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Being an introverted photographer is a challenge, especially if you actually enjoy photographing people. As introverts, we tend to be happiest on our own, with family or with close friends. We avoid large groups and people that we don’t know well. We’re likely the last to speak up in a group setting.
Unfortunately, not “getting out there” holds us back from achieving some of our goals as photographers. But when we do get out there, we get tired or burn out from people quickly. But it is possible for introverts to actually thrive among people and even run a successful people oriented photography business.
Let’s go through both the strengths and challenges of being an introverted photographer so that you can enjoy photographing people to your full potential.
It’s well known among photographers that constraints and challenges can actually help you become more creative. When you’re limited in some way, it forces you to find new ways around obstacles to achieve your goals.
So don’t worry that introversion can be a challenge to photographing people or becoming better known as a photographer. Finding ways to overcome these challenges will make you better than you would have been without them!
As an introvert, you likely keep to yourself outside of school or work. Evenings and weekends are spent on your own or with family. You avoid crowds and would prefer to get together with close friends and have deeper conversations.
Of course, none of this is a problem on its own. But as a photographer, you may not be as ambitious as you would like to be when it comes to photographing people. Whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer, or even running a business, sticking to yourself instead of being out among people means you’re missing opportunities.
You’re missing out on learning from other photographers or collaborating on a project together. Running a successful photography business will be difficult without the connections you’ll make among families, photographers, and fellow entrepreneurs.
A danger of not getting out there is that you might end up spending too much time on social media. But social media can present us with an illusion of how great other people’s lives are.
You’ll see the exciting lives being lived by everyone else and think that you’re boring and have nothing to share. You might get the impression that everyone else’s photography business is booming. Their mini sessions are booked solid, their summer is filled with weddings, and they’re a great success compared to you. But social media is much different than the real world of people.
If you love photographing people, you’ll need to focus on making yourself get out there more. A little practice will get you in the habit of spending more time with people. Think of it as exercising your social muscles.
Stop missing out on opportunities. Exercise those social muscles by finding a camera club or local Facebook group for photographers. Start now, and make it your goal to track down a group of photographers in your area in which to participate.
Once you’ve found a group, especially if it’s quite large, find one photographer to connect with. Maybe even another introvert. Start a project with them. Maybe you can assist each other in a project you’ve been wanting do.
If you’re extremely introverted, look around at what the extroverts are doing and pretend to be one. Listen to how easily they talk with new people and how the conversation just seems to flow. Begin to imitate them. You should also have some leading questions ready for new people you meet.
Getting out there and among people will transform you as an introverted photographer. You’ll begin to get some of those portrait photography projects started, connect with interesting photographers, and maybe make a good new friend. However, after all this increased social interaction, you may find yourself tired out.
My first job in photography was a school photographer. I was taking traditional school portraits for up to 200 students per day. I had to greet them, make them feel comfortable, pose them, coax a great smile from them and wish them, “good day!” At the rate of 1000 students per week, I was exhausted! Not physically exhausted but, socially exhausted. The part of me that interacts with people was tired out.
The danger of becoming socially exhausted for long periods of time is that you’ll risk resenting people for stealing your time, you’ll become too exhausted to give your subjects the attention they deserve, and you’ll eventually burn out.
No doubt, many introverts running a photography business burn out from being socially exhausted. If only they had overcome this challenge, they would still be enjoying their photography business.
I learned an important lesson from my first portrait photography job. After a lot of social interaction, I need to rest from people. It’s similar to resting from intense workouts at the gym. Give your muscles a rest and you’ll be ready to go again in the morning.
Introverts need to take a rest from being social. After resting, you’ll be energized and strong again. Resting doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping. As an introvert, it means spending time on your own. You can spend this time reading, writing, editing photos or enjoying a movie. It’s just a rest from social interaction.
Look for signs of being socially tired or exhausted. When your social energy is drained, take a break. It could be for a couple hours or a couple days. But as soon as you’re ready, get back out there.
