Dolly Parton to U2. Most recently he was hired by ABC television to shoot the 2014 Country Music Association Festival in Nashville.