Risk. A word comprised of four little letters that scare the hell out of many people. Dictionary.com defines it as, “exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance“. So what does risk have to do with photography and creativity? A lot.
In photography, you have to be willing to take some creative risks in order to improve your craft. It’s how we as photographers push ourselves to become better at what we do. Are creative risks considered to be a hazard or even dangerous? Maybe. It depends on when you take them.
If you’re shooting an image for a client and they have hired you because of your portfolio and your vision, it’s probably best to not take large risks with the image(s) as they may not like the direction in which you choose to go if you veer too far of the path for which you were hired. But doing something a little out of the ordinary and pushing the envelope just a bit can pay big dividends with your clients. Why? Because you have given them something that is just a little unique – different that what you have done for every other job you shoot.
Personally, I think it’s best to take big creative risks when you’re experimenting for yourself. I like to try things that I don’t shoot all the time or that I am not all that good at.
One of the areas that I have been pushing myself to improve is product photography. I’m a people photographer and so I rarely shoot products. But I have found that I enjoy shooting them because of the challenge they bring. Products are a lot harder to light, you want the image to be as clean as possible, and you don’t want the image to look like every other product image out there.
I can tell you that without a doubt I have learned more about lighting by shooting products than I have when shooting people. Can I apply that knowledge to people photography? Absolutely!
Without risks, your work won’t evolve and improve in the same ways that it will if you take them. Sure, there is something to be said for playing it safe. But eventually your competition will move ahead (along with your clients) and you will be left behind shooting the same old stuff in the same old safe ways you always have.
In photography, there is no destination. It’s a continuing journey that never ends. It’s that journey that has me captivated, knowing that I’ll never reach a stopping point. I’ll always have somewhere to go and I can continue to push myself to be better and create something unique. No risk, no reward.