If you run a photography business then you should take part of the week to rest from social interaction too. You could spend that part of the week editing your photos. That way you’re still working on projects that need to get finished but you’re resting at the same time.
We’ve covered “getting out there” and recovering from social interaction. But what about something like sales? If you want to convince people to be involved in your photography projects, sell your prints, or run a photography business, you need to be able to sell.
The key is to find a way to “sell” that works for you as an introvert. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. Instead, work with your nature, overcome your challenges, and develop a method that works for you.
When you talk with other photographers or see them on social media, does it seem like they’re getting more work than you? Maybe it’s because they’re getting out there more, they’re talking, they’re enthusiastic, they know how to sell naturally.
Selling doesn’t just mean making money. It means convincing people you’ve got something worthwhile to offer. Maybe it means persuading someone to be part of your project.
You already know that the first step is getting out there more. The more you’re around other people, the more opportunities you’ll have to sell. You’ve got ideas for doing that now. But there are other ways to sell yourself that will work comfortably with your introverted nature.
First, focus your efforts on being an incredible photographer. When people experience your photography services they will naturally refer you to other customers. That means they’re doing the selling for you.
Second, the extroverts that you have been getting connected with will sell for you. I constantly get referrals from extroverts who tell people about me. Extroverts are well connected with lots of people and will love to discuss your photography work if it’s good.
Remember, when your work is good, other people will sell it for you.
Finally, turn your website into a salesperson. Your website should have a good sales message on it. Everything that you would say in person should be on your website. But because it’s on your website, you write it once and then it does the talking for you.
People will find you as they search for the services you offer. If they like what they read on your website, they’ll want to hire you. You don’t have to go out there and sell yourself, let people come to you instead.
By now, hopefully, you can see how to overcome the challenges of being an introvert. You can exercise your social muscles, get all the rest you need, and let your friends and website sell for you.
But there are advantages to being an introvert, so let’s look at your strengths.
Because you do so well on your own, you’re especially suited to landscape and nature photography. You can pursue these projects on your own and then share them with the group later.
Street photography is ideal for you as well. You don’t have to interact with people to do street photography. Candid photography is perfect for capturing street or travel scenes. You can stand back and enjoy watching people while pursuing a candid or photojournalistic style.
Since you can work well on your own, you can spend a lot of time studying photography in books and online. Taking lots of time to learn, think and reflect will allow you to go much deeper with photography. Remember, the better you get, the more word will travel about you.
Running a photography business takes a lot of lonely work behind the scenes (learning, planning, editing, marketing). Since you’re perfectly happy to work on your own, there will be fewer distractions while getting your work done. Extroverts really struggle to spend long hours on their own, but this is where you excel.
Don’t forget to combine your rest periods with study or work periods. When you’re resting from social interaction, use that time to do important business tasks on your own.
As you interact with more groups of people and work hard to communicate your ideas in person or on your website, your ability to articulate yourself will improve. As I work on my family photography website, I make little adjustments to my sales message. Over time, my message has become very strong and families love working with me.
Remember to watch how extroverts interact, and you can begin to imitate them so that your social skills will improve.
As an introvert, you’re likely really good with one person at a time. This is good news because there are many other introverts out there that feel the same way. They may be drawn to you as a portrait photographer.
Consider working on your sales message with another photographer. The two of you can help each other flesh out your thoughts and find the perfect wording. It’s a lot more fun to craft a sales message with a like-minded photographer when there is no pressure of actually selling. Remember, that message is going to do the talking for you later.
As an introvert, you can thrive among people and run a successful photography business photographing people.
Exercise your social muscles and recover by resting from social interaction. Without that rest, you risk burning out and resenting people.
Let’s continue the conversation. Leave a comment below letting me know how you struggle with photographing people. Together, we can overcome our challenges and grow as people and photographers.