Above: Image by Gina Milicia
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” – Muhammad Ali
A situation involving exposure to danger.
Expose (someone or something valued) to danger, harm, or loss.
By definition, the word “risk” means there is an uncertainty of outcome and the possibility of danger harm or loss.
There are various degrees of risk or loss depending on the activity. As children, we are taught to minimise risk to keep us safe. Look both ways before you cross the street so you won’t get hit by a bus. Don’t talk to boys until you are 25 (hands up who was raised by a Sicilian mother).
Risky behavior isn’t limited to physical harm. It can also cause emotional or financial damage, and by damage,I mean pain, so it’s understandable that we grow up trying to minimise painful experiences.
In taking risks I‘ve learned there is a chance I will be physically, emotionally or financially hurt. I can easily avoid experiencing pain by never taking any risks, but in doing so, I miss out on all the possible rewards that risk-taking may bring.
As photographers, we might limit taking risks to avoid some kind of real or perceived pain.
When I was starting out, I was reluctant to share my work for fear of being judged. I also limited investing in my education for fear of wasting money, and avoided experimenting in different styles for fear of making a mistake.
Looking back, I know that the most valuable lessons have come when I have taken those risks.
Sharing my work and getting positive and negative feedback was a huge game changer for me.
The time and money I’ve invested in education have been repaid 100 times over and given me the confidence and knowledge to experiment with different styles of photography – to get me to a place where I can now create the kind of images I’ve always dreamed of photographing.
Taking risks can be scary. Our minds have been programed to avoid risk to try and keep us from harm. That’s why we continuously struggle when trying to step out of our comfort zones. The good news is the more times you take a risk and succeed, the easier it becomes.
The risks you take don’t need to be huge life changing ones to make a difference. Try taking baby steps first, here are a few suggestions:
1. Photograph a human
If photographing people makes you nervous, try photographing a doll or mannequin head first. Once you feel confident with your camera settings and style move up to photographing a family member.
2. Baby steps
Approaching strangers can be stressful for many photographers. A good way to warm up to this is to photograph a street performer. You can tip them a few bucks and happily photograph them without fear of rejection.
Once you get comfortable photographing a stranger performing, you can try your hand at photographing strangers. If you are unsure how to approach them or what to say there are some good tips in this post.
3. Take a risk with your camera settings.
Shooting in auto is like owning a Lamborghini and only driving in first gear. If you’ve never shot in manual mode, have a go. Here is a step-by-step post to get you started.
4. Experiment on actual shoots
Whenever you are doing a shoot, get the safe shots out of the way first. Once you are happy with the results try experimenting with the lighting, shooting angle or lens. Don’t worry about making mistakes or getting a decent shot, just have fun and see what happens.
Oh and don’t forget to take notes and behind the scenes shots because you may just discover something amazing.
Taking risks in photography won’t harm you physically or ruin your reputation if you make sure you experiment after you’ve nailed the shot. The worst thing that can happen is you may feel awkward asking a stranger to pose or experience the occasional rejection.
On the flipside I’d happily relive every awkward moment or initial frustration 1000 times over if it means I get to experience the unbelievable thrill of getting some of the shots I have when I took those risks.
And finally this quote sums up how I feel about the importance of following your heart and taking risks.
“Someone once told me the definition of Hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.”