Without Risk There Can Be No Reward

“The biggest risk a person can take is to do nothing”

– Robert T. Kiyosaki

Risk, and words like it, are used a lot in the arts community:  “that photo is edgy”, “that was a brave choice”, “you took a risk with that one”.

What does “risk” mean though?  In my former life as a paramedic the answer to this was obvious:  I have been exposed to highly contagious diseases, attacked by people on drugs and threatened by people with weapons.  The potential for loss, very real loss, was easily identifiable in these situations.  Trying to define risk in the artistic world, on the other hand, is a bit more nebulous (but no less real).  

Risk usually puts something on the line.  When you take a chance there is the potential for loss, but you also greatly increase the odds of reaching your goals.  Risk can be scary, but if something is worth having then it is worth putting in that extra bit of effort, pushing the boundaries just a little bit more and, sometimes, even pushing away from the dock without knowing what your final destination is going to be (like I did when I quit working as a paramedic to be a full time creative).

Neale Donald Walsch famously said:

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

This is how you grow, by pushing out of your comfort zone and reaching for new levels of excellence in your chosen craft.  The truth is that you will not become a travel photographer by staying in your living room.  You will not build a successful client driven business without a mechanism to meet new people or for people to find you.  You will not become an amazing photographer if you only read forums and FaceBook groups, and you won’t become an author if you never write. 

Growth can be uncomfortable, but it absolutely is where the magic happens.

A personal example…

I never set out to photograph weddings as part of my business model, it was actually something that a friend asked me to do.  There were many reasons why I could have said no, but I saw it is a growth opportunity and quickly agreed.  I can remember being nervous on that first wedding day, working extra hard to ensure that I didn’t miss any once in a lifetime moments that the bride and groom were paying me to capture.  I am confident in my camera skills and I spent 20 years working as a paramedic in time sensitive life or death situations, so you would  think shooting this wedding would have been a breeze for me, right?

No…. no it wasn’t.  

The very real possibility of the client losing out if I didn’t perform properly (i.e. if I missed the first kiss, for example) created a sense of tension during that first wedding that was right up there with many of the other difficult situations that I have handled in my life.  Concerns over things like these could have stopped me from taking the assignment.

You know what though?  I loved it.  I loved the atmosphere.  I loved the pressure.  I loved the confidence that came from knowing that I could deliver.  Now, several years later, I shoot 6-8 weddings a year (which is a perfect number for my business model) and I love the clients that I work with.  

I left my comfort zone, pushed away from the shore, and became a better artist because of it.  

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

I was reminded of all this recently when a friend asked to shoot a wedding with me as a second photographer.  This lady has been a professional for many years in the educational world, is an accomplished writer and photographer, and wanted to see what it was like to shoot a wedding.  I knew the high quality of her work and was excited to partner with her for a shoot.

On the day of the wedding we met to discuss how things would unfold and I could sense a level of nervousness in her, which is only natural when doing something new for the first time.  It didn’t help that the gig was a wedding of course, which is already a high stakes day with multiple once in a lifetime moments that need to be captured (there are no re-takes on a wedding).  It was amazing watching the confidence grow in my friend during the day and later viewing the beautiful photographs that she captured (many of them better than my own).  And, you know what?  I will be hiring this talented lady from now on for all of my weddings.  She was great!

Sometimes you need to jump in the deep end and try that thing you just can’t stop thinking about.  Sometimes you need to force yourself to do the thing that you are scared of.  You need to get out of your comfort zone, take the brave step, and embrace the uncertainty.  It is worth it, I promise.

As Nora Roberts said:

“There is no reward without work, no victory without effort, no battle won without risk.”

So, I ask you:  what is the thing you want to try photographically that you haven’t yet?  What is a risk that you want to take?  What is holding you back?  What are the potential rewards if you succeed?  Why haven’t you started yet?

I’d love to hear all about it in the comments section below.  In the meantime, here are some more wedding images taken over the last few years.




“Time is a gift that most of us take for granted”

– Cheryl Richardson

My photographic life is somewhat seasonal in nature.  Late spring and early summer bring engagement sessions, weddings and the photography workshops that I so love to teach.  May to September is usually non stop for me, with just enough time at home to re-pack my bag between gigs and head out to a new workshop location or to shoot another wedding.  

Summer always gives way to fall though, winter not far off, and I can feel myself slowing down.  I used to lament this time of year because I loved the momentum.  I loved building my business, building my community, meeting new people, chasing new opportunities and “pursuing success”… whatever that means.  My mind wouldn’t turn off as I raced from one idea to the next, constantly seeking to move the ball down the field just a little bit more.

I’m not sure when I came to fully appreciate this time of year.  It happened slowly probably, over years, but now I enjoy the slower pace of fall because it brings me an abundance of time, life’s most precious commodity.  Time to be with family.  Time to be with friends.  Time to breath.  Time to walk without destination.  Time to write.  Time to play guitar.  Time to create… not for clients, but for me.    

Just, time.

Miles Davis once said:

“Time isn’t the main thing, it is the only thing.”

A twenty year career working as a paramedic on 911 ambulances taught me this.  Life is short, and you have to build in periods where you slow down, celebrate success, and rejuvenate.  Going full speed all the time isn’t healthy… not physically, not mentally and definitely not creatively. 

I do still work through the winter of course, but the nature of it changes.  I write more.  I teach via Skype with wonderful students from around the world.  I interview other artists for this site.   I present occasionally.  Much of my work through the winter is self generated, work that I can pick up and put down as needed, work that lays the foundation for the coming year.

By the time winter passes I find myself refreshed, recharged and excited about upcoming workshops and weddings.  I find myself flowing with creativity and look forward to the amazing opportunities that spring and summer bring.  

Bob Dylan said:

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning, gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”

I feel like I have almost reached that point in my life and my career.  It’s not all puppies and roses yet, but I am close.  And, it is a mindful and wonderful place to be.

I know this site has been fairly quiet recently, with only 8 posts since the beginning of summer.  I am filled with things to write about though, so now that I have the time I look forward to sharing work with you over the next few months from Vancouver, Seattle, Toronto, Paris, Amsterdam and so many other sources of inspiration.

Until next time,