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.



5 thoughts on “Without Risk There Can Be No Reward

  1. Robert Clark says:

    Ian: super post. My big risk is one you may already know, and that is too set up and lead a workshop to Iceland. Its all set, the scouting done, and now I sit in the fear of not filling it. But I am half way there and I will continue to work to make it happen. Thanks again for your words!

  2. bobster42 says:

    An intersting post, as I am photographing a friends wedding next year. I’m interested in your Fuji kit list for weddings if you wouldn’t mind sharing please, Ian?

    • Ian says:

      My wedding kit is pretty simple:

      Two interchangeable lens cameras (X-T3s now, historically the X-T2 and X-Pro2), with a wider lens on one and a longer lens on another. The specific combination changes, but is often either a 23mm/56mm combo or the 16-55mm on one and the 50-140mm on the other.

      In my bag I also have 2 Godox flashes (for when they are needed) and assorted batteries, cards, cleaning clothes, etc.



      p.s. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to read this:


